An Ohio Catholic cemetery has apologized for erasing a gay couple’s marriage date from the headstone of one member of the couple.
When Darrell Frye visited Calvary Cemetery in Dayton in late October to see the grave of his late husband, he found that his husband’s headstone no longer featured the date of their wedding. He believes that this defacement was intentional, according to WHIO.
Frye’s husband, Jason Neto, died of a sudden heart attack in 2020. The couple had known each other since 2007, and Frye chose to have his husband buried at Calvary because Neto was Catholic:
“‘‘I knew that this…was a Catholic cemetery and I point blank asked, I said, “is it going to be a problem that we’re a gay couple and buying a plot here?”
“[The cemetery] rest assured him it was not an issue and Darrell then bought a memorial boulder for his husband’s grave.”
The headstone was a simple boulder with Neto’s name, birth and death dates, and the date that Frye and Neto were married, July 23, 2016
At a previous visit to the gravesite on September 5, Frye found that the boulder had been removed. When he asked the cemetery why the marker had been uprooted, he was told that repairs were needed:
“‘They told me at that time the engraver had done a tour and done an inspection and had noticed that some of the text, the edges were crumbling,’ said Frye.
And it was brought back to the shop for repairs. About a month went by and then the headstone reappeared but not in its original condition.
“‘The line about our marriage is just erased,’ said Frye. ‘They dug into rock to erase our relationship, yea.’”
Frye tried to contact the cemetery owners for over a week with no response. He consulted a lawyer to ensure that his husband’s headstone was returned to its original condition, and only after working with an attorney did Calvary respond. Frye met with the cemetery administrators, and was offered an apology:
“‘I have met with the leadership team at Calvary,’ Frye said in an email Thursday. ‘They have offered a full and unconditional apology for their mistake and expressed a sincere interest in making amends and in restoring the memorial boulder to its original state or an acceptable equivalent.’”
The cemetery also issued a statement apologizing for the change to the headstone, promising to “[work] with the engraver to restore the memorial immediately.”
After losing his husband in 2020 and waiting over a year to bury his remains due to pandemic restrictions, finally having the ability to visit his husband’s final resting place was an important moment of consolation for Frye. The defacement of his deceased spouse’s headstone brought further emotional distress after two years of loss and mourning:
“‘I mean it’s part of life as a gay man in America in 2022…We were together for fifteen years, and somebody just decided that doesn’t count.'”
All people are entitled to be buried with respect, and for their families to be treated with grace. The defacement of a spouse’s headstone is an unjust action. It is sad that securing just treatment took legal pressure. We pray that Catholic cemeteries will follow Calvary’s example of honoring the gay couple’s relationship, and, where wrong is done, apologizing.
—Andru Zodrow (he/him), New Ways Ministry, November 15, 2022