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December 18. 2013 8:41PM

Belmont father hopes memorials left at Manchester cemetery can stay

MANCHESTER — It's been more than a year since the city's Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Commission relaxed regulations about memorials at cemeteries after a plea from the grieving father of a 5-year-old child.

Yesterday, Michael Guglielmo of Belmont presented commissioners with a framed photograph of the final resting place of his son Giovanni. The gravestone is decorated with flowers and some of the child's favorite toys including Captain America figurines, a yellow toy car, a gladiator helmet and sword. Giovanni, who Guglilemo called his "Little Gladiator," died April 15, 2012, of a rare genetic immune deficiency.

Guglielmo said he wanted to show his gratitude to commission members for "allowing me to mourn my son and everyone else to grieve" for their loved ones as well. He had individual photographs of the grave for each commissioner as well as the framed one for the city department.

Only two of the five commissioners made the meeting, because of the weather, and therefore there was no discussion of the policy or votes taken on any issue since there wasn't a quorum.

Guglielmo asked the commission to change the policy last year after flowers, balloons and other items he left on his son's grave in Pine Grove Cemetery were removed by a grounds worker.

Under the new policy, memorial items have to be placed within solid borders no longer than the height of the gravestone and no wider than 1.5 feet.

The cemetery supervisor has to approve the type and size of the border, has the authority to remove any objectionable items and the tribute area must be well maintained.

After the meeting, Guglielmo said since the policy change, many other graves in the same section of the cemetery as his son's are personalized and, it being close to Christmas, some have wreaths.

"They've made it more celebratory," he said.

Guglielmo, who raised awareness about his son's blood disorder by organizing events to help people sign up for a bone marrow registry, gained international attention with his protest against the cemetery policy with a Facebook page, "Do it for Giovanni, fight the power."

Giovanni was diagnosed with the deadly disease as an infant, when Guglielmo began his mission to find a bone marrow donor to help save his child's life. A stem-cell transplant extended the little boy's life for nearly six years.

Guglielmo continued his mission to find potential bone marrow donors and yesterday said he helped register 65,000 people in New England; one out of 80 people in New Hampshire are registered. So far, he said, there have been 238 matches.

pgrossmith@unionleader.com


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