Cemetery row gets 'personal' with note

MECHANIC FALLS — Tall grass and a handwritten note greeted Brenda Manchester on Sunday as she visited her husband's grave.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Brenda Manchester of Mechanic Falls holds a planter with a written note left by her husband's grave at the Maple Grove Cemetery in Mechanic Falls.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Brenda Manchester of Mechanic Falls stands by her husband's grave at the Maple Grove Cemetery, holding a planter with a note left by mower David Ferland. Ferland left Manchester's husband's grave unmowed since she complained publicly about the cemetery's care.

The unkempt grass grew in a perfect rectangle above the plot where Walter Manchester was buried six years ago. In the middle of grave site, the note sat, scrawled along the side of a broken and upended planter.

“If you want to lie about a beautiful well-improved cemetery, you'll always have God to answer to,” the message stated.

“I was shocked,” Manchester said Monday, three days after the Sun Journal published a story about her complaints over the rules and upkeep at Maple Grove Cemetery in Mechanic Falls.

She called police and her family. Her sons and daughters told her to stay out. The police said there was nothing they could do.

“I'm scared to come in now by myself,” said Manchester, a daily visitor to the cemetery for years. “I guess you could say I'm near the end of my rope.”

Last week, Manchester said she was upset that the cemetery rules were too harsh and arbitrarily enforced. She produced more than 100 signatures on a petition calling for changes. She also said the gravestones were cleaned too rarely and her husband's plot was only mowed three times this year.

David Ferland, who wrote and signed the note, disagrees.

“It's people like her who bash the cemetery that put a bad taste in my mouth,” said Ferland, who mows the grass at Maple Grove and 14 other cemeteries. “There's always one.”

The neglect of Walter Manchester's plot and the note were an expression of his frustration, he said. He mows the Maple Grove plots about nine times a year, he said.

His note stated: “Guess I will only mow your plot 3 times a year.”

He also added a postscript: “P.S. This is personal. You will not have your stone pressure-washed.”

On Monday, Ferland stood by the note. And Manchester stood by her count. She insisted that her husband's site had been mowed only three times.

“It has been 33 days since it has been mowed,” she said. “I write everything down.”

Leaders of the Maple Grove Cemetery Association said Monday they were unaware of Ferland's actions.

“We gave him permission to write a note saying that he mowed more than three times,” said Lucille Hodsdon, who serves as the association's assistant treasurer.

Were his action's appropriate?

“I don't know,” said Hodsdon. She counseled Manchester to talk with the association's president, Carroll Stevens of Oxford.

The Sun Journal was unsuccessful in numerous attempts to reach Stevens.

However, Hodsdon said Manchester should not be scared of going to the cemetery.

“Why should she be?" Hodsdon said. “I'm not.”

Ferland said he, too, doesn't want to end the peace Manchester finds when she visits her husband's grave.

“I'm not trying to take that away from her,” he said.

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Beth Chrostek's picture

so sad....

this is what she gets for trying to get the best care for her husbands gravesite? to have it left unmowed and a 'personal' note??? what ever happened to rest in PEACE? this is so sad...
mr. ferland should be fired for doing what he did and the association should not be standing by him and supporting him for his actions...

Heather Costa's picture

Thats horrible. According to

Thats horrible. According to the bible revenge is never the route to take and never the way to get your point accross.

RONALD RIML's picture

Ever see the contents of an exhumed grave, Peter??

You might prefer the bottom of an outhouse.

RONALD RIML's picture

Just another reason I'm getting cremated and ashes scattered

And my ashes scattered at sea.

No more freakin' mowing or arguments!!! Enough already!!!!

 's picture

Seriously? Come on people...

All you nay-sayers out there have NO IDEA what you're talking about. Maple Grove is a very beautiful and peaceful cemetery and it's because of the hard work the association has put into it. I was recently told by a family member that not even 15 years ago, there wasn't even ANY grass to mow and it was impossible to even go in after the snow had melted away in the spring, as there were 4 inch ruts in the drivable paths. People seem to forget that it was the association that fixed the damaged part of fence that a tree fell on. I know that it's PART of their job, but if they didn't care about the cemetery, as many of you seem to think, they WOULDN'T have fixed it at all. Some people complain that the grass is too tall and not being mowed enough, other people complain that the grass is being cut way too short. Also, I'm under the impression that the cemetery's funds are interest-only, and the interest rate is very low right now, so they can only do so much. And if the petition is old news, as some of you have apparently said, then why is it being mentioned in the articles?

