Gravestone With Profane Hidden Message Enrages Board

A headstone in Warren-Powers Cemetery in Polk County, Iowa, was meant to memorialize Steven Owens, but its hidden message sparked anger.

"Forever in our hearts / Until we meet again / Cherished memories / Known as / Our brother, / Father, papa, uncle, / Friend, and cousin," reads the engraving on one side of the headstone for Steven Paul Owens, according to KCCI-TV.

However, because of how the words were spaced, the phrase "F**k Off" is spelled out vertically on the gravestone in an obscene acrostic.

A gravestone with a hidden engraved message stirred some controversy in a town's cemetery. Above, a stock image of a gravestone. vyasphoto/iStock

Those who are purchasing a headstone are encouraged to reach out to the cemetery to ask about the maximum allowed height of the headstone, the width and depth of the base of the stone that is allowed and if there are any restrictions on materials, according to Headstone Hub, a Boston-based headstone company and dealer.

The company stated the last part of designing a headstone is engraving it.

"To add a personal touch to your headstone design, you may opt to include a carving on [it] or an epitaph," the piece published by the organization stated.

Owens was buried at Warren-Powers Cemetery, which is overseen by the board of trustees for Camp Township.

In an emailed statement sent to WHO-TV, the board said profanity is not permitted on monuments because "those others who have a place in the cemetery have the right of decency afforded to them."

Despite the headstone being denied, the board said it was placed.

"They do not want nor do they appreciate the stone being in the cemetery," the board's statement continued. "This community will not stop until they have the headstone removed."

Trustees Alexander Johnson and Brooke Person declined to provide any further comment to Newsweek when reached. Newsweek was unable to reach Trustee Tracy Thompson.

Lindsay Owens, Steven Owens's daughter, said her father often said, "F**k off" in a joking manner.

"It was definitely his term of endearment," Lindsay told KCCI. "If he didn't like you, he didn't speak to you. It's just who he was."

She told Newsweek that she and her brother initially wanted to engrave "F**k Off" on the headstone, but family members convinced them to go in a different direction.

Lindsay explained that her cousin was the one who designed the final headstone.

She said the company that engraved the headstone received a notice about the design, but she did not hear about it directly.

"We hope to leave the headstone," Lindsay said. "We won't have it removed unless we're forced."

Though it's supposed to be a person's final resting place, there have been a number of recent news stories about gravesites.

A man in Alabama faced legal repercussions when he was arrested for leaving flowers at his late fiancée's grave. The woman's father did not approve of the gesture and signed a warrant for his arrest. Winchester Hagans faced charges for littering.

In another case, a cemetery responded to a claim that one person was buried on top of another on the same plot. An official said that what was seen was routine grave maintenance.

Following a flood in 2021, a German town needed to find a place to bury victims after the cemetery had also flooded and washed away many of the tombstones.