Families concerned with upkeep of graves at Calvary Cemetery

ST. LOUIS - Calvary Cemetery in north St. Louis is a sacred place that brings comfort to many families in the St. Louis area. At least two families contacted Fox2/KPLR11 after visiting their loved ones' graves over the weekend and seeing enormous trees cut down, scattered on top of tombstones, which appeared to be knocked off their bases.

One woman asked to remain anonymous but said that she feels the damage is disrespectful for those long buried in their final resting place.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis said there is a good explanation.

"They manually lay down these headstones to protect them," said Gabe Jones, Archdiocese of St. Louis Media Relations Specialist. "It's a giant step we're taking to make sure these headstones are not damaged."

Jones said before cutting down the trees, the groundskeepers deliberately and carefully laid down the headstones on pieces of wood to protect them from the mud.

According to the Archdiocese, the Missouri Department of Conservation determined the trees are diseased with Oak Gall and have to come down before they die when there's a high risk of the tree crashing down on top of surrounding standing headstones during a storm.

"They go and cut down the tree in a way that is going to minimize the number of headstones that it falls on," Jones said.

If any damage is done in the process, the Archdiocese takes full responsibility.

"The headstone will be repaid or replaced at no cost to the family," said Jones.

Jones said over the last three years they've cut 200 of the trees down and have damaged only one headstone in the process. They contacted that family and are replacing the headstone at no cost to the family.