LEBANON, Ore. -- Many of those with loved ones buried at Odd Fellows Cemetery in Lebanon are devastated after hundreds of flowers, figurines, and other sentimental mementos that once decorated grave sites were removed as part of a cleanup.
"It's heartbreaking, it's disgusting, and it's shameful," said Monica Macedo, who has relatives buried at the cemetery.
Odd Fellow's Deputy Grand Master Dan Lykins, who was working with the cemetery board in Lebanon, said the community was not notified before the cleanup occurred.
"Why did they do this? Underneath everybody, they just went and did it without saying a word," said Eva Morley, whose brother is buried at the cemetery.
She said there were flowers and an American flag at his resting place because he was a marine.
"I found the flowers and put them back on the grave, but I couldn't find the American flag," Morley said.
Morley and many others were shocked earlier this month when they found their tiny treasures had been removed.
"It was something I've never seen before, just desecration wise. I was just frightened for my children seeing all this," Macedo said.
People have been searching through the pile to find their items for several days, but many have yet to find them.
"We put my great-grandmother's ashes in a necklace on the headstone. and they threw away the necklace," Jolene Flanigan said. "It's like losing her all over again."
The cemetery has a policy in place preventing items from impeding mowing. There are also posted rules stating no glass or breakables are allowed and no articifical flowers are allowed during certain times of the year.
"They've never upheld these rules," said Robbin Davis, who met with the Odd Fellows' Board Monday morning. "And then all of a sudden, bam, one day, they're upholding these certain rules, but then they go overboard and take things that are allowed in the rules."
Davis was one of three representatives from the community who attended the Odd Fellow's Board meeting to voice concerns about the way the cleanup was conducted. She and the two other representatives worked with the board members to come up with a solution.
"We're going to know what's going on and the community is going to know what's going on instead of getting blindsided again," Davis said.
Part of the solution involves the board providing advanced notification to the community before any cleanups. Lykins said these notifications will be posted on three Facebook pages. Those pages are the buzz in Lebanon Oregon, Lebanon OR Uncensored, and Residents of Lebanon. Davis also said she's planning to work with the other two community representatives to set up an additional Facebook page for the community.
The Board is also expected to provide advanced notice to the community before future cleanups occur so people can remove their items in advance.
The Odd Fellows admitted this should have never happened and apologized Monday for the impact this has had on the community.
"It was not handled properly and we will do the best in our power to get it right the next time through," Lykins said. "The Odd Fellows Cemetery Board really want to extend their sincere apologies to everybody affected by this."
Cleanups are expected to happen twice a year moving forward, according to Lykins. However, he said they will not be to the extent this one was.
According to Davis, the items will remain in the pile for at least the next week. After that, they will be moved to the Odd Fellows Lodge in Lebanon where they are expected to be held for at least another month.