Some people seem to forget the true origins of Halloween. Perhaps the best explanation comes from Bette Midler from the movie Hocus Pocus where she describes how a night once filled with witchcraft and the spirits of the dead returning to Earth evolved into a night where children wear costumes and run amok. That misunderstanding is common. The misunderstanding that the Mountain View Funeral Home has created in the community of Mesa is not.
In fact, many believe that it is unnecessary and still more believe it asinine decision on a grand scale.
Mountain View Funeral Home has for the last three years held a Halloween event as a way to “give back to the community.” That sounds nice, doesn’t it? And it might be if, and it is a big if, it did not take place right next to the graves of the dearly departed.
The event is held in an open grassy parking lot approximately 30 feet away from those who are supposed to be resting in peace.
And this year, the funeral home had considered changing the event to the “Trunk or Treat” car show, featuring pumpkin carving and games. That plan left many in the Mesa community, who have laid to rest dear family members on the hallowed grounds of Mountain View, bewildered and infuriated.
One person, who is asking to the funeral home to reconsider its decision, is Sherry Anne Coombe. Three years ago, Ms. Coombe buried her daughter in Mountain View. Just two weeks ago, while waiting to enter traffic from the parking lot, she spotted Mountain View’s large electronic billboard. The Trunk or Treat event notice flashed for a split second before she turned onto the road. Naturally, she assumed she had simply misread what was on the sign so she decided to call the funeral home to check. She was shocked when she was told that the message she described was indeed the message on display.
“I said ‘I am outraged, I have no words’ and I found it extremely disrespectful. She (the receptionist) asked if I would like to speak with Mr. Coury our owner operator. I said yes I would…I came home, didn’t hear anything from him. I went onto my Facebook page and posted ‘Hey, what does everyone think about having a Halloween Trunk or Treat in the cemetery cause our cemetery is doing it.’ Of course my friends were outraged. I also went to their Facebook page and found their flier for the Trunk or Treat and my daughter and I and several friends started posting how dare you’s…never heard anything. Never heard a word.”
Mountain View would however respond later, claiming a moral standing. They have been hosting the event at the cemetery over the last three years as a way to give back to the community,, they claimed. Holding these kinds of events was a way for Coury and his family owned business to provide a safe and open place to hold a fun and joyful event to celebrate the life of those who had left this world.
Too many like Ms. Coombe, that claim is hollow and heartless. It is callous to many people, who have bought plots in the cemetery, and had no prior knowledge of the event prior. They are now signing petition started by Coombe.
The petition on Change.org reads in part:
Petitioning Mountain View Funeral home and Cemetery
Let keep our cemeteries from holding “carnival’ style events on the cemetery grounds
Cemeteries are places of remembrance, reflection and respect for the loved ones buried there, not a place to hold a carnival. A cemetery also has very little business holding a “community” event on the property. It is not a place for “community outreach.” Please leave this to local churches and food banks. If a family of a loved one buried wants to have a picnic then so be it, that is their choice and not the entire community is being invited.
Please send a message that we want our cemeteries to remain peaceful, respectful places. My 21 year old daughter is buried in this cemetery and I feel this is very disrespectful and tacky to hold such an event. Together we can make a change and stop our cemeteries from becoming public places to hold any event the owner wants too regardless of how the families feel.
The funeral home claims that they have no way to send out notifications to those, who have family buried there, because they keep no information such as email or home addresses of those who buy plots. They only advertised the event on Facebook, and that flier has since been taken down and the flash the notification on the sign just outside the business which is constantly changing.
This is not the first event the business has held that show disrespect to those who have been laid to rest. Mr. Coury has, on many occasions, allowed his funeral home parking lot to serve as a site for car shows. On one occasion, visitors could take a hay ride through the roads between the graves. Hardly an appropriate place for a festive ride. According to Ms. Coombe’s husband, Coury flirted with the idea of holding an Easter egg hunt around the cemetery.
There are also multiple versions of how the event came to be from those who organized the event. Coury has two different versions of its inception, according Ms. Coombe’s husband and others. One version was that twenty or so local businessmen came to Coury and suggested the idea of a Trunk or Treat event. Another version has Coury saying that it was a single member of the community who suggested the whole thing. However, a member of the staff claimed that the scheme was Coury’s alone.
However it started, it continues to rub plenty of folks the wrong way.
As of September the 29, the Trunk or Treat car show portion had been canceled, but Mountain View Cemetery remains the site for pumpkin carving and other activities between 4 and 7 PM. The likelihood that the area remains clean, and that everyone stays away from the graves as the sun sets, is minuscule to those who have laid beloved friends and family to rest there.
Coombe says that she and her supporters are looking into the legality of protesting the event should it go on as planned. There are murmurs that Coury might move the event to November in order to allow time to come to a mutual agreement on the appropriate use of the property.