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Westfield Mourners Turned Away From Fairview Cemetery

Visits to gravesites denied Saturday as cemetery prepares for Sunday burial of music icon Whitney Houston.

Roseanne Benjamin lost her father on Feb. 18, 2008 after a long struggle with colon cancer. Her father Dave was a long-time Westfield resident, and there was no question in Roseanne's mind that when he passed, he would be buried in Fairview Cemetery. 

For the past four years, Benjamin, who now lives in Cranford, would stop by her father's grave to tell him about how his granddaughter was getting married, or how his grandson got into college. 

But on the fourth anniversary of his death, Benjamin won't be able to place a bouquet of flowers on his grave. She won't even be allowed in the cemetery. 

"I understand what a tragedy it is that Whitney Houston died, she was the voice of a generation," she said on the phone. "But just because she is getting buried doesn't mean that I shouldn't be allowed to see my father's grave."

Fairview Cemetery has been closed to the public as the grounds are prepped for Houston's burial. But closing the facility has caused a stir among residents who have family members in the cemetery who are barred from visiting them. 

"My father's grave is no where near where Whitney will be buried. I have no interest to see where she will be buried, I just want to say hi to my father," Benjamin said. 

There is no set time for Houston's burial besides "late morning," meaning Benjamin, and others like Jaimie Lewinski, do not have a set time when they will be allowed back.

Lewinski's sister is buried in the cemetery, and she said she checked with the groundskeeper if the facility will be closed. They told her no. 

But when she showed up Saturday morning, she was told a different story. 

"I told the police at the entrance that I was there to see my sister, and they turned me away immediately. I think they thought I was lying."

The cemetery is closed to the public until further notice. Police have indicated the entire length of Gallows Hill Road would be closed to northbound traffic starting at 6 a.m. Sunday to be used as a media staging area.

Minor road closures are expected but no direct effect on downtown should be seen. 

