Gillen Bill to Help Local Families Visit Loved Ones’ Gravesites Moves Forward
HARRISBURG – The House Local Government Committee today in Harrisburg approved legislation introduced by state Rep. Mark Gillen (R-Berks/Lancaster) that would legally protect the right of a local mother to visit the grave of her 3-year-old son, a local widow to visit her husband’s final resting place and a local woman to visit the grave of her war-hero father.

Gillen’s bill would ensure reasonable access to these and all cemetery visitors in Pennsylvania. If the cemetery owners failed to comply, they could be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor and face a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a fine of $2,500.

“This bill is about righting a moral wrong,” Gillen said. “These families deserve access to the final resting places of their loved ones and my bill would provide it.”

Gillen introduced his bill after a local controversy erupted when the owners of Rock Cemetery on Twin Valley Road in Caernarvon Township began prohibiting family members from visiting the graves of their loved ones. The new owners posted “private property” and “no trespassing” signs before filing suit against the cemetery visitors.

The cemetery owners are working to prevent the mother of a 3-year-old boy who passed away from brain cancer in 1980 from visiting his grave. Their actions would bar the widow of a man who passed away in 1995 from visiting his grave, even though she bought the plot next to his and her name already is engraved on their shared tombstone. The cemetery owners’ actions also seek to prevent the daughter of a World War II and Korean War veteran who earned two purple hearts and a bronze star from visiting his final resting place.

“It appears there’s no existing law on the books because nearly all cemetery owners traditionally have treated grieving widows and families with empathy and compassion,” Gillen said. “I certainly support private property rights, but I also believe in treating others with dignity, respect and kindness. It’s sad to consider there are military veterans buried on this property who served to defend the property owners’ freedoms, and now the property owners won’t even let the veterans’ family members visit their graves.”

Gillen’s House Bill 1019 now heads to the full House for consideration.

Representative Mark Gillen
128th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Dan Massing
717.772.9845 /

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