Thieves Hit at Gravesite for Babies
Faribault Daily News
By Kay Fate
October 24, 2009

"It's particularly cruel when someone would steal off a grave to begin with," said Diana Sundwall, "but to steal off the grave of an infant is, I guess, the low of the low."

Yet that's what has happened to the Bauer family at the common burial site of Infants Remembered in Silence — not just once, but twice this year.

There are 561 infants buried in that section of Maple Lawn Cemetery, said Sundwall, executive director of IRIS. A burial and memorial service have been held twice annually since 1987 for babies who have died at District One Hospital as a result of ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or stillbirth.

"It's highly attended and well-respected by the community," she said of the services. "A lot of people use the site as a place to grieve."

Josh and Becky Bauer lost their baby on Aug. 7, 2006. Becky placed a 10-inch solar-powered angel with a poem at the site. "I didn't get to hold the baby in my arms," she said, "so that's my way of staying connected." The angel, Bauer emphasizes, "wasn't just for my baby, it's for my family's babies, and everyone else who's lost a child. That's the way I dealt with it. I visit the area when I feel the need to connect." It was a symbol, she added. "It's how I explained it to my older children, that the baby is an angel now," Bauer said. One day, it was gone. She waited until mid-summer, then brought a smaller angel and some flowers to the grave site.
"I know that flowers tend to blow around," Bauer said, and the cemetery has specific guidelines about having them at the site. The flowers were gone before she had the chance to remove them. So was the second angel. "I know they clean up the grave to remove the old, broken and faded items," she said. "My items were none of those. They were new and beautiful and had a lot of meaning to them." Sundwall agreed.

The first angel had caught her eye several times, she said, "because it was a bigger item. I noticed when it was gone." While acknowledging that the site is maintained, "we haven't had a huge number of things stolen. There are all kinds of things tucked in there: little cars, rattles, crystals, keys." But IRIS itself isn't immune from theft, Sundwall said. "We had a concrete basket out there that weighed over 200 pounds that was stolen. It took two people to do that," she said.

Rarely do cemeteries in this area close their gates after sunset, Sundwall said, though that "could keep the honest people out." The cemetery officials, she added, "would never remove things without talking to us. Never." She also advises people to mark items with their name. Bauer had done that, she said. "I had it labeled 'Baby Bauer,' and the death day," she said.

"Short of standing there all day every day, you can't protect things," Sundwall said. "It's a public place, and we don't have a way of making it safe. My advice is to bring it out, take a picture of it out there, and take it back home. If it's very special to you, or very expensive, it's just not a good idea."

The families, she realizes, "feel very exposed and vulnerable anyway, but to add theft to it - especially from a baby - is just sad."

As for the Bauer family, "we've been talking about putting a bench out there, something more permanent," Becky said, "but (the cemetery has) a process to go through. If I have to, I'll go out and mow around it myself."

As for the thieves, "they're not going to take me down," she said. "I'm going to keep being the mother I am; I'll keep working at it. My mother and I will share the cost of a bench for everyone to use, because we've all shared that loss of a child." "I have three beautiful children," Bauer said, "and they'll grow up strong, and they're going to know there's already an angel among us."