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New Vernon cemetery rules dismantle Vernon mother’s tribute to late son

Cory Taylor is fighting the city over a helmet memorial that was removed from her son’s gravesite
Vernon mother Cory Taylor is fighting the city’s decision to remove a tribute to her late son at the Pleasant Valley Cemetery, in line with new rules banning all but floral arrangements at the cemetery. (Cory Taylor photo)

A Vernon mother’s tribute to her deceased son has been removed from the local cemetery, but she’s not done laying the decision to rest.

In March, the city put into force new rules for the Pleasant Valley Cemetery. Between March 15 and Oct. 15, only fresh-cut flowers are allowed. Between Oct. 16 and March 14, potted plants, wreaths, artificial floral arrangements and seasonal floral tributes can be placed on plots.

Toys, photographs and trinkets of any kind have been removed from the cemetery since the new rules came into effect, as they are not allowed any time of year.

The new rules sparked considerable disagreement in the city, with a petition opposing them garnering more than 2,000 signatures.

Cory Taylor thought her tribute to her late son Kevin — who died in 2017 — wouldn’t be affected by the rules. Kevin was a carpenter, and she and her family attached his metal helmet to a flower stand at his gravesite in his memory.

“It was just part of him. He always had it on, to all of us it just meant … it was just him,” Taylor said. “He loved building … and it was his trademark. It just means something to us and we knew it would mean something to him.”

Taylor said she got approval for the helmet from the groundskeeper and it’s been in place since August 2017 without any issues. The family had gutted the inside of the helmet so that no pieces of it would weather and fall off, thinking that would ensure the helmet wouldn’t cause any problems to cemetery maintenance crews.

After hearing about the coming rule changes at the cemetery, Taylor phoned the city in late February to make sure the helmet would not be taken down. She said she was told not to worry; the helmet had been in place prior to 2018, it was not a hazard, it had been approved by the city and it would be left alone.

But when the grace period for the new rules ended, she was contacted by the groundskeeper who told her he would have to take it down.

“It’s really upsetting,” Taylor said. “I don’t think the city realizes how painful some of this stuff is to people. To actually take things apart that aren’t a hazard, that have been there for a while and mean something to the person that died and the family is heartbreaking.”

The city has said safety is the reason for no longer allowing trinkets and other items on gravesites, but Taylor isn’t buying that explanation. She says the helmet was in place for five years without posing a safety hazard, and when she installed it she had ensured it wouldn’t interfere with any grounds-keeping equipment.

“It’s not in the way of lawn mowers … it’s too high for the weed eater … there’s no sharp edges on it, nothing.”

Taylor said her daughter had to pick up the helmet before the city “trashed” it. She said her daughter saw a large sea can full of items that were destined for the garbage.

Like many residents, Taylor says the ‘fresh flowers only’ rule has turned the cemetery into an eyesore, with flowers lasting only a day or two before the heat fries them.

But she’s more concerned with her son’s helmet, and even inquired with the city on how to bring the issue before council. She says she never got a response to that inquiry.

Taylor said she spoke to Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming by email, who told her the city does not have any documentation indicating the helmet’s approval.

“The contractors up at the cemetery do not have the permission to allow this, nor would they provide specifications to do so,” Cumming wrote.

“I think about this every day and cannot sleep,” Taylor wrote, hoping the city would reverse its decision.

On April 25, Cumming wrote her again to say he’d confirmed the tribute is not allowed.

Taylor says she will still fight to have her son’s tribute reinstated, and hopes to bring the matter before council.

The City of Vernon did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Taylor’s situation.

READ MORE: Vernon residents vexed by new cemetery rules

READ MORE: More than 1,000 sign petition opposing new rules at Vernon cemetery

Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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