Thomas Nelson
Thomas Nelson
January 7, 2020 ·  3 min read

Mother heartbroken after her deceased 4-year-old’s headstone was removed because someone complained

Losing a child is one of the worst things that can happen to a person. For those who have lost a child, preserving their memory is important, and grieving in your own way should be respected. But for one mother from Worcestershire, England, that grieving process was interrupted in a way that is just unforgivable. 

A child lost too soon

At the age of four, Max Corbett-Gardener passed away due to  severe epilepsy. His life was remembered, in part, by a star-shaped memorial in the local cemetery. But an unfortunate complication arose – Max’s headstone had to be removed because someone complained that it interfered with the uniformity of the cemetery. [1]

His mother, Jo Corbett-Weeks, is far from wealthy. She works part time in a bar and scrimped and saved the $4,000 necessary to have the headstone made for little Max. 

The headstone was put in place on May 31st, 2013 according to Jo. It didn’t last long, though, as it was removed just three days later. The headstone was carved to be the shape of a star being held by a teddy bear, a truly lovely memorial for a young man taken from his mother far too early. 

A unique, personal stone

“I chose a star-shaped stone because I wanted something suitable for Max — something personal,” Jo told the BBC.  “This stone is just so perfect for my poor little chap.” [1]

Another family complained to the authorities at the Great Malvern Cemetery due to it not being “in keeping” with the other headstones in the cemetery. It begs the question: why the need for uniformity? Every person is a unique being. Should we all be memorialized only by blocky, gray headstones? Was Max’s stone really harming anyone?

The worst part of this story was that the stone was removed without even contacting Max’s mother.

“I was totally unaware this was going on,” Jo said. “The council did not contact me and it was the stonemason who told me he’d been ordered to remove it. I feel upset, distressed, and angry.” 

“We have been through so much as a family. I could understand if the grave was uncared for or unsightly, but it isn’t.”

Appeals went unheared

Attempts to appeal the removal were denied by the Malvern Town Council, which oversees the cemetery. Jo had her son buried in the adult section of the cemetery, wanting her boy to be laid to rest near members of her family. She was later informed that the star-shaped memorial would have been permitted in the childrens’ section of the cemetery.

“We have a conformity of shapes in our lawn cemetery,” a spokesman for the council said. “We were contacted by people who objected to the shape. The longer it stayed up, the harder the process would have been. It was a very difficult decision to remove it but one we had to make straight away.”

The town council, which oversees the cemetery, was somehow unaware of the nature of the stone being installed on Max’s grave. Instead of standing up for Jo and her son, they instead chose to buckle and washed their hands of the situation.

“It wasn’t necessarily an objection to the shape but why we appeared to be applying one rule to one family and other rules to another,” a spokesperson for the council said. 

“The stonemason in this situation did not have permission to put the stone up — and the stone is not in keeping with the graves in that area. By not following the correct process he has caused considerable distress to both families.”

Peace, delayed

How much distress could a cute bear holding a star cause for other families? Incredibly, it was just one family complaining that compelled the council to action, but they couldn’t bring themselves to side with a grieving parent or make any kind of an exception for her. 

While Jo’s peace has been taken from her, Max’s remains in place. May he forever rest in peace.


  1. Malvern mum’s distress after son’s headstone removed.” BBC News. Retrieved November 23, 2020.