ATHENS, Ala. - A Limestone County family, grieving over the death of their daughter, found themselves in a fight with Athens City Hall over the decorations at her grave.
In July of 2015, Pat Montgomery lost his daughter, Michele, in a traffic accident. The family chose to bury her at Roselawn Cemetery in Athens, largely because they allowed gravesite decorations.
Pat bordered and fenced the grave. He covered it with landscaping stone, and then filled the area with personal mementos. He told us in previous interviews he would visit his daughter here several times a week. This was where she was, this was where he had to come to be close to her.
Late last year, the City of Athens amended its cemetery ordinance and decorations this elaborate would no longer be tolerated. Mayor Ronnie Marks told us there had been complaints.
Montgomery and other families were told they would have to clean off the graves of their loved ones. But after several discussions, Montgomery and others believed the city had reconsidered.
Last month, Mr. Montgomery says he was told if he didn't clear the grave, city workers would do it for him. And so this past weekend, he took the border up and the fence down. All of the gravel was carted away, along with the decorations and mementos.
Mr. Montgomery is out of state on business this week, but when I spoke with him on the phone, he expressed his profound disappointment. At the Athens City Council meeting, Council President Joe Cannon expressed his. "I just know that emotionally it's got to be tough. And so I would appreciate it if you guys continue working with him at whatever, I mean, and that it's not just something said of what it's just going to be just grass there. I think the man deserves something there."
In my last interview with him, Pat Montgomery told me there is no pleasure in visiting the grave of your child. But he said the decorations gave them some comfort. But now that, too, has been taken.
Mayor Marks told the council he would continue to work with the Montgomery family and others in bringing grave sites into compliance with the new provisions of the ordinance.
He said the ordinance applies to all city owned cemeteries and none of the gravesites would be grandfathered in.