e_p February 19, 2012 at 06:44 AM
wow that is awful. I also totally agree, just because one this one thing people are being crazy. She was amazing and everything but shes just a person. I don't want to be mean or be disrespectful but its just stupid.
Perez February 19, 2012 at 07:08 AM
That's not fair to the other people who have family at fairview.
TWJ February 19, 2012 at 12:19 PM
I understand the frustration; however cemeteries, in many instances, are private property. Although many people's loved ones may be interred therein, all must comply to the regulations that the cemetery sets (live flowers vs silk, hours of operation, type of monument, etc.) If the cemetery expects a throng of people to arrive, they are doing what is in the better interest of all of the deceased in the cemetery. Could you imagine large crowds coming in and littering the cemetery with debris and Whitney paraphernalia? How about the cars that would flood the cemetery's roads so you wouldn't be able to gain access to your loved one anyway? (Or be trapped inside for who knows how long...) Opposed to being angry at the cemetery, look at the larger picture. Yes she was just a person, but you can't refute the fact that she was an icon. The cemetery isn't just doing this for the family; but they are doing it to protect the sacredness and dignity of your loved one's resting place as well. Don't take offense to it; this is a move that is in the best interest of all. I hope I may have provided another perspective from which to view the situation. Be blessed. - Funeral Service Professional
BD February 19, 2012 at 12:38 PM
Does anyone know who is paying for all this
Teresa Moynihan February 19, 2012 at 01:00 PM
I would also love to know who is paying for all of this? It should not be the Town of Westfield.
Susan M. February 19, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Absolutely wrong for Fairview to bar people from visiting graves when the funeral wasn't even happening until the next day. Obviously, they care only about their celebrity clients. I would complain to the state cemetery board via the division of consumer affairs.
LB February 19, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I thought TWJ made some good points in a very well-written response. However, I feel compassion for those of us who are not a part of the "rich and famous" and just want to pay respects to our loved ones. I agree that the town of Westfield should not be incurring costs for security, etc. Perhaps Houston's estate should take care of that or maybe our governor would like to pay for that out of his pocket! My heart goes out to Houston's family simply because they have lost a loved one and it's a sad tale of another music icon's death and drugs and alcohol. So many in our general public, though, get so caught up in the lives (& deaths) of celebrities. While I think Houston had a beautiful voice and contributed to our world of entertainment, the public needs to remember just that and not turn her into some sort of heroic figure. Let's reserve that for our armed forces, police officers, firefighters and the like.
Kitty February 19, 2012 at 01:44 PM
That is simply not true. I went to Fairview yesterday around 4pm and the cemetary was absolutely packed. I went to visit relatives and also saw Whitney Houston's fathers grave along with a bunch of other people there taking photos. Perhaps you came after the cemetary closed? There was a crowd of people waiting at the gate as I left e cemetary after it had closed and there were tons of police there as well. However, Fairview was in fact open yesterday and I have never seen as many people there as I saw yesterday.
Kitty February 19, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Fairview was open yesterday. I was able to go visit family and the cemetary was crowded with people looking for Mr. Houston's grave... There have been flowers and balloons left beside his grave and the staff at Fairview was standing nearby requesting people to be quick about taking pictures and move on. I was there around 4pm and I believe the cemetary closed around 4:30 or 5pm... By that time there were crowds gathered at the gates and the police were erecting baricades and directing traffic due to the congestion on East Broad.
sue February 19, 2012 at 03:12 PM
That cemetary will be packed for weeks to come after the burial....also i dont think the PD can handle this big of an attraction. prob the biggest event they ever had to handle.. and they are being jerks to the residents and don't let people get anywhere
Madona Cole-Lacy February 19, 2012 at 03:41 PM
It is unfortunate that anyone would want to hold on to thoughts that have the potential to keep the flame of contention burning after twj' s insightful contribution. Kitty was even more specific and to the point. What works for me is open-mindedness, as in, a willingness to receive reasonable explanations that may not have come to me that easily as a result of past experiences or even because I am viewing things from too close a vantage point. This of course does not mean I am one who says yes to everything, it simply means that I am on a journey that calls for positioning myself to see the big picture once it is presented to me. This I find, leaves much room and time for self-improvement.
Kathy February 19, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Get a life, people! It's one day! It's not like they're saying your not allowed in ever again or that they are going to give you access only a few days a week. It's one day.
Doug Germinder February 19, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Hey Kathy! Tell what you said to my father who lost his wife of 40 years this past summer. He visits the grave every day, but not today. Fairview has a rule- no burials on Saturday after 11:30 and strickly NO burials on Sundays! How is Whitney more important than anyone else? Im sure my father and many other grieving families would disagree with you.
John Q. Public February 19, 2012 at 04:34 PM
I think the cemetery could have done a little more than just put the "Do Not Disturb" sign out for anyone not "authorized" by the Whitney Houston machine. Special arrangements could have easily been made for legitimate mourners wishing to visit the graves of loved ones. In the end we're all just dust, but someone's father means a lot more to them than a pop singer (even an "icon", as if that label justifies anything) and the message they get is that their father was less important.
Thomas Gordon February 19, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Kathy- what a rude and insensitive comment! You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Show a little compassion for people who have lost loved ones and visit them at their resting place on a regular basis. Certainly the cemetery should have made special arrangements for the families of the Benjamins, Lewinskis and the Germinders.
Wally Westfield February 19, 2012 at 05:24 PM
I have empathy and sorrow for her family, however, she passed 2/11/12. Why could these events not have been done on Thursday & Friday 2/16 & 2/17 or Tuesday or Wednesday 2/12 and 2/22 and not caused so much disruption during a Holiday weekend?
Don Ess February 19, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Why here at Fairview? The Houston family is not from Westfield. Why not in Newark? I have many generations of my family in Fairveiw. Is this now going to become like Graceland with fans making pilgrimages to the cemetery? This is not fair to the families with loved ones, like me who are interred at Fairview. The cemetery officials should have thought this through! I am very unhappy about this situation!.
Don Ess February 19, 2012 at 06:02 PM
No its more then just one day because fans determined to find her grave will overrun Fairview for the foreseeable future. How about damages to the graves of loved one that will be trampled? There will likely be regular pilgrimages by fans and the place will be constantly busy. The roads in Fairview are narrow and on some holidays it gets a bit jammed. Is Fairview and/or the Houston family going to pay for security to keep out the morbid curiosity seekers and potential damages to graves and headstones? As an owner of a number of family plots in Fairview I will be voicing my concerns to the Board of Trustees!
Jamie February 19, 2012 at 06:55 PM
My father pAssed away on Decemeber 22 and I Go everyday. I went to Fairview twice this week asking if they were closing so I would make sure my little sister and brother could see our day. Well I was told no they were not closing. Clearly that was a lie. A Westfield police office had to tell us we cant see our day cause of spectators and media well we just wanted to see our dad....
Kyle Livingston February 19, 2012 at 07:45 PM
For the love of God, it's one day people! All cemeteries do maintenance every now and then and have to close to the public. Don't be so quick to judge the fans who will come and stimulate the Westfield economy as a result of this. This may put Central Jetsey on the map.
MRS . WRIGHT February 19, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Exactly people its just one day!! Whitney I believe should have been laid to rest in a more gated community, not a public cemetery. We all know how the people whom are famous are treated. It may not fair but honestly, Its life. Whitney made an impact on others life and the world, and I can guarntee if a poll was given about the cementry remaing open or not for Ms.Houston , people would go for closing it due to the burial service of a famous pop star...............thats final!!!
anna carter February 20, 2012 at 11:47 PM
I would take the person who own the cemetary to court so it wont happen again and put it in the news paper and let the media know about this it is sad whitney died but there are a lot of people buried there that are important to there love ones everyone that has someone buried there should have a right to see there love one and im sure that it is not written down somewhere that if a famous person died and get bury there that you are not allow to enter the cemetary i wouldnt let that get away i will have done something about that we all are important to god.
Paul Neones February 21, 2012 at 01:19 AM
The Whitney Houston burial was not the only thing going on near the Fairview Cemetery on Sunday morning. Just call Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. They had an extraordinary event: an ordination to the priesthood. The Metropolitan of New Jersey (Archbishop) and another Bishop was coming, along with many other clergy from outside the area and a church full of people. The Westfield police confused the situation and made arrival to the church worse. Many people arrived late or just turned away from this "once in a lifetime" event. All for what - perhaps 100 people (gawkers) in front of the cemetery. The closure of all the streets around the church on this particular day was an unkind act for a parish community who has had a presence in Westfield for over 40 years!
Markjohn Michalik February 21, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Oh boo hoo, so you couldn't get in that day, go the next. Your loved one is dead they will be there forever. And if you believe they can hear you, it's thier spirit not the dead body you are talking to. Geez people just need to complain about something. Let's see if anyone will SUE now, that is they way things are done today.
Markjohn Michalik February 21, 2012 at 02:30 AM
The fans who come will not be the type of people to go shopping in Westfield, maybe for crack.

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