‘It’s not right’: Families outraged after cemetery says it will remove gravesite decorations

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — Debra Arnoux said tending to her daughter Olivia’s gravesite gives her with a way to connect to her child more than three years after her death.

Olivia died in 2019 at just 20 years old while serving in the U.S. Army. Her gravesite at Chuluota Cemetery is decorated with American flags, photos, flowers and pinwheels.


Soon, according to new signs posted throughout the cemetery, those decorations may have to come down.

“This is our way of still being able to take care of our child. Now you’re wanting to take that away from us. It’s really hard,” Arnoux said. “It’s not fair and it’s not right.”

Read: Man, woman shot at cemetery where funeral for 10-year-old shooting victim was taking place

The cemetery posted signs stating that gravesite decorations will have to be removed by July 1.

But people with loved ones buried at the cemetery said being able to decorate the gravesites is why they chose to bury loved ones there to begin with.

“When we were looking at the cemeteries to bury her, we found this cemetery. I felt this was her cemetery. It has personality, it allows you to personalize the graves,” Arnoux said.

Read: Families gather on Memorial Day to honor the fallen at Florida National Cemetery

Dozens of graves around the Chuluota Cemetery are personalized with pebbles, benches and toys.

Denise Asbury has three daughters buried at the cemetery and said decorations have never been a problem before.

“I’ve been doing it since 2008,” Asbury said. ”To stop it, it’s not like we can pick them up and move them somewhere else. This is where we chose.”

Read: Forgotten for a century, new technology unearthing Central Florida Black cemetery

Some burial spot owners were sent letters in the mail dictating the new rules, but they said not everyone got one.

The letter states these rules and regulations have been posted at the front of the cemetery for about two years. But people said large signs with the notice were posted only last weekend.

Arnoux said taking the freedom away to care for these spots is like reliving her child’s death all over again.

Photos: Flags placed at cemeteries across the country for Memorial Day

“It’s our way of coping,” she said.

Channel 9 called and left messages, texted, and emailed the cemetery association to see why these rules are now being enforced and haven’t heard back. We also ran into the man that runs the cemetery and he told us he declined to comment.

Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, click here to download the WFTV Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.