- Parents shouldn't be the ones to bury their children. When it does happen, families rely on the little things to help them get by.
But this spring, a Rhinelander family lost the main connection they have to their son who died far too young.
Dean Mueller passed away in an accident in 1997. He was just 9 years old. For 15 years, the Mueller family has placed a small Christmas tree at Dean's grave.
Every year, the family would add sentimental ornaments and trinkets to the tree in his memory.
But this spring, that tree disappeared. Dean's mother Tammy says it happened after the cemetery announced its spring clean up.
Families had until early last week to collect the things they placed by the graves.
"Yes, they did give us an extra month to get those items off, but my husband went on Tuesday and it was gone," Mueller said. "They said to check by the shed and nothing was there."
The Parks and Cemetery director feels badly, but doesn't see it as his department's fault. Gunder Paulsen wouldn't speak to us on camera, but he did explain families clearly understand the rules.
Winter decorations can stay up from December 1st through April 1st. Then new decorations can go back up May 1st.
This year was a little different with all the snow we had. Paulsen said his crews waited until the last two days of April to do their cleanup.
Tammy Mueller just wants her son's tree back.
"It means a lot," Mueller said. "That was his. It's something we can't give him anymore. Something that he's had for 15 years and 16 in November.
We can't replace it, we can't replace the ornaments."
Mueller says the staff told her they moved it near this shed, but that's the last anyone saw it.
The Parks and Cemetery director did tell Newswatch 12 he's very sorry and is not trying to be a monster, but this kind of thing can happen from time to time.
Tammy says she'd take the tree back, no questions asked.