Flowers stolen from Napanee cemetery contained ashes of deceased man

A Napanee woman is devastated by the theft of a hanging flower planter from her parents’ grave at River Side Cemetery in Napanee. Mixed into the planter’s soil were the ashes of her deceased brother.

The coco-lined basket pictured here contained snapdragons, and lobelia, among other flowers. Jimmy Porter’s ashes were sprinkled in the soil. Photo by Megan Oullette.

Wendy Porter-Oulette purchased a coco-lined hanging basket with metal frame and three-prong chain with the intention of beautifying the grave for the season.

“My idea was sort of twofold because Mother’s Day was coming up, and also my second oldest brother Jimmy had passed away in November of 2017 and I have his ashes,” Wendy explains. “I decided that I wanted to put a small portion of his ashes in with these flowers, just sort of to be close to my mum and dad, their grave. It had been his wish to have some of his ashes put in with them.”

Originally, Porter-Oulette says, she thought that adding his ashes to the gravesite would be a simple thing, “But when I called the Town Hall to find out, they told me that it was going to cost $750 just for the small hole. And there was, I still don’t understand the red tape: I would have to prove that I have the right to my parents’ grave and if I had any living siblings that they would all have to sign off on it, or something.” 

“So,” she thought, “Okay, well, for now I’ll just put a small portion of his ashes in there for a sense of closeness to my mum and dad.”

A week before Mother’s Day, she bought the planter soil and flowers, then “The Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend I planted them and put his ashes in, and on Mother’s Day, my daughter, Megan, and I went over to the cemetery and put in the shepherd’s hook and hung the flowers.”

Megan Oullette took the photo of the grave with the new tribute, and the two took turns watering the flowers. “First I was going over every day to water them because it had been warm and I wanted to make sure that they would be okay,” Porter-Oulette says.

Then, on Friday, Jun. 11, 2021, Porter-Oulette says, “I filled up my water jug and, as usual, headed over to the cemetery and pulled in. It took me a couple of minutes to realize that they weren’t there. I kind of sat there looking and thinking. You know, things kind of run through your head and I was thinking ‘I wonder if one of my kids came over and took them home to water them.’ And then it just kind of hit me and I felt kind of sick.”

“I drove around the cemetery, I think three times, just seeing if I could see them anywhere, evidence of somebody taking them off and or whatever, and didn’t see anything. I got out and walked around even, and nothing,” she conveys.

“So I called Megan because she had been the one that had been with me on the day that we took them over and she was taking turns going over to water. And I said ‘I’m just dumbfounded, and upset, and angry… like, where are they, anyway?’”

Wendy says, “I am not usually one to rant on Facebook or write anything much, but I just felt so sick about the whole thing.”  So she made a long post about the incident on Facebook in the group What’s going on Napanee, “And the response I got was crazy and overwhelming. I think there were 250 or 260 comments or whatever, and 99.9 per cent of them were very caring and kind and understanding and, you know, some people said the same kind of thing had happened to them.”

Unfortunately, she says “There was, of course, one lady that had very nasty things to say. She made comments that I was probably making it up and they hadn’t been stolen at all. She took offence at me calling my brother’s ashes ‘ashes,’ and said that ‘they’re called cremean’. And she said that ‘it was good to know that she could tell her children in order to save some money when she passes away just to plant her in with a flower arrangement,’ like making it really just disrespectful.”  These comments have since been removed.

Porter-Oullette says the whole event has left her disturbed. “Why would anyone do that to begin with and why make nasty comments?”

She said she really hopes that by sharing her story with the media, someone reading the story will know what happened — and she would be very happy if the flowers were returned.  “They could just set them back on my parents’ grave. That would be all, that would be the right thing to do.”

Anyone with information about this theft can contact Kingstonist Editor Tori Stafford via email at [email protected].

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