Bench in memory of Vilas Co. man stolen from Sayner CemeterySubmitted: 07/24/2017

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VILAS COUNTY - When Dee Burlingame walks into the Sayner Cemetery, she walks to the very back of it, near the wooded area.

"When we bought that plot we did so laughing and saying that the deer would come and run across us," said Burlingame.

Dee and her husband of more than 34 years, John Burlingame, have called Sayner their home for many years, even though they met in Cleveland, Ohio. But about a year ago, Dee's life took an unexpected turn.

"It was just a happy, happy beautiful day. Everything was good and then he was killed two miles from the house," said Burlingame.

In August, John was killed in a car accident.

"It's been very, very hard. I wasn't prepared for it. I loved him, still love him. We were very special to each other," said Burlingame.

Burlingame and her family decided to dedicate a memorial bench to John. He was a father, a husband, and former Navy pilot. They bought the bench from Bolger Funeral Home.

"I thought a bench would be nice because we could come and sit on the bench and we could just visit with John and the kids could do it when I'm gone," said Burlingame.

At the end of May, a contractor placed the nearly 1,200 pound bench inside the cemetery, but Burlingame never saw it in person.

The contractor was told a few days after that he placed the memorial bench on the wrong grave site. But when he went back about 10 days later, the bench wasn't even in the cemetery.

"My jaw hit the desk. I just couldn't even believe [it]. I said, 'Did you walk around and look? Did somebody just move it or throw it in the woods or something?' He had looked everywhere and it was gone," said Bolger Funeral Home Owner, Mike Bolger.

The concrete pad as well as the bench was gone. That's when Burlingame turned to the Vilas County Sheriff's Office for help.

"There's no way that a bunch of kids came and said, 'hey, let's lift this.' [It] was definitely done by a Bobcat or a front-end loader of some sort," said Deputy Joy Torkelson. She responded to the initial report.

Now, when Burlingame walks through the Sayner Cemetery, heading to her husband's gravesite, there's an empty space beside his grave.

"I'm not angry, I'm hurt and I would like it back," said Burlingame.

Mike Bolger says the bench costs between $3,000-$4,000.

Anyone with information on the memorial bench is asked to the call the Vilas County Sheriff's Office at 715-479-4441.

Story By: Allie Herrera

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