ELKIN, N.C. — Heather Roten cried tears of joy when she first saw the memorial bench dedicated to her 16-month old son Mason.
“He was just a joyful little boy,” Roten said.
The bench sat near the playground at Elkin Municipal Park where Roten used to bring her sons every week.
But the bench that was recently put in on Saturday, three months after Mason’s death, was removed Monday.
Mason died in September after a hit and run car accident.
“One day we come down here with this beautiful bench and tears of joy and now it’s being taken away as if we haven’t been through enough already,” Roten said.
“I just could not believe that they would take something away from my precious little baby like that.”
Alumni from Elkin High School got the bench made and placed it in the park.
Ben Crosswhite, an Elkin High alum and family friend, says he got permission from the town’s parks and recreation director, Adam McComb.
When the bench was removed on Monday, Crosswhite says he was told that it was because the bench had a bible verse and two crosses engraved on it.
“We were just overwhelmed that somebody would memorialize our little baby,” said Chris Leupold, Mason’s grandfather. “Then to have something like this happen, it’s just devastating.”
But Elkin’s town manager, John Holcomb, says alumni never got permission to put the bench in.
He sent this statement to FOX8:
“In Elkin we have an approval process for any bench to be added to our municipal park that is for a public memorial. This bench was added last Saturday without prior knowledge or approval. It was also installed on top of another memorial in the park. The bench was first noticed on Monday morning and was removed due to not being first approved by our recreation and parks director. The bench does have religious symbols and scripture in its design which no other bench in our park currently has. It is a beautiful bench and we are currently working to find another more suitable location for the bench which is in memory of a young child. Our Town Board will be discussing the matter at its next meeting to be held on December 14th. at 7 pm.”
But Crosswhite says he did get approval.
“They’re pretty much calling us liars, that they didn’t get permission which they did,” Roten said. “That bench should be there in his honor.”