The hope is to have them replaced before a flagpole dedication at South Farmington Cemetery

FARMINGTON — With the Fourth of July and a special dedication of an American flag and flagpole only days away, the caretakers of the South Farmington Cemetery are trying to figure out who removed 72 flags from the gravesites of veterans buried here.

Normally, the flags are left out to fly until Veterans Day, according to Donna Herendeen, one of the trustees of the South Farmington Cemetery Association.

The flags went missing sometime over the weekend of June 24, Herendeen said.

“We were just flabbergasted,” Herendeen said.

The hope is that someone was confused about a national law that refers to the proper time an American flag can remain at a gravesite. The law, Herendeen said, only applies to flags at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. They can be placed a week before Memorial Day and they have to be removed two weeks after the holiday, she said.

If that’s the reason why the flags were removed, Herendeen urges that the flags be returned to Farmington Town Hall.

But Herendeen also has contacted the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office in case this was a prank or worse, and a patrol will be keeping watch periodically, she said.

“If it was a prank, what were they thinking?” Herendeen said. “The flags are a sign of respect for those who served the country. Personally, it makes me angry and bewildered.”

More than 70 veterans’ graves are located in the rural cemetery, including several that go back to the Civil War and the Spanish-American War, she said.

Another veteran, Newark resident William Goodman, was buried there about three weeks ago, according to his grandson, Nate Burnett.

Burnett, a veteran himself in part because of the influence of both of his grandfathers, noticed the cemetery had no flagpole and no way to fly an American flag, so he and his family got together to purchase the pole, flag and solar lighting in memory of Goodman, who served in the Navy.

Burnett and his friends built the foundation and installed the pole and lighting.

“It’s a beautiful little cemetery,” Burnett said. “We felt this was a decent cause.“

A dedication ceremony is planned for 6 p.m. July 2, at which Goodman’s great-grandchildren will be raising the flag.

The patriotic addition fits in well with what members of the association are trying to do for the cemetery. Efforts are underway to improve both the grounds and the chapel that mark the site.

Herendeen said she is encouraged that many have offered to replace the flags that have been lost, and the hope is to have them in place over the weekend in time for the dedication ceremony.

“We’re so pleased about this,” Herendeen said. “We think it’s a great thing.”