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