June 16 (UPI) -- A headstone at an Iowa cemetery is raising controversy after residents noticed the family had included a hidden profanity in the grave marker's engraved message.
The family of Steven Paul Owens, who died at age 59 in September 2021, said the hidden message in Owens' headstone at Warren-Powers Cemetery in rural Polk County is meant as a tribute, not an insult, to their departed relative.
The headstone message reads: "Forever in our hearts, until we meet again, cherished memories, known as our son, brother, father, papa, uncle, friend & cousin."
The formatting of the type causes the first letter of each line to spell out the message "[expletive] off."
"It was a term of endearment," Owens' daughter told WHO-TV, "If he said that to you, it meant he liked you. If he didn't like you, he didn't talk to you."
The Camp Township Board of Trustees said officials rejected the headstone, but the family had it installed anyway.
The board said in a statement that it does not allow profanity on gravestones because "those others who have a place in the cemetery have the right of decency afforded to them."
The statement said community members are preparing legal action to have the headstone removed.
"They do not want nor do they appreciate the stone being in the cemetery," the statement said. "This community will not stop until they have the headstone removed."
Owens' family said they are hoping to reach an agreement with the community to allow the stone to remain in place.