Exmouth mum's headstone heartache

PUBLISHED: 06:30 16 May 2016 | UPDATED: 11:45 18 May 2016

Alycia McKee

Alycia McKee

Archant

A battle over a final resting place fit for a princess has left a mum determined to grant her disabled daughter's last wish.

The headstone Penni is campaigning to be allowed for her daughter's graveThe headstone Penni is campaigning to be allowed for her daughter's grave

Alycia McKee was born with Down’s syndrome and fought against the odds all her life, before she died last year aged 18. Her mum, Penni Hall, vowed to decorate her grave with a princess castle.

Alycia, of Dagmar Road, Exmouth, diagnosed with half a heart, and who at the age of 10 was given just a year to live, is being denied her fairytale headstone because Littleham church will not accept the design.

Penni, 41, who now lives in Torrington, Devon, said churchyard regulations at St Margaret and St Andrew’s, Littleham, where Alycia was buried, forbid the fairy castle design because it is not in keeping with the other headstones.

Alycia’s mum has set up an online petition in a bid to change the diocese’s mind. She said the church needs to move with the times and accept a headstone that will reflect her daughter’s personality.

Alycia McKeeAlycia McKee

She said: “When I go back to see her, I want to be able to smile that she’s got what she wanted - a princess castle.

“This is my last fight for her, to get what she wants. To succeed would mean everything.

“I fought for her right in life not to be discriminated against for having Down’s syndrome and I will fight for her now, although she is gone. She was always a little ray of sunshine and joy to anyone who met her. Every year she lived, she always wanted a princess fairy castle cake for her birthday - because she was a true princess.”

Although Alycia was an adult when she died, she remained childlike because of her condition.

The party girl loved all-things fairytale. She was buried wearing a tiara.

“She had a colourful personality and I wish for her to be in her resting place with her colourful headstone reflecting who she was,” said Penni.

“Because it’s carved into turrets, rather than rectangular, it is not allowed. It’s not any bigger than any other upright headstone. But churchyard regulations forbid me from having what would suit her - it would be exactly what she would want.

“Churchyards don’t have to be depressing, grey, boring places and, quite frankly, should get with the times and be more modern.

“I am willing to pay a fortune to get her this headstone. I paid for the plot, so I can’t see why I should not be allowed to put a castle up for my sleeping princess.”

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Exeter said the existing design fell outside churchyard regulations and needed to be referred to the diocese for consideration.

She said: “Regulations over what headstones can be put up in churchyards exist in order to keep them as places of peace and beauty for everyone to enjoy. A memorial that might be suitable for an urban, civic cemetery may look out of place near an historic church building. The diocese has a responsibility to make sure that the churchyard remains an appropriate setting for a parish church for the next several hundred years.

“We very much want to work with the family to ensure that a headstone marking Alycia’s life can be placed on her grave and will last as a fitting memorial for many generations.”

Penni’s online petition has attracted backing from across the world. This week it gained support from Australia.

Find the petition at: www.change.org/p/chancellor-of-the-diocese-castle-headstone-for-my-sleeping-princess

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