Colby Smith was just 33 when he was involved in a fatal accident. The father, husband and son died in Rockford, Illinois, on March 31, 2005, and almost every day since then, Tim Smith, Colby’s father, has kept a vigil over his grave.
However, Tim and Colby’s mother, Mida Smith, were outraged when they had to dig through the trash for mementos that they had placed on their son’s grave, WREX reports. On Nov. 10, Tim noticed the lantern he lights at his son’s grave when he can’t be there was missing.
"Maybe it's not important to some people but it's important to me,” Tim told WREX.
Colby’s grave wasn’t the only one that was cleared out. The graves of former soldiers also reportedly lost their special markers.
"On [Nov. 12] there was an 85-year-old woman there," Tim said. "It was rainy, it was nasty, she was looking around for the wreath she had just put on her husband's grave.
"I took her down to the scrap heap. I dug it out of the scrap heap for her, she put it in her car and left very upset."
(Scrap heap of special markers for graves. Photo Credit: WREX)
Calvary Cemetery recently came under the management of the Diocese of Rockford, meaning new rules were instated. Though the Diocese said the regulations were posted on the church bulletin, the Smith family said they never heard about them.
“I think of that as our space," Mida said. "That's our space with our son."
Tim added that the removal of the lantern was “heartless."
The Diocese said the cleanup was premature and plans to apologize.
Mida and Tim also started a memorial 4-mile run in Colby Smith's memory, according to the Colby Smith Memorial Run website. By 2013, the annual run had raised over $50,000, which went towards scholarships for Aquin Catholic School students in Freeport, Illinois.