Cemetery Damage Estimate Tops $100,000, Donations Needed for Repairs
Two days after a vicious vandalism spree at the Boalsburg Cemetery, there is shock, dismay and anger.
But so far, no arrests.
Vandals knocked over 52 headstones, either Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
A few of those damaged headstones stood over the graves of Civil War soldiers. Some of of the markers are ruined-- they cannot be repaired.
"It certainly gets your blood pressure up when you see it." That's the assessment from Dick Stever, the owner of Mayes Memorials in Lemont. Stever showed up at the cemetery Monday morning, offering to help make things right.
He estimates that repairing the damaged headstones will cost more than $100,000. "Costs are out of sight," Stever says. "Some of the memorials, there are a few that are totally destroyed, more than a few. Some are very elaborate. For some, the replacement costs are $20,000 at least."
A steady stream of visitors stopped at the cemetery Monday morning to see the destruction first-hand. They looked at the battered gravestones and shook their heads. "Shameful," one woman said.
Sam Petrosky moved to Boalsburg last summer, after serving in the Navy for 17 years. "It's a horrible thing," he says. "There's the property damage, but in a spiritual sense, and not only that, but in a historical view, because this is our country. This is desecration to everybody that's from our country. And it's against God."
Tim Toth came up from Altoona to check on the cemetery, saying his wife's family is buried there. Asked for his thoughts on the vandalism Toth says, "Sad and very upset. There is no reason for this. It's just stupid and pointless."
Toth doesn't believe that any of his family grave sites were damaged but he's angry that anyone could be so callous. "Some of these tombstones are Civil War veterans, families. It's hard, disturbing and sad."
The heartless crime comes just three weeks before the 150th Memorial Day celebration. Investigators believe the vandals did not target Civil War graves -- they just picked headstones at random.
Boalsburg Cemetery is believed to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. In 1864, three women placed flowers at the graves of Dr. Reuben Hunter and Amos Myers. Both died while serving during the Civil War. The graves of those two men were not disturbed by the vandals.
Harris Township Manager Amy Farkas says residents are horrified. "We're really upset about what happened. I don't understand the desire to vandalize something as sacred as a cemetery, and to then vandalize graves of Civil War heroes, it doesn't make any sense."
Farkas hopes that anyone with information about what happened will notify the authorities. The State College Police Department is offering up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible. You can contact investigators at (814) 234-7150. Click HERE to file an anonymous tip.
Jeff Selvage is the secretary of the Boalsburg Cemetery Association, the group that oversees the graveyard. "We're all just taken aback by it," he says. "In all these years we've never had any vandalism, never."
Selvage says there's been an outpouring of concern from the community. "People are calling and emailing and asking, 'What can I do physically? What can I do financially?'"
Everyone wants to see the headstones put back in their rightful places, but it's not that simple. Selvage appreciates the offers of help but says there are liability issues to consider. "These stones are heavy and you just don't want people who aren't knowledgeable about what they're doing risking getting hurt by working with some of these stones," he says.
What's really needed is money. The cemetery association has set up a Facebook page to solicit donations. To visit go to https://www.facebook.com/savethegraves.
You can also send a check made out to the Boalsburg Cemetery Association. Just write Save The Graves in the memo line and mail to the address below:
Boalsburg Cemetery Association
P.O. Box 443
Boalsburg, PA 16827
Funds are also being accepted at the two churches that sit next to the cemetery: St. John's United Church of Christ and Zion Lutheran Church.
On top of that, the Boalsburg Cemetery Association will be collecting donations during this year's Memorial Day observances. Selvage says, "We're going to set up a stand on Memorial Day and when people look at the damage that occurred, if they want donate some funds (they can)."
Meantime, Dick Stever and a crew from Mayes Memorials will go to work next week. They'll be carefully moving undamaged headstones back into place. They hope to have at least some of the damage fixed before the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
Stever says, "We'll put it back together as best we can."