FRANCESTOWN — A mom is upset the skeleton decorating her son’s grave for Halloween was removed, but cemetery officials say they are doing their job.
“It started as a way to bring some happiness to a lot of people who miss a very charismatic child who was taken from earth shortly after he turned 18,” Christina Wohle said.
She said her son, William “Cole” Wohle, died in 2016 of a heart attack after competing at a rodeo in Vermont.
His mom said she had used a plastic skeleton and skull — topped with a cowboy hat — to adorn his resting place in the town cemetery.
Christina Wohle said the fake bones were removed and placed behind the stone, and that when she re-did the display, it was taken apart again.
Polly Freese, chairman of the Cemetery Commission, said the commission has the right to remove any decoration it sees fit to remove, as in the case of the plastic skeleton.
“It’s really frustrating because you’re dealing with emotion on the one side, and with the law on the other, and we’re coming across as the bad guys,” Freese said.
Freese said the plastic bones were in the way of the landscapers who mow the property every week.
Wohle said the cemetery hasn’t been mowed since the middle of September, and that her son’s grave has no grass on it.
“There’s nothing to mow,” Wohle said. “It wasn’t interfering with any grounds maintenance at all.”
Wohle said that neither Freese nor any of the other commissioners, Ethel MacStubbs and Ruth Behrsing, contacted her or her husband about the decoration.
Freese said the commission is under no obligation to contact Wohle.
Wohle said that on the first anniversary of her son’s death, she and family and friends went to his grave and lit sky lanterns — small paper hot-air balloons — to commemorate his death.
The commission told her that was against the law, Wohle said.
“They went out of their way to find a state fire marshal ruling that (lanterns) are not allowed,” Wohle said.
Freese said the activity was illegal.
“They were in the cemetery after dark and they were doing something that was illegal,” Freese said.
Cole Wohle was a popular kid who served as a Little League coach and a volunteer firefighter, his mother said. She said her son’s friends and family regularly gather at his grave to remember him, and she set up the plastic skeleton to cheer them up.
Wylie Kendall, 16, said he looked up to Cole as a big brother and he thought the skeleton was funny.
“Cole was a very humorous person,” he said. “I think he would have loved it.”
Christina Wohle hopes the Cemetery Commission members will reach out to her in the future.
“They know I’m there all the time,” said Wohle, who visits the cemetery often.
“I try and do everything to keep that area looking neat and tidy. I don’t understand the animosity toward us,” she said.