Los Angeles

Family Members Continue to Seek Proper Care of Loved Ones' Graves

Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Rowland Heights receives backlash after ignoring complaints of dirty grave stones.

Families of loved ones laid to rest at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Rowland Heights said their constant calls for respect have gone ignored for far too long.

In August of 2018, Mike Cruz and Elvira Martinez reached out to NBCLA and shared photos and videos of what they saw as a blatant disregard for the headstones and grave sites at the Catholic cemetery. Ten months later, they said promises from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles have become lies.

"For two to three weeks, they were on their best behavior. After that, they reverted to their same old ways, same bad habits," said Cruz.

Cruz's wife is buried at Queen of Heaven and he says he's walked the grounds and has personally seen how some stones are sinking into the ground. Some are even broken from being driven on by heavy equipment, or are surrounded by dead grass, he says.

"We're not asking for anything that's extreme; there's no sense of serenity here, no sense of peace," Martinez said in August.

Martinez lost her husband nearly three years ago.

"Everything is either burnt, stepped on, track marks, dirty--This is not how a cemetery should be," Martinez said.

Cruz, meanwhile, said he's complained to management a dozen times over.

"They have a groundsman, lead man, who can care less," Cruz said. "He gives us a terrible attitude, no pride in his work, doesn't take responsibility, would rather be playing cards in the break room."

And World War II veteran Juan Garcia said management knows him by his first name.

"I won't stay quiet; what I tell you is the truth," said Garcia. 

Garcia said he was wounded on Omaha Beach during his parachuting with the 82nd Airborne 75 years ago, but his anger in those days pales in comparison to his anger with the cemetery today.

"I don't see the respect for all our veterans that are laid to rest here; for all the people that are laid to rest here," he said. 

Garcia buried his wife at Queen of Heaven Cemetery five years ago.

"It upsets me, you see headstones almost turned upside down," said Garcia.

Cruz said one of his biggest complaints is the lack of respect for headstones as tractors make their way across the cemetery for burials. He shared photo after photo of tire marks on grave markers.

In August, the Archdiocese promised new measures that would include laying plywood to cover the grave sites and avoid any damage.

In a statement Wednesday, June 12, the Archdiocese stated, "Plywood or alturnamats (used when ground is wet) are placed under tractor tires to prevent depressions on grounds and damage to memorials when equipment is in use. They aren't used when tractor is being driven to a burial site, as the wheels need to turn, but the plywood or alturnamats are used when digging to avoid damage from pressure under tractor."

Cruz said the least grounds crews could do is wipe down stones they've run over. 

"You cannot teach compassion. You cannot teach empathy. You cannot teach patience. I don't see that here," he said.

The families said they are looking at possible legal action if their concerns aren't addressed, adding that they pay for their burial sites and expect perpetual care.

"They didn't give us this land. We paid for it. And we paid a fortune for it," Garcia said. "There's hope you see improvement, that's what I hope to see."

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