CINCINNATI -- Michael Urbisci takes a handmade decoration to his daughter's grave at Spring Grove Cemetery every holiday. Creating the arrangements, which incorporate artificial flowers and seasonal props, is a labor of love that helps him and his wife feel close to her even eight years after the car crash that claimed her life.
They're also against Spring Grove's rules. The cemetery's official policy prohibits the placement of any tribute that incorporates non-plant material as anything more than an incidental part of a floral arrangement; plastic and fabric flowers are only permissible between November and March.
Urbisci knows this, he said. Still, it stung to arrive at his daughter's grave on Halloween and discover the fall-themed arrangement her mother had created was gone -- probably, he said, removed by the cemetery's staff.
"I want it to look nice," he said. "I really do. I'm not trying to degrade the cemetery in any way."
He said he doesn't understand why the arrangements are against the rules if they don't detract from the historic cemetery's appearance or create clutter.
"Melissa's accident occurred March 8, 2010, and it's been a constant struggle to do these types of things," he said.
Melissa Urbisci was buried at Spring Grove because her great-grandparents were there; her grandparents and parents will one day join them in the family crypt. The strong family connection to the property has left her father feeling trapped by the ongoing clash with its policies, he said.
"Just the idea that…why?" He said. "Why not leave it alone? … I certainly didn't anticipate all of this grief on top of the grief that we have for having lost her to have to deal with such insensitivity."
The cemetery's chief operations officer said Wednesday afternoon he understands the issue is emotional for Urbisci, but the policy has always been clear. He added he did not believe cemetery staff had removed the decoration and suggested it might have been stolen.