Monday, April 09, 2007

Seventy tombstones toppled at Delhi Cemetery Ontario

Cemetery vandalism 'just awful'

Seventy tombstones toppled at Delhi Cemetery; monument makers help fix damage for free


Wednesday April 04, 2007

"Is nothing sacred anymore?" asked Norfolk County OPP Constable Marc Perrier, as he surveyed the Delhi Cemetery last Thursday.

Perrier and Const. Dave Ongena were at the cemetery collecting fingerprints, footprints, paintballs and other evidence left behind after 70 headstones were toppled sometime during the early morning hours of March 29.

Fresh flowers scattered and trampled could be found littered around toppled headstones.

While all the headstones represent loved ones now resting in peace there were some that stirred emotions, like that of the late Linda Marlene Derer who was six at the time of her death.

"Look at this," said grave technician Orrie Ecker, who was at the cemetery assessing the damage, as he held up a piece of a porcelain broken off the wing of Derer's tombstone angel. "This was the angel her parents probably put on her gravestone to act as a guardian. Now it has a broken wing, what a shame."

Shaking their heads and trying to figure out why anyone would find pleasure in disrupting the dead, Ecker said this is a crime without any just cause.

"These people have done nothing to deserve this," he said. "It's a shame."

Ongena, the first officer at the scene, said he originally thought the act of vandalism was reserved to a few headstones near the centre of the cemetery, until he
continued to the north side of the cemetery where the majority of the damage was concentrated.

"People are obviously very upset by this," said Ongena, as random people entered the area to check on their loved one's headstones. "The problem with vandalism in a cemetery is that these headstones aren't just headstones, to the families and loved ones of these individuals these headstones represent their deceased loved ones. It's there [sic] memory that's been disrespected."

Ongena is hopeful that fingerprints from the monument surfaces and fresh footprints in the soil may help identify those responsible.

"My mothers and fathers headstone has been overturned," said Delhi Cemetery Company director George Kough, pointing in the direction of their plots. "I want to find out what joy anybody would get out of treating someone's late loved one this way. What did it accomplish?"

Although Kough had questioned how the estimated $5,000 in damage would be corrected, he speculated last Thursday the cost would likely be incurred through insurance or from the family's pockets.

But it was an offer from Jack Bradfield, of Bradfield Monuments, and Peter Mauthe, of J&M Memorial, that provided comfort.

"They were so disgusted by what happened they came forward and offered to fix the headstones free of charge," said cemetery board president Bert Hooftman. "This was a Godsend to us because (the DCC) is not a money-making outfit. We didn't know where we were going to come up with the money to fix all the damage done."

Bradfield said he closed his Simcoe location to bring his entire staff, while Mauthe said he left just his wife in their Simcoe office and brought the rest of his staff to Delhi.

"It's just awful what has been done here," said Bradfield. "These stones aren't light, which is why I can't for the life of me figure out how they managed to get so many of them off."

"If you've got to find a positive here, it's that at least there wasn't a lot of damage done to the headstones besides being push off their mounts," said Mauthe. "This is the worst case of cemetery vandalism I've seen, that's for sure."

As Bradfield, Mauthe and their crews worked to erect the monuments, many local residents were arriving at the cemetery to check the status of family headstones.

"My father's stone has been turned over, who do I talk to about putting it back up?" asked one gentleman, who declined to give his name.

"You don't have to worry about it," responded Bradfield. "We're here and we're going to take care of it."

"You are?" said the man. "Oh, thank you so much. I didn't know what I was going to do. Thank you."

The two simple words made the effort worth it for Bradfield and Mauthe.

"All I have to hear is thank you and I know I'm doing a good thing," said Mauthe.

Last weekend two Norfolk County youths contacted OPP about their involvement with the cemetery vandalism, which resulted in both being charged with mischief over $5,000

The first youth, a 14-year-old Delhi boy, contacted police and revealed his involvement on March 31, while the second youth, a 17-year-old male, came to OPP headquarters in Simcoe on April 1 and admitted his involvement with the incident.

The two are to appear in Provincial Court in Simcoe at a later date to answer to the charges.

Police believe other persons may be involved with the vandalism. Police are asking for those responsible to come forward. They are also encouraging anyone with knowledge on
this crime to come forward.

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