Families upset following gravesite memento removal at Katy Magnolia Cemetery

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 1/27/22

When 32-year-old Billy Bryant Jr. died unexpectedly of an infection in January 2015, his mother Gloria Bryant said about 500 people showed up for his funeral and later burial in Katy Magnolia Cemetery, 6801 Franz Road. She said even Mayor Bill Hastings, then the city’s police chief, attended.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Families upset following gravesite memento removal at Katy Magnolia Cemetery

Posted

When 32-year-old Billy Bryant Jr. died unexpectedly of an infection in January 2015, his mother Gloria Bryant said about 500 people showed up for his funeral and later burial in Katy Magnolia Cemetery, 6801 Franz Road. She said even Mayor Bill Hastings, then the city’s police chief, attended.

Bryant said she and her husband, Billy Sr., have visited their son’s grave site every day since the funeral. Like many grieving families, they did some landscaping work at the gravesite. They also left tokens of remembrance. In Bryant’s case, such remembrances included wind chimes and a four-inch wide cross.

“That’s my son’s home now,” Bryant said. “You didn’t choose to die, and my husband and I didn’t choose to go out there every day for the past seven years. But that’s his home now.”

Yet a recent cemetery cleanup meant an unceremonious removal of those tokens. Now, the Bryants and other families are expressing dismay about what happened to those gravesites.

“A couple of weeks ago, they put out a sign saying they’re going to clean up the cemetery,” Bryant said. “I saw the signs, but had no idea they were going to rip up the flower bed and take his cross.”

Bryant said the cemetery maintenance crew removed the tokens and trashed the landscaping around the gravesite. She said she couldn’t climb in the dumpster, in the back of the cemetery, to look for what she left at her son’s gravesite.

A cemetery spokesman, who asked not to be named, said families purchasing cemetery plots sign a contract that specifies what can be left at a grave site. He said the contract limits grave decorations to one artificial or one fresh flower arrangement per grave.

Barb Mallory, whose parents Robert and Edna Allen are buried at the cemetery, said families might not read the contract because they are in grief when they are asked to sign it.

“We were so distraught over losing a loved one,” Mallory said. “We were tired and you’re not thinking clearly.”

The cemetery spokesman said he understood that it can be an emotional time when signing the contract to buy a plot. Yet it does not negate the legality of the contract. The contract itself has places where one initials that he or she has read and understands the rules.

“We do understand that people are distraught and not necessarily reading, but that does not negate the contract,” the spokesman said. “The reason is that the cemetery needs to be consistent with everyone. If you let one person do whatever they want, then you have to let everyone do whatever they want, and that’s not of the rules.”

The rules apply to the eastern part of the cemetery, where not all plots have been purchased. They do not apply to the western portion of the cemetery, where all the plots have been purchased, even if they have not been filled.

“If we have to move objects out of the way (in the eastern section), and something breaks, we can’t be liable for that because we have to bury someone else’s love one,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman said the cemetery has made several different attempts to contact families and ask them to clean up their respective gravesites. A few years ago, the cemetery sent certified letters, including pictures of the gravesites with objects needing removal. But results have varied.

“Some picked up everything, while some picked up some of their things,” the spokesman said. “Some picked up nothing.”

But not all the keepsakes left at gravesites are picked up and removed by the maintenance crews. The spokesman said he has seen funerals at the cemetery where small children would pick up a keepsake from one gravesite and leave it at another.

“Stuff gets stolen all the time,” the spokesman said. “Some people have sticky fingers. There are a bunch of different explanations.”

Mallory described the cemetery is a sacred place. She said she thought that Katy Magnolia Cemetery Association, which owns the cemetery, forgot what made it what it was.

“They’ve always been number 1 in Katy to me, and I never thought about going anyplace else,” Mallory said. “All they think about is the end result. They lost feeling and compassion of people in Katy who chose to go there.”

The spokesman said the cemetery cared about the families.

“We want to do a good job,” the spokesman said. “We do care about everybody and their belongings, but at the same time, we have to treat everyone equally. There’s just never a good time to do a cleanup, but it has to be done for safety and maintenance.”

Katy Magnolia Cemetery has been around for over a century. The spokesman said the earliest grave marker there he knew of was in 1898.

Correction: The story has been updated to correctly state that Katy Magnolia Cemetery Association owns the cemetery. Schmidt Funeral Home acts as an agent for the association and maintains the cemetery.

Katy Magnolia Cemetery, Schmidt Funeral Home

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here