MONROE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A couple is being sued by a cemetery over their son’s gravestone.
The church in Orange County says the marker is too big and violates cemetery guidelines.
As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reports, the cemetery has threatened to tear it down, but the family is fighting back.
Polina Vays still wears a locket with her son Aaron’s photo, three years after the 25-year-old engineer died in a car crash.
“He was everything to me. I have nothing left,” she said.
She and her husband Boris cling to their memories and an elaborate headstone erected in Aaron’s honor at the historic Seamanville Cemetery in Monroe.
It includes lifelike sculptures, flowers, and urns, even solar-powered lights, a rock garden and a bench where they can sit and mourn.
“Every holiday I buy pizza because he loved pizza. I come here with my husband and we eat here. This is my family,” she said.
The cemetery is owner by the First Presbyterian Church of Monroe, which has filed a lawsuit seeking to have the gravestone torn down and force the Vays to pay for it.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s really unbelievable,” Boris said.
Boris is also an engineer, and said they spent nearly $120,000 on three plots and the hand carved headstone. They even revised the size to get the church’s pre-approval of the design.
“I went to the funeral director who sold us the land who promised us that at this cemetery you would have no problem with the monument,” Boris said. “Now they are saying they will tear it down because it’s oversized by 6 inches.”
No one from the church would comment on camera about the issue, but one official said they dispute the Vays’ claim that the size of the monument was approved in advance.
The cemetery guidelines clearly state, no monument can exceed four feet in height. Aaron’s is 4’6″.
“Vigil lights, glass or plastic vases or jars, permanent urns, metal or plastic crosses, pictures, statues and metal or plastic fences are prohibited,” they say.
The Vays filed a counterclaim to block the threatened demolition.
“I can’t grieve here. I’m afraid that they’re going to come and take the monument down, but to take the monument down they have to take me down first,” Polina said.
She said she’ll even sleep on her son’s grave to make sure the memorial stays put.
The lawsuits are being heard in state supreme court, a decision on the gravestone’s fate could come by the end of the year.