KENT, Ohio-- A grief-stricken father who has built a memorial to his son at a local cemetery says he is fighting mad. That's after the cemetery removed two photos that he mounted at the grave to pay tribute to his son's service in the U.S. Navy.
Each day, 62-year-old Fred Molai makes a pilgrimage to the Standing Rock Cemetery in Kent to visit the grave of his son and to pray.
Adam Molai, a Naval petty officer, died in 2011 while rafting on a river in California. In his grief, his father built a shrine on 12 burial plots that he purchased at the cemetery.
"There is nothing in the world worse than losing a child, and this is the place that I`ll come to grieve and control my pain," Fred Molai said.
His memorial to his son, which included the two pictures of Adam in his service uniform mounted on 8-foot poles, ran afoul of regulations established by the Standing Rock Cemetery Board. When they asked Molai to remove the photos in 2013, he filed a lawsuit, which triggered a battle that has lasted six years.
“They call (the memorial) gaudy and they think I`ve done too much for him. Please tell me, is there any limitation what you can do for your son? I don`t believe I`ve done enough yet,” Molai said.
Earlier this week, the cemetery board, armed with a court ruling, ordered the removal of the photos and poles.
“I did what my attorney asked me to do,and that wasn`t good enough for them. They came and chopped it down anyway,” he said. “The effect of what they`ve done to me, they have no idea what is going on in my heart."
The operators of Standing Rock said it’s been in operation since the 1850s and more than 16,000 people are buried at the cemetery. That's why they said they have guidelines that they expect every family to follow.
The cemetery is owned by the city of Kent and Franklin Township. Its board members said they received complaints about Molai’s memorial to his son.
“Everybody who`s buried here has a family member or friend who is grieving for them. No one person is more important than another and everybody`s grief is important to them and they`re entitled to their grief. But we also have rules and regulations that we expect people to follow," said Jean Chrest, clerk and treasurer of Standing Rock.
But Molai said he feels he has a duty to fight for his shrine to Adam.
“He knows that I`m fighting for the right cause. I will fight for Adam for the rest of my life," he said.
Molai now plans to file a new lawsuit against the cemetery for taking down the photos without his approval. He also filed a complaint with Kent police, but they have indicated they consider it a civil matter.