As for perpetual care, those who don’t know what it is, it’s not hard to google it and get the definition, not assume stuff. According to the Maine Revised Statutes on the Maine Legislation website, perpetual care is described as, “A person, corporation or any other private entity that controls a cemetery shall establish a cemetery perpetual care fund. This fund is separate from any permanent care and improvement fund for a community mausoleum on a cemetery's premises established under section 1348. The income from the cemetery perpetual care fund must be devoted to maintenance of the cemetery. This cemetery perpetual care fund must be created by depositing in the fund at least 30% of the proceeds received, in full and in installments, from the sale of lots and plots in the cemetery. This section does not apply to a family burying ground as described in section 1142. The sale of a cemetery lot or plot that is subject to a contract for the perpetual care of the lot or plot or for general cemetery maintenance is exempt from this section, as long as the contract requires that at least 30% of the proceeds from the sale of the lot or plot be set aside with the income from those funds to be used for cemetery maintenance.”

On another issue that I read in the comments from the article the other day...I have been told that the books of lot owners and who is buried where are VERY organized. People from out of state or not from the area always give rave reviews on the books and how easy it ends up being to find where their loved ones are buried. I believe there are close to 5000 people buried in Maple Grove, and there has yet to be a complaint to the association about the organization and use/helpfulness of the books...

Obviously, they can't please everyone, and the association means well, but the issue shouldn't have made the paper anyway, and now possibly the local TV news stations, that's just causing even more trouble that no one wanted to deal with and this has gotten completely out of hand. Grow up people, there are more pressing things in the world than some supposed unfitting care in a cemetery that has been well-improved over the last 10+ years. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I was always taught that if you have an issue with someone and want to fix it, talk to that person face-to-face. Phone calls/emails/getting the media involved won’t get anybody anywhere.

 's picture

Walter Manchester should lose

Walter Manchester should lose his job! To write a threatening message to someone that visits the cemetary every day, she of all people would know if he has been doing his job or not. I don't blame her for being afraid to go to the cemetary. If she was my mother I would not let her go alone.
If this man is hired by the town SHAME ON THE TOWN AND CORRECT THIS MATTER IMMEDIATELY!

horrific.

This is absolutely ridiculous. The entire thing. A cemetery is no place for such arguement and disrespect. We have loved ones buried here - and we would have spoken up just the same if we felt they weren't being taken care of. A letter and petition are sublte docs requesting a change. The response back was horrific and unwarranted even if you disagree with what she's asking. I think its a beautiful cemetery... and i do disagree that the care is overlooked. This woman just wants her husband to have the best so who can fault her for that? Mow that plot, clean that stone. No matter what - Respect that persons resting place. - what if it were you're wife/husband/mom/dad/son/daughter? If ours were ever disrespected in this way you would face an army on that plot. guaranteed.

Tira Cottrell's picture

Are you Related?

Are you related to Mr. Ferland because it seems you may be. Mr. Ferland is supposed to do a job. If he cannot do it well, then find someone that can. At the same time Ms. Hodson(?) needs to be replaced for giving him permission to write the note.

 's picture

She did not write the note

She did not write the note herself. She and her granddaughter found it Sunday afternoon. The police were called. I guess you feel it's okay for someone to leave a note of this nature on someone's grave. I can assure you this was not done for attention. As I said before if the Association had been a little more cooperative with her concerns this would never had been in the paper.

 's picture

You'd have a point IF

Mr. Ferland didn't admit he wrote the note, which he did. Read the article

 's picture

I smell something rotten here?

In all honesty, I see her holding this note. I do not see any evidence that David even wrote this note. Where the police called when this was found on the grave? Was a police report made? I think she did this herself to get even more attention. Sorry folks, I smell a rat here....

 's picture

I wish the SJ would publish the telephone number

of the Cemetery Association or its President so would could call and let them know how people feel about all of this. I doubt they read the paper.

 's picture

Ferland is a loser and should

Ferland is a loser and should lose his job! If this is how he reacts because the woman complained about the care of the cemetary, the man has some serious issues!! What makes her a "difficult woman" because she complained? I have seen how so many cemetaries are cared for and it's an insult to the resting souls that lie in them! Lawns are unkept, trash is lying throughout as well as dead branches. Families are paying for the upkeep of their loved ones graves! How do any of you know that Ferland is doing his job as perfectly as he claims? If he acts so childish because someone is complaining, I wouldn't expect his work to be very professional either. What he did to her husbands grave is against the law!! He took trash and left it on his stone, with a childish nasty note!! The police could have done something and so should his employers! This alleged letter is no longer the issue! Ferland is a childish moron!

