Tuesday, July 29, 2014 • 07:53
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Grave matters at Valley Center Cemetery


September 17, 2013
Maria Melendez said that losing her son was the hardest thing she has ever had to experience.

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The grave pictured above is among those which have been robbed of their flowers by an unknown person. Photo by Kim Harris/ Valley Roadrunner>/i>
"It was really upsetting," Melendez said.

21-year-old Raymond Melendez was laid to rest at the Valley Center Cemetery on Miller Road after being struck by a car while crossing Valley Center Road in late March, a place that Maria said she quickly discovered was not just a cemetery but also a community where mourners often come together to support one another in their loss.

"I know it will sound strange but the cemetery is a happy place," she said. "We hug and cry together. It brings people together. It is a community where people genuinely care for one another."

It is that sense of community that makes the current problem of vandalism recently reported to the Valley Roadrunner by cemetery officials so upsetting to those who have loved ones buried in the new section of the 130-year-old cemetery.

Louise Kelly, Cemetery District president said an unknown vandal has been removing the flowers and artifacts placed by loved ones on the graves of those who have passed and throwing those carefully placed tributes in the trash.

"It started on Labor Day weekend," Kelly said. "I got a call that a lot of the gravesites in the new section … that all the flowers had been removed; all the ornamentals were stripped from the graves."

The incident over Labor Day weekend was not the only time memorials were stripped from the graves. Kelly said she received another call a few days later stating that the vandal had struck again.

"They had completely stripped the whole new section of all the flowers and everything on the gravesites," she said.

Kelly immediately contacted the San Diego Sheriff's Office substation to report the problem. They promised to patrol the area more often, as of press time though, the culprit is still at large.

"I got a call from a parent who had lost a young boy to cancer and he is so upset," Kelly said. "What we wanted to let people know is this is not the cemetery board or the people who work here but an individual who is doing this."

Bookkeeper Donna Weldon said cemetery staff members are salvaging whatever they can each time there is an incident.

"It's been really bad," she said. "We've never had trouble like this before."

Kelly said patrons of the cemetery are understandably upset that things they place in memoriam for their loved ones are disappearing into the trash.

"It's very destructive and disrespectful what is being done to these people's property," she said. "It just breaks my heart."

Melendez said she finds it upsetting to see the items she has placed on her son's grave in memorial to him just thrown away like yesterday's trash.

"It is wrong and just so sad that someone would do this," she said.

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