Letters to the editor for the week of April 10 to April 14

April 14, 2006 12:00 am

Decorating graves helps with loss

To the editor:

I am also one of those who decorate the headstones year-round. We have always been a close family, sharing holidays and everyday life. Both of my parents are buried at Mount Hope Cemetery as well as my daughter, who was taken from us in a senseless act of violence.

Since they can no longer come to us, it helps me to be able to celebrate special occasions with them by decorating the headstones with things they enjoyed.

As for being in the way of the mowers, I help keep approximately 3-4 inches around the headstones clear. I always carry my grass clippers in my car so when I visit, I clear away anything too tall or too close to the headstones.

As for what Ontario, La Grande or any other city does, why should that be of any significance to us? We are our own little town, and we don't need any other town to dictate what we do or don't do. If Mr. Fink can't go out of his way a little to help those of us who use this method with our grief, maybe he should step aside and let someone do it who will.

Nora F. Bass

Baker City

Don't fall for

peer pressure

To the editor:

I am one of those who go up at least once a month with my grandmother and decorate my mother's headstone. I am 16, and I lost my mother in a very bad act of violence, and I have not seen her since I was 8. Doing this really helps me feel closer and feel like she is still here with us. If you take this from me, then it will be like losing part of me again.

I didn't get to know my great-grandparents because unfortunately they both passed away when I was just a little girl. Going up to decorate their headstones with my grandmother when we decorate my mother's helps me get to know them more because my grandmother always takes up a variety of different things they both used to love.

Who cares about what other towns do? This is our town — let's do what we want to, not what others do. That is peer pressure, and in school one of the number one things that I have learned is, don't fall for peer pressure because bad things can happen when you do. If we go along with this, it will be one of those bad things.

Samantha Leigh Tugman

Baker City

Editor's note: Nora F. Bass is the wife of Baker City councilor Sam Bass. Samantha Leigh Tugman is the couple's grand-daughter.

Healing our broken hearts

To the editor:

As a community, I think everyone who owns land at Mount Hope Cemetery should feel outraged and violated. After all, did we not pay for those plots and do we not pay for the caretaker's salary? For the last 20 years or more there have been no issues brought to the community regarding grave site decor. However, recently issues have arisen — issues I am sure have existed for decades, yet our new caretaker, Mr. Fink, feels justified to address them.

He not only addresses these issues, he took it upon himself to do a clean sweep of all the small representations of our loved ones' lives off their grave sites. If metal stakes and water-soaked bears are truly the problem, then where is my grandfather's United States flag that was placed on his grave over a year ago? This flag was a direct representation of his dedication to his country and his blood that was spilled to allow each of us to live the free life we live today.

Or the cross lying on my grandmother's grave site that was a direct representation of her love and devotion to Christ? Was it swept by the wind? Oh yes, I remember — they were thrown into a shed by Mr. Fink without fair and honest notification.

If policies and rules were going to be discussed, then why were the grave sites cleared prior? Instead of being notified, we found our loved ones' grave sites bare, causing healing wounds to re-open.

I pray that in the planning for Mount Hope Cemetery decor regulations, the true purpose of this land is taken very seriously. It is not just a job opportunity for a local licensed contractor. This land is the final resting place for our loved ones' souls, as well as a sacred place where each one of us can go to grieve our losses. In return, over time this allows our broken hearts to heal.

Marianne Stone

Baker City

Campbell and College a hazard

To the editor:

I just wanted everyone to be aware of an ongoing problem in this town regarding driving safety. Some elderly people and some people that own big trucks need to be more considerate of safety for other drivers.

My wife and I live in North Baker and that requires us to use the four-way stop at Campbell and College. However, every time we drive through that intersection, there is always somebody (either elderly or in a big truck) who treats that intersection like a stop light.

If somebody stops in front of you at a stop sign, drive up to the stop sign after they drive away and let other people have their turn. Do not automatically drive off like there is a green light and expect everybody else to stop at your will. I have a wife and an infant daughter, and my wife is expecting our second child. I do not want other drivers to endanger my family's lives when we are just going to the store or to church.

Just because you are elderly, or have a big vehicle, or whatever your reason, this does not make it OK to force other people to slam on their brakes in fear for their family's lives.

I know plenty of people in this town who have experienced the same problem time and time again.

Personally, I believe that the police department needs to watch that intersection not only when the high school is on lunch period, but as often as possible. If that cannot be done, then a stop light needs to be put in place to help alleviate the potential danger of this situation.

Brandon Torres

Baker City

Betrayal of trust

To the editor:

I am dismayed at what is happening at the cemetery. I think that those responsible for the cemetery betrayed the public's trust by stripping decorations from the graves without advance notice. Yes, there needs to be common sense exercised in what is displayed and how long to display it; however I think that most of us do consider that.

