Should cemeteries be open in the winter? We investigate complaints against Valley View

Valley View Cemetery last week

We're investigating cemetery policies in Central New York after we received several complaints about Valley View Cemetery in Oneida.

Last week, we spoke with Joann Albro, who lost her son, Bruce, after he drowned last year. Albro told us workers at Valley View cemetery told her she couldn't visit her son's grave during the winter because the cemetery closed for the season.

We also heard from Jim Gleasman. His daughter, Megan, passed away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome when she was 2 1/2 months old. Megan is buried at Valley View cemetery. Gleasman says not only was he told he couldn't visit Megan's grave in the winter. He also says cemetery workers removed some items that family members put on her grave.

"We like to leave things at her headstone just because it makes us feel better," says Gleasman. "It's terrible enough when you have to bury one of your children, and it's even worse when it's a baby. Just being able to do those little things helps us feel a whole lot better."

Gleasman says he attended a meeting of the Sherrill-Kenwood Cemetery Association, which controls the cemetery, but he says the board members told him he could move his daughter from the cemetery if he didn't like their rules. He says he is now filing a formal complaint against the cemetery.

After receiving these complaints, we looked in to policies at several local cemeteries. Many cemeteries outline specific rules and regulations as to what can be placed on graves.

For example, Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse allows flowers on graves from April 15-October 15 and winter wreaths on graves from November 15-March 15. According to written rules, the cemetery also reserves the right to remove funeral designs and floral pieces if they become "unsightly." Many other local cemeteries have similar sets of rules.

Donald Hulchanski, the owner of Whelan Bros. & Hulchanski Funeral Home, says that's pretty common.

"Some cemeteries are a little more liberal and allow you to do more with individualizing your grave," says Hulchanski. "The vast majority have rules and restrictions. They'll allow you to maybe keep plants for a short period of time."

Hulchanski also says he has heard of smaller cemeteries closing for the winter, but that is pretty rare in Central New York. He says cemeteries under the jurisdiction of New York state are usually required to stay open year round.

State officials say they're trying to figure out whether Valley View is under the state's jurisdiction.

CNY Central's calls to Valley View cemetery were not returned on Friday or Monday.

What do you think of Valley View's policies? Have you ever had a similar experience with a cemetery? Post your comments below.