By John Lauritsen

HASTINGS, Minn. (WCCO) — A Hastings family is asking thieves to leave their daughter’s grave site alone. Gary and Kris Rother’s daughter Abbey passed away in August, after developing viral pneumonia.

The couple visits her gravesite at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Cemetery every day. But recently, they noticed that flower pots they were leaving for Abbey were gone the next day.

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“Kind. Happy. There was never a bad word about her. Never a negative thing. She was always positive,” Gary said.

And she was a social butterfly. Born with Down Syndrome, Gary said Abbey represented everything good in life, and that she made friends everywhere she went.

There’s a Facebook page dedicated to Abbey, and when she passed away in August, the Hastings Star Gazette put her story on the front page.

“She could have run for mayor of Hastings and won,” Gary said. “Probably wouldn’t have been so good with money. She’d have to trust someone with that because she trusts everyone.”

As they grieve, the Rothers visit Abbey’s gravesite every day. A couple weeks ago Gary noticed a pot of mums were missing. When he visited his daughter’s gravesite again the next day, more were gone.

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“The next day, the other one was missing. It was like they didn’t have enough room in their vehicle,” he said.

When the Rothers mentioned it to other families, they learned that thieves had stolen from other gravesites as well. While the Rothers wait for Abbey’s headstone, flowers and keepsakes are all they have.

“And for someone to go out there and see all of that and still take it is mind-boggling,” Kris said. “I still can’t believe they can sleep at night when we’re having a hard time sleeping just missing her.”

Gary says the stolen flowers left him heartbroken.

“If somebody would have come out there while I was out there and said ‘Those are beautiful flowers. I’d love to have some.’ I’d say ‘Hey, we’ll get you some,'” he said. “But don’t take part of what I’ve got up for my daughter. That’s a sad thing. It’s like they stole something of Abbey’s.”

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The Rothers called the cemetery caretakers and asked them to keep an eye out, not just for Abbey’s grave but for others as well. The flower pots that were stolen are about $20 a piece, but for the Rothers, this isn’t about the money.

John Lauritsen