Father of deceased Navy sailor locked in a legal battle over grave site at Standing Rock Cemetery

KENT, Ohio - Every morning, Fred Molai arrives at Standing Rock Cemetery in Kent, kisses the headstone of his son, Adam Molai, and talks to him.

"So far, I've been here 968 days in a row," Molai said.

Molai, 57, feels his son, who was a petty officer in the Navy, deserves a big and beautiful memorial, but the cemetery believes the proud father took his design too far.

Last May, Molai erected giant pictures of his son on two wooded poles, which tower over the the headstone.

He added lights and American flags, making the the structures about 10 feet tall.

"I cannot have a limit for the love that I got for my son. This is what I like to do, and to be quite honest with you, I don't think this is enough," Molai said.

The grave site, which is spread over five plots, also has fencing and a large display of silk flowers.

But it's the big posters that have irritated some other plot owners.

Robert Brandon, who owns two plots next to Adam Molai's memorial, complained to cemetery officials.

"It blocks other stones. It takes away from the other stones. I don't want to be mean about it, but he didn't ask the cemetery to do what he did. He just put it up himself," Brandon said.

Last September, Molai received a letter from the Standing Rock Cemetery Board of Trustees, ordering him to take the pictures down.

"The posters were installed without prior approval from the superintendent and you were advised that if complaints were received, we would ask you to remove them," the letter reads.

The letter also indicated Molai was offered a compromise to remount the pictures on metal u-channel posts, so that the posters didn't tower over the headstone.

Molai refused, hired an attorney and got a court order from a Portage County magistrate that prevents the cemetery from taking down the pictures for now.

"They don't have any clue what kind of pain I go through everyday. I'm here grieving, and they're coming here to tell me that I got to take my son's picture down," he said.

Molai said he asked the cemetery if there were any height restrictions for his memorial and was told no.

"I did not see any rules that I violated," he said.

However, according to rules and regulations, the cemetery appears to have latitude when it comes to deciding what is appropriate.

Under the monument section, the rules state, "The cemetery shall have the authority to reject any memorial that, on account of its size, type, design, inscription, quality, color or method of construction is unsuitable for the particular lot or grave on which it is to be placed."

Adam Molai, a Navy technician who worked on F-18 fighter jets, died in 2011 in a river rafting accident in California.

He was on a float trip on the Kings River with eight colleagues when he got separated from the group.

"It took 64 days to find him. They were searching for him day and night," Fred Molai said.

The cemetery is represented by James Silver, Kent's law director. A woman answering the phone at Silver's office on Wednesday said no comment could be made because of pending litigation.

Magistrate Kent Graham ruled that the dispute should be handled by the Ohio Cemetery Dispute Resolution Commission. A date for a hearing has not been set.

Molai said if the issue isn't resolved, the case may return to a Portage County Courtroom.

"If I have to appeal the case, take it to a further court, I will do that as well... This is for my son."

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