Charlotte Earley-Moody said she was devastated by what she found during her visit to her family’s plots in Fairview Cemetery on Christmas Eve. The tree that she helped plant in 1985 had been removed from the site.
“This is just horrible,” Earley-Moody said. “How can they do something like that? I just don’t understand it. It’s been growing there since it was a baby. I mean it was just perfectly shaped — wide at the bottom and just growing up to a point. It was just beautiful. And no loving hands can ever replace that tree.”
The tree had been located between Earley-Moody’s mother’s grave and her husband’s grave. The grave that had been behind the tree belongs to her aunt while the one that was in front of the tree belongs to her son. She also has one for herself beside her husband.
Denison City Manager Jud Rex explained any trees currently in the cemetery have the potential to be removed if they interfere with another plot. Earley-Moody said she wasn’t aware the trees could be removed without any notification to the family.
“I don’t know if people know that if you’ve left something on your family’s plot that they can take it up and destroy it without even telling anybody,” Earley-Moody said. “Why do we destroy magnificent things that have the grace to grow like that? Why do we destroy it all?”
Earley-Moody said the evergreen tree was planted upon the death of her father Haskell Earley.
“He was a veteran, and my mother and I planted that little baby tree there,” Earley-Moody said. “It’s been growing there and I’ve taken care of that area for 32 years. They cut down that beautiful evergreen tree.”
She estimated the tree had reached a height of 20 feet by the time it was removed. Other privately planted trees still exist in the older areas of the cemetery. Rex explained private tree plantings have not been allowed at Fairview Cemetery for decades.
“We don’t allow tree plantings anymore for private plots because of this issue,” Rex said. “They planted a tree on the plot and unfortunately the tree grew. We had to open up the other plot for a burial. We got in and had to remove the tree because it interfered with the other plot. We had to remove it for someone else to be buried.”
Earley-Moody explained much of her family is buried in the family plot. Earley-Moody is 70 years old with a nephew and several stepchildren still living.
“My husband is buried out there,” Earley-Moody said. “He was an employee of the city of Denison for 24 years. My son is buried out there. I have five family members buried right there. My aunt was directly behind that tree.”
Earley-Moody was also saddened to find the family’s plots had been left in disarray with the markers for her husband and son moved.
“They covered my husband’s marker and my son’s plaque,” Earley-Moody said. “It looks like a pile of mess. You can’t even tell there’s anybody even buried there.”
She explained she did not receive any notification that the tree was going to be removed.
“They didn’t call me,” Earley-Moody said. “They didn’t say a word. They didn’t ask me anything about the tree. I just went out there on the 24th and it was gone. At least if they would have notified me I could have had some answers and maybe made the suggestion that the tree be trimmed up instead.”
Upon finding the tree removed, Earley-Moody called to place a police report.
“Because no one had notified me, I thought someone might have taken it to use as a Christmas tree,” Earley-Moody said. “I tried to file a police report on it and they wouldn’t even send a police officer out here. They said they were cleaning up the cemetery and I couldn’t even file a police report on it. They wouldn’t send anybody out here to talk to me. They said it wasn’t necessary. But it was necessary for me. I needed to tell someone.”
Rex believes the response from dispatch was standard for an incident of this nature.
“That’s not typically something the police would respond to, when it’s on city-owned land,” Rex said.
Rex and Fairview Cemetery Superintendent Harold Wagoner have scheduled a meeting for this week with Earley-Moody at the cemetery to further discuss the situation.
Rex said he was unable to confirm whether the roots for the tree had been removed and what the reason was for the tree being removed rather than trimmed.
“Without being out there all together, it is hard to determine what exactly the circumstances were,” Rex said.
Earley-Moody explained she is hoping for answers during the upcoming meeting.
“This can never be undone,” Earley-Moody said. “But we have a mutual agreement that it does need to be addressed. That beautiful tree stood sentinel over that area there. It weathered the storms and the heat. I can’t believe anybody could object to that magnificent tree being there.”