Family finds flowers stolen from daughter’s GR grave site

Wendy Balas' grave -- with an empty urn -- at Fairplans Cemetery in Grand Rapids. (June 9, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Living with a significant loss is hard enough for families, but the pain intensifies when someone steals from the innocent soul’s final resting place.

The Balas family buried their daughter Wendy at Fairplains Cemetery in Grand Rapids. She died after an ATV accident in 1982 at the age of 14.

Over the years, her parents, Larry and Carol Balas, have taken pride in visiting their daughter and beautifying the area around her grave.

“We come out here and have our moment and are on our way. I’d like to think she’s in a better place,” Larry Balas told 24 Hour News 8 Friday.

He described Wendy as a budding teen with lots of pizzazz and a love of the color purple. So during the Memorial Day holiday, as they do every year, he and his wife took bright purple flowers for Wendy’s urn next to her headstone.

Larry Balas said he returned once after the holiday to water them and then again the next week only to find that arrangement was no longer in the urn. He spoke with the cemetery grounds crew and others who have loved ones at the cemetery and learned theft there, unfortunately, is nothing new.

“Somebody is either taking them home and using them for themselves, and I’d hate to think they’re selling them, but if they are, somebody knows who’s selling them,” he said.

Larry Balas described Wendy as their flower; she was just beginning to blossom but is now watching over them. He said he’s reminded of that every time he reads the inscription on her headstone, which was chosen after one of Wendy’s teacher sent the verse in sympathy card.

It reads: “This lovely flower fell to seed/ fall gently sun and rain/ she held it as her dying creed/ that she would live again/ and so she shall.”

For now, the Balases are apprehensive about placing more flowers at the grave.

“If they’re that hard up, I guess, for buying plants, go someplace else. Cemeteries are supposed to be peaceful,” Larry Balas said.

The City of Grand Rapids runs the cemetery and told 24 Hour News 8 it’s aware of thefts and does its best to monitor the grounds, but asks anyone who sees suspicious behavior to call Grand Rapids police at 616.456.3400.