 's picture

Cemetery Dispute

I cannot believe the treatment that Mrs. Manchester received. I work with the public everyday teens, adults, elderly people. They can all be hard to deal with, but I think that David needs a course in customer service. She is a customer she did pay for that plot to be maintained by the cemetery. If he does own his own business and is hired by the cemetery, I think he may see a decline in his business. Some people take advantage of the elderly and we all know that it occurs. The cemtery should not have allowed him to place the note. Mr . Ferland needs to grow up an act like an adult. I hope that someday this type of disrespect does not occur to him at a loved ones grave. I'm sure that he would complain about also. Shame on you David!!!!

 's picture

This mans actions and that of

This mans actions and that of the association are shamefull! As I posted last week with the inital article, I disagree that the cemetery is not well maintained, however this is NOT the way to resolve a problem! Someone does have to step in here. I think as a town we need to find out how these people are appointed to the Cemetery association, clearly they cannot handle the job. How well you do a task isnt only based on your performance when all is well. How well you handle problems is also a reflection. Way to make the town look like a bunch of white trash hatefull a-holes. Does anyone know how these people got appointed? Let be rid of them!

 's picture

Disgusting Behavior of Cemetary Employees

In any decent town, this OUTRAGEOUS behavior of Ferland and the cemetary trustees would result in their being (at least) figuratively tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. Where did these people grow up? What kind of people raised them to think this was acceptable behavior? I shudder to think of it.
When you think it's OK to do something like writing a nasty note on a planter and leaving it on a grave as retribution for some perceived slight, there's something really wrong with your mind.

RONALD RIML's picture

Do you really think Ferland was an 'Employee?'

Much more likely he was an independent contractor.

As an employee the Cemetary would have to pay his social security, workman's comp, unempoyment, etc.

RONALD RIML's picture

She took it Public, He took it Personal

Don't reckon you're going to get Charm School Graduates as caretakers at these little cemeteries, and with volunteer, rather than full-time management - oversight isn't exactly what it might be at Forest Lawn Cemetary in L.A.

Bad enough the folks involved are blowing it up out of proportion - now we have people here calling it 'Grave Desecration' when it doesn't even begin to fit the legal elements under Maine Revised Statutes §507-A. Interference with cemetery or burial ground

And don't kid yourself about "Little Old Ladies" - they're not nearly as helpless as they appear. Ask waitresses, medical professionals, and anyone who serves the public. They do know what they're doing, they know how to get what they want, and they do know how to elicit sympathy.

Dave Ferland could certainly have handled this in a much better manner, but with fifteen cemeteries to mow, he probably doesn't have the time on his hands that Mrs. Manchester does. He also signed his note - something many of those who post here see no need to do. There's no need for Mrs. Manchester to be frightened of him - if anything were to happen to her, he would be the prime suspect. She's milking it at this point.

RONALD RIML's picture

Since when are cemetery contractors "Professionals?"

This was something for the Board of Directors to handle; certainly not someone contracted to mow and clean the Cemetery.

Mrs. Manchester should have complained directly to someone on the board - and the Board should have dealt with the matter - and not given the contractor permission to write a note.

So by firing the contractor, the Board has to trouble itself with obtaining the services of another vendor, and Mr. Ferland still has fifteen cemeteries to mow. BFD.

I seriously doubt it's in the contractor's job description - implied or otherwise - to placate every visitor to the cemetery.

Tira Cottrell's picture

You saw...

You saw that mowing needed to be done and you did it. Do you not think if yours needed to be mowed that every other plot should be mowed too? That is when you are supposed to get on the phone and call Mr. Ferland to tell him to mow. It does not take a rocket scientist! You were out of line to give him the ok to write the note and he was out of line for writing it! You both need to be fired!

 's picture

More to story?

Sounds like there is a lot of missing information from this story. Like what did the woman say before to the groundskeeper to make him so upset. He may have legitimate reason to be upset, but not caring for the grave is really a bad way to handle it. It just makes the situation worse.

 's picture

Sorry but he acted just like a

[This comment has been removed by the administrator]

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Excellent post, Pub..

Excellent post, Pub..

 's picture

Maple Grove Cemetery

As assitant treasurer of Maple Grove Cemetery and one of the trustees we have not received Mrs. Manchester's letter with 118 signatures as stated in the Sun Journal.
I would like to check the 118 signatures to verify that they are all lot owners of Maple Grove Cemetery. If someone has a problem, the proper course is to contact the President or a trustee to see if the problem can be corrected. Having checked with the Board no one received the letter.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

So, until you actually see

So, until you actually see Mrs. Manchester's 118 signatures, you stand by David's inappropriate and unprofessional note? It appears that Maple Grove Cemetery is in need of a little house cleaning.