Five generations of our family are buried at Mount Hope Cemetery; and we do decorate some of the graves for the various holidays/seasons. This helps us to continue to feel close to those we have lost. We also enjoy walking through the cemetery locating the graves of family and friends and admiring decorations on other graves.

It is a beautiful cemetery, but please keep in mind that it is a cemetery; it is not a park. Baker has always been a small town of independent thinkers. We don't need to follow the dictates of other cemeteries. Let us keep our cemetery looking and feeling like a cemetery all year, not for just one week.

Jan Berry

Baker City

Flowers for living

To the editor:

It is my opinion that the city should follow through with the restriction of grave decoration at the cemetery. As stated in the Baker City Herald article of last Tuesday, some of the decorations have the potential to cause injury to cemetery maintenance workers, not to mention the environmental impact and windblown debris which inevitably occurs.

I have never understood the concept of decorating graves. Our departed ones are not there. They are in the loving arms of our Lord, where we will be with them when our lives on Earth are through. They are forever in our hearts and it would behoove all of us to honor them by being kinder and more loving to the living.

Instead of placing toys and other objects around the graves, give a teddy bear to a child in need, or send flowers to a living person in the hospital or elder care home.

I have mentioned to my own family that I want my flowers now, in life, when I can enjoy their beauty. I won't care for them when I am in my grave.

Nancy Duncan Berdahl

Baker City

Decorated graves a way to say goodbye

To the editor:

This is in response to the proposal to enact rules for Mount Hope Cemetery. I have two baby daughters buried at Mount Hope, as well as other loved ones, and I strongly disagree with this proposal.

I would like you to put yourselves in other shoes for a moment. People decorate graves for the same reason they have a funeral. A funeral is for the people who are left here. It's a way to say goodbye, to honor the person, and to help with closure. I decorate my daughters' graves because it's all I can do for them. It's a way for me to say, "I love you and will never forget you."

When Dan Sword managed the cemetery, I don't remember him every complaining about this being a problem. He did a beautiful job, and he did it with decorations in place. In the April 11 Baker City Herald, Mr. Fink stated that he can't do his job properly if he has to deal with the decorations. I believe this constitutes a re-bidding of the job. He can't maintain the cemetery in the same manner as it has been in the past.

Mr. Sword and family were faced with the same obstacles that Mr. Fink says are impossible to work around, and he did it with compassion for the families, not just the thought of the almighty dollar.

I hope the council members will use compassion on the people of Baker City in the way they deal with grief, and that their decision will be based on that — not in support of a contractor who can't fulfill his obligations to deliver the same professional care that has been done in the past.

Sheila Hill

Baker City

Decorations were already removed

To the editor:

Have you driven out by our drab, deserted, forlorn looking cemetery?

Dan and Kay Sword may not have had the licenses the city now deems so essential (after how many years of service?), but at least they had compassion and understanding of what a cemetery/grave means to some people.

The city's new cemetery maintenance crew is a dictatorship! They want their job to be as easy as possible in return for the enormous amount of money they bid for this job.

We, the people, purchased those cemetery plots, and most paid extra for perpetual care. This did not include being told when, how and what decorations we could place on our loved ones graves.

I'm not so sure it's legal to implement a policy before it has been formally accepted by those in authority and presented to the public, along with a period for compliance. But this is what the cemetery maintenance crew has done. To my personal knowledge, decorations were removed over two weeks ago. City Hall says they will allow 30 days for you to reclaim your decorations — well, that time is about gone and they are still being very secretive about the "new policy" that has yet to be formally established, but is already in progress.

Judy Stultz

Baker City

Decor on family graves is personal

To the editor:

I have lived in Baker most of my life. My parents, Delmar and Grace Dixon, my great grandparents, my grandparents and many aunts, uncles, cousins and most recently my husband are all buried in the Mount Hope Cemetery.

We have purchased their plots and paid for perpetual care. I have decorated my loved ones' graves for at least 50 years, including my parents' and husband every month since their passing. I have never used anything that could be easily broken or damaged.

The previous groundskeeper had no problems with my decor, including wind chimes, whirly wind ornaments, artificial and real flowers, shepherd poles for wind socks and hanging plants and flags. I would place the decorations near or on the headstone itself. Now that we have Classic Landscape for a contractor to maintain the cemetery, can they decide the manner and dignity appropriate for my loved ones' grave sites?

When I signed the contract to purchase these plots, these outlandish rules were not in effect. Can they now break a contract because of convenience? Possibly they should have thought about the work involved before bidding on the job. I own these spaces, paid for in perpetual care, in addition to the taxes I pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the cemetery. I should be able to decorate at any time and in any manner that I feel is appropriate for my loved ones as long as they are not offending or harmful.

