August 6, 2019 9:39 am
Updated: August 6, 2019 3:10 pm

Winnipeg family distraught after cross at son’s gravesite removed

The Bottle family at the site of their son Cayden's grave.

Michael Draven/ Global News

A Winnipeg family is speaking out after they say the cross at their son’s gravesite was removed without warning.

Last Friday, Bobbi Bottle visited her son Cayden’s grave at Sage Creek Cemetery and Crematorium. Upon arrival, she says, she noticed something was wrong.

“I drove in and first thing that I saw was that his cross was gone,” said Bottle.

“It was absolutely devastating. I got out of my vehicle, sat down with him and cried for over half an hour. Just upset that he had been so disrespected … It was disheartening.”

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In July, Willie Mandryk took ownership of Sage Creek Cemetery and Crematorium, formerly the Wheeler Funeral Home. The site’s previous owner, Chad Wheeler, had his funeral director licence revoked after a hearing with the Funeral Board of Manitoba on Nov. 19, 2018.

Mandryk, the site’s new owner, notes that he has taken over the cemetery property but not the Wheeler Funeral Home business.

According to Mandryk, the removal of crosses from gravesites was intended to help with the cemetery’s landscaping, and he claimed the site had previously been neglected.

“We had to remove [the crosses] to backfill because some of the cemetery plots have sunken as much as two feet down and we had to bring in dirt and leave it all up,” Mandryk said.

Mandryk also claimed he did not receive any documents or numbers to contact the families who have loved ones buried in the cemetery.

“We didn’t have any record of who to call or what to do to it or to give people notice, and because it was in terrible condition, we decided to clean it up and bring it back to a more dignified place,” he said.

The new owner says his intention was never to disrespect any of the gravesites. However, Mandryk says he aims to learn from this experience and move on.

“We are all victims of him [Wheeler]. We have to work together to get through this and put this behind us and make this a more desirable place than what it turned out to be,” he said.

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While many families whose loved ones are buried at the cemetery know its new management could potentially come up with new rules and regulations, the Bottles think there was a more appropriate way to handle the situation.

“The people who’ve been here for years, give them the opportunity to keep things the way they are, and anyone new coming in, they now have to follow the new rules and regulations,” said Ross Bottle, Cayden’s father.

“I know that there is a process, to make it serene and tranquil was the motive behind everything, however there is a way of doing it and rushing into it was not the way to do it,” Bobbi added.

The Bottles are now working towards a permanent marker for Cayden’s grave to honour him.

“We want something that speaks to him, speaks to his love, speaks to his always welcoming everybody — actually something that honours him,” Ross said.

Mandryk has told families that they can put their wooden crosses back until they have a permanent marker in place at the cemetery.

The Bottles have set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for a permanent marker for Cayden. The family says any additional funds beyond their goal will be split with the other families who had their crosses removed.

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