RONALD RIML's picture

One must have standing to complain unless it's taxpayer funded

One must have standing to complain unless it's taxpayer funded

RONALD RIML's picture

So he has her address to mail it to her at????

She started this mess, what did she expect???

Douglas Mac antSaior's picture

First of all, it's cowardly

First of all, it's cowardly to pick a fight with an elderly widow, secondly where is the professionalism of those who told him it would be appropriate of him to taunt her at her husband's site?

RONALD RIML's picture

Check your notes - She launched the first tirade, Mac.

In public, and it appears she wasn't being any too truthful.

The "Little Old Lady' defense only gets you so far.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

She's elderly, she's lost her

She's elderly, she's lost her husband (a WWII veteran), and, she's paid for a plot in the cemetery and is not getting full value on her investment. Not to mention that she's being treated disrespectfully, an unpardonable act, by an employee of the cemetery. And, Ferland makes himself out to be the victim by leaving his insulting and ill timed note. AARRGHH!!!! WALK THE PLANK, DAVID.

RONALD RIML's picture

Grave desecration? How's that?

Care to explain how this incident rises to the level of your allegation of "Grave Desecration?"

RONALD RIML's picture

Sorry - law and your opinion don't line up.

And all cemeteries trash the planters.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Shows you how numb the note

Shows you how numb the note writer must be.

RONALD RIML's picture

Can 100 people be wrong?? Hey, Bush got elected.....

Can 100 people be wrong?? Hey, Bush got elected.....

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Who's the gargoyle?

Who's the gargoyle?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Yup, and then the American

Yup, and then the American Idol crowd elected oBAMa. Proof that there really is no accounting for bad taste.

 's picture

Was it inappropriate?

Of course it was grossly inappropriate to refuse to care for the gravesite and leave this grieving widow a nasty note. I find the behavior not only inappropriate, but reprehensible The officials of the cemetery association need to stop being so defensive and actually take an objective look at what the problem is perceived to be and try to find solutions.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Definitely; fire Ferland for

Definitely; fire Ferland for starters.

Michelle Hawkins's picture

Respect

Wow~ Is this a way to go about dealing with a matter? I think it is disrespectful ....Top it off nice note and appearance..............I feel bad for this lady just voicing her concern about the up keep of the cemetery..............and then has to deal with this guy giving her attitude!

Kimber Murphy-Hunt's picture

Facts vs. Perception

Just an observation, but when she voiced her concern she may have believed her facts were correct. The only information I've got on this issue is what I've read here over the last few days... It would seem that, to her, it only looked like things had been mowed three times. If this is not the case, there are better ways to reassure someone that things are actually being taken care of than leaving a crudely fashioned note. (Was it written in black crayon on a lunch sack? How odd...)

I think, if it were me, I might also be a little upset... Step back a moment here and think this through: You think the place needs to be mowed. You point it out to the proper authorities. Nothing happens. You collect signatures of other folks who have also noticed that the place needs to be mowed. Nothing happens. There's a write-up in the paper ABOUT how "nothing happens." ...and like magic... the cemetery is mowed... EXCEPT for the plot where your loved ones are buried... AND you get a rude note telling you "It's personal." Hmmm... Yeah... Coincidence, I'm sure.

 's picture

Stones should never be

Stones should never be pressure washed. It ruins them in the long run.

Mark Elliott's picture

childish....

That was very childish of Mr. Ferland!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Childish and unprofessional.

Childish and unprofessional. He should be fired and the cemetery board member who gave him permission to write the note should be canned as well. What a bunch of arrogant s***heads. Mrs. Manchester is a customer and is being treated like crap by a bunch lower echelon jerks.

Fred Stone's picture

Disgusting

This is more than childish, this is disgusting. Fire the bum.

 's picture

Obviously David Ferland has

Obviously David Ferland has some anger management issues. No wonder he works in a cemetary and not the public.

 's picture

this is riduculous and Mr Ferland

[This comment has been removed by the administrator]

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

How can you possibly know

[This comment has been removed by the administrator]

 's picture

Take the bull by the horns

I suggest she take some grass clippers with her on one trip. Another trip take a bucket and a brush to clean the stone. If she's there every day and does the work herself, it will be just to her liking.

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