Should I have to spend money to buy fresh flowers once a week to make it "easier" on the groundskeeper? How expensive! So a big mower can rush across the grounds to trim the grass and destroy the decorations. I feel that the new policies that they want to put into place is for Classic Landscape to hastily perform their mowing, not to prevent injury or to "protect" visiting deer.

Each time a new contractor is brought in to maintain the grounds, are we then going to have to change the way in which we decorate and respect our loved ones' resting place? What's next?

A City Council meeting is called for April 25 to further discuss the new cemetery guidelines. I plan on attending, how about you?

Carolyn Dixon Hamilton

Baker City

Use middle school for indoor tennis

To the editor:

There has been much news in the paper recently about building a new middle school. Committees were assigned and outside experts were called in. One of the selling points in the planning identified indoor facilities for exercise walking by citizens during inclement weather. If a new school is built, I wonder if the old middle school could be converted for use as an indoor tennis facility? The existing middle school has a gymnasium. If this space could be converted to year-round tennis there might be a number of community benefits. The BHS tennis teams might never again have to shovel snow in order to practice. An indoor tennis facility would enable our school teams to practice year round thus making them more competitive. More high school tennis players with more developed skills might get more college tennis scholarships. And last, but not least, the local tennis community would also have a place to practice and exercise during the long inclement season we call winter.

Richard A. Nase

Baker City

Higher ups are ruining this town

To the editor:

I've read the city wasn't going to allow artificial flowers on the graves soon and probably not even those twirling things my husband loved when he was alive. I presume it included them, too. Well, a lot of people are already yelling about it. Most people like me can afford to get artificial only flowers, and they don't require any water. I don't have real flowers, so why now is this new contractor getting so picky?

I liked the way Dan Sword was handling the cemetery. He did OK for 21 years. I think the city kind of gave him a raw deal.

This used to be a great town to live in but now the ones that run the city are taxing everything from motels, driving all the tourists and everyone else out of the town. It should be known as a ghost town. Look at all the empty stores everywhere you look. Why, my son had to go to Tokyo, Japan, to even get a job because there's no work here for any of the younger people who need it.

I think a lot of people will agree with me. I love the town but I think that some of the higher ups are making it impossible to bear to live here and enjoy life.

I'm pretty sad about the whole thing. My husband and 19-year-old daughter are buried up at Mount Hope, and I miss them very much, as I know other people also miss their loved ones.

Thelma Hull

Baker City

Arrest a concern

To the editor:

Having read the letter by Father Jim Stephens regarding his arrest in a war protest I have several concerns. My principal concern is that by using the title "Father" he implies his position is representative of the Roman Catholic Church. It is not. I acknowledge his right to form his own conscience and act in accord with it. However the Church requires that its members act in concert with a correctly formed conscience based on the teachings of Christ, not just one's impression of what is right or wrong.

The teachings of the Church include three criteria under Church law by which a war may be deemed just. While the Church discourages war except as a last resort, the Church has not, in any definitive statement issued by the Vatican, condemned the current military actions of the United States. In fact a number of noted Catholic theologians have applied the criteria for a just war and have found our involvement in Iraq to be both just and necessary.

I am not surprised by Father Stephens' position, similar in many respects to the protests of the left during Vietnam. I do find it difficult to understand how one who claims to reverence life could justify allowing a mass murderer and his regime to remain in power in Iraq. Had the United States and its partners not initiated action against a murderous dictator, many more innocent civilians would have been killed over the past three years. I would add that the vast majority of non-combatants killed in Iraq since 2003 have not been killed by the U.S. military.

While Father Stephens apparently felt compelled to let his hometown know of his arrest, perhaps thinking it a badge of courage, I would hope readers understand that though he used his clerical title in writing he does not officially represent the position of all Catholics.

Jerry Boyd

Baker City

Found a new friend

To the editor:

My wife and I have been longtime dog lovers, so when our beautiful 12-year-old Yellow Lab named Relapse died of cancer we were devastated.

The house seemed empty. No longer was there the greeting that I have become accustomed to at the door.

I swear I often saw his shadow in the house, and would turn expecting to see his smiling, all-knowing face. Soon, I could no longer stand not having a dog in the house, so I logged on the Internet and learned of a great Baker County organization called Best Friends. They introduced us to a Boarder Collie/Yellow Lab mix dog named Cinch. Cinch quickly asked to come home with us.

Cinch is a well-behaved dog that is loving and willing to learn new tricks. He is the best walking dog I have ever had. He is a real pleasure to take for a walk. Because of his personality, he quickly earned his new name Sketch. I would like others here in Baker County to know about this wonderful group of people who mission is to save pets and match them to new owners. They are called Best Friends. As Sketch and I have become best friends, I know why they chose Best Friends as their name.

