"What they've done is desecrate these graves. These were mementos left by people over the years," said Michele Allcut, whose brother drowned in 1955 when he was 5 years old.
Allcut's brother loved baseball and now, a broken figurine of a baseball player is the only gravesite item that she has recovered. More than a dozen of Allcut's family members are buried at Elmhurst.
The gravesite items - including crosses, angel statues and picture frames -- were removed by cemetery workers earlier this month. Crews left them all together in a grassy area near a dumpster, where families could reclaim the items.
"It was just so disrespectful," said Becky Mast, whose son is buried at Elmhurst and posted a video of the pile of momentos on Facebook. "I knew how I felt so I wanted to get the word out there so others had the chance to retrieve their things."
Elmhurst is more than a century old and considered one of the nicest in the area.
New owners recently took it over and said they posted signs in June advising of the rules about momentos placed at gravesites. They claim it creates a safety issue in the winter when snow is on the ground.
Cemetery owners gave families a three-week, clean-up period last month. Then, crews cleared the items and laid them out for families to reclaim.
Many family members, including Allcut, said they never got notice.
In a statement, the cemetery apologized to the families for the distress. They also said that Chicago area cemeteries have similar rules regarding gravesites.