NEWMARKET — Michael Hamel can’t understand how someone could steal from the dead.
When he heard reports of flowers disappearing from graves at Calvary Cemetery in Newmarket, he decided to check on the pot of geraniums he placed on his parents’ headstone just before Memorial Day.
He was shocked to find the flowers were gone.
“What the hell kind of person would want to steal a pot of flowers off someone’s gravesite? That infuriates me,” he said.
Hamel said the pot was placed on the extended base of the stone, which keeps flowers off the ground and out of the way of maintenance crews.
Police are now investigating the flower thefts in the cemetery owned by the Catholic church, which police Lt. Scott Kukesh called a “despicable and heinous crime.”
“We are aware of it and we are looking into it,” he said.
Christine Jordan discovered that two pots of geraniums were taken from the graves of her grandfather and two uncles late last week.
Like Hamel, she made a trip to the cemetery on Route 108 to make sure they were still there after hearing others complaining about stolen flowers.
When she first noticed the flowers were gone, she checked with other family members to make sure no one had removed them for some reason, but no one in the family had touched them.
“It’s heartbreaking that the flowers are getting taken,” she said.
Jordan said her grandmother, who will soon turn 90, places the flowers on gravesites each year.
“She puts them out every year hoping they stay. I just feel more for my grandmother and I don’t want it to be happening to other people,” she said.
No flower thefts have been reported at Riverside Cemetery, which is owned by the town, according to Michael Pelczar, who is chairman of Newmarket’s cemetery trustees and the owner of Kent & Pelczar Funeral Home & Crematory in Newmarket.
While the cemetery trustees aren’t responsible for the Calvary Cemetery, Pelczar said he heard about the missing flowers.
He recalled a problem about 10 years ago with people stealing above-ground urns to hold flowers on graves.
“During Memorial Day everyone is always extremely high stressed. Their loved ones are at the top of their list and they want to do something nice for them and unfortunately when something like this happens it really gets them in the heart and gets the best of them, which I completely understand,” Pelczar said.
Hamel and his sister plan to replace the geraniums stolen from their parents’ headstone, and he hopes they’re left alone this time.
He also had a message for the person responsible for the thefts.
“I would just like to know why. Why would you steal flowers that are meant to memorialize a loved one’s gravesite? Mother and father, grandfather, aunt and uncle and brother. Why? It is the biggest disrespect you can do to anyone,” he said.
Anyone with information on the thefts is encouraged to call the Newmarket Police Department at 603-659-6636.