Frank O'Quin

Baker City

Less about tragedy

To the editor:

Although too much has been written in this newspaper as well as others regarding the tragedy which occurred at our local post office last Tuesday afternoon, I am writing in an attempt to provide some balance. In my opinion, too much assumption and hearsay about the matter has been printed, all of which is hurtful to those involved and which does not serve justice.

Two families, not just one, have suffered deep loss. The victim's family has lost its wife and mother; the family of the accused has lost its husband and father. They are not responsible for what happened. They were just as shocked as the rest of us when they learned of the incident. Little children have heard things they shouldn't have had to hear and their lives will be forever affected as a result. To discuss matters private to the families involved and then print them in the newspaper as if such speculation was news shows a lack of respect, good taste and just plain decency.

Although it may be necessary in an investigation of events at the post office last Tuesday to reconstruct conversations or meetings between the two principals on the day of the tragedy, it is decidedly not necessary to print such speculation in the newspaper, where it will only fuel further hearsay and gossip.

I want to make it clear that I do not condone killing. The facts of the tragic events of last Tuesday are for the courts to determine. In the meantime, I suggest that there be less gossip, conjecture and finger-pointing and more kindness, consideration and help to both families involved.

Marian H. Brady

Baker City

Candidate weighs in

To the editor:

Bruce Tucker's letter points out that I have not plainly stated to the readers of the paper my stands on several issues.

I have a Blog at http://chuckfor.blogspot.com/ which contains more detailed explanations than this space allows. A Blog is interactive; you can publicly tell me what you think. If it's not profane, it'll stay.

The issue between the county and the watermasters is an issue between employer and employee. An employer has every right to set standards of work conduct. I firmly believe that the issue would have been better served by having the employees who wished to carry a firearm to have completed a concealed carry class and have demonstrated proficiency and safety.

My filing announcement covered some of this ground:

Global warming — is this a natural cycle, or are humans responsible, or does it in fact exist? I trust science to come up with an answer. If science is not interfered with by political or social biases and science has good tools, I'd like to know.

Wolves — they're coming to Eastern Oregon, the problem is making a partnership between all parties involved.

Taxation — tinkledown economics: a greater disparity of wealth, large deficits, budget balanced on those who didn't benefit.

Divorce — too many people get married who shouldn't

Gay marriage— all Americans have the same rights and responsibilities.

Abortion — a bad option in place of worse ones, education and available birth control will minimize this best, this action has been taken forever, safe is better.

Iraq — only an ideologue thinks killing an Arab will make his relatives your pals. We need to leave.

Immigration — this is a labor supply issue, the over supply of low and mid blue collar labor is killing the wages of Americans in that pool. That is wrong.

School funding — the US owns large parts of our counties; they owe. Timber receipts were only a method, not a justification; selling land is stupid.

Chuck Butcher

Baker City

Arrested in protest of unjust war

To the editor:

On March 19, as thousands upon thousands marched in streets throughout the world, marching to say "no more war," a press release stated that on March 18, four women, two men, and five children were killed by U.S. troops. It was an effort to go after some insurgents who were possibly hiding in that home. We ask why (especially the blood of these children)? This attack that has killed innocent children is not an isolated case.

On March 20, at noon, a press conference, with close to 100 people in attendance was held in Terry Schrunk plaza in Portland. It explained why the protesters were there, and why nineteen individuals were occupying Senator Ron Wyden's Portland office in an nonviolent movement of civil resistance. The release given to the media reads: "We are Americans from various walks of life. Our common, uniting force is that we are heartsick, appalled, dismayed, and disgusted by the actions of our government in its preemptive attack on, and occupation of, Iraq."

I was one of those arrested that day. My conscience no longer allows me to be silent to the horrific killing of this war. My faith tradition as a Roman Catholic Christian demands that I speak out so as to protect all human life!

Through Senator Wyden we are asking our congressional members to take responsibility in bringing an end to the war. We need the help of all Oregonians. Please contact Sen. Wyden. Let the voices of Oregonians cry out, "War no more, war never again!"

Fr. Jim Stephens

Portland

Editor's note: Father Stephens is a Baker High School graduate.

Where does the candidate stand?

To the editor:

I read with amazement the paper's endorsement of Chuck Butcher as the Democratic challenger to Rep. Greg Walden.

To endorse a candidate without even articulating what that candidate stands for is irresponsible.

Since Mr. Butcher would like to be our next congressman, would it be reasonable to be informed of where the candidate stands on taxation, global warming, the wolf expansion paln and gay marriage, divorce and adoption.

All we know is that he supports gunowner rights. Where was the candidate when the self-protection rights of the deputy watermasters were trashed?

A golden opportunity to protect a public servants civil rights was lost, as well as a chance to build a strong base of support.

Bruce Tucker

Baker City