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Picking up the pieces

'Dirtbags' vandalize Oak Ridge

The underside of a Lynch family monument, made of metal, with a more typical stone bearing the name Mason in the background. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
August 01, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Locals appalled at last week's vandalism in Oak Ridge Cemetery have a question for the perpetrators: "What if it were your grandmother's grave?"

"I hope they and their families are really proud of what they did," said DPW Director Ken Kalinowski, dripping sarcasm. "I remember when kids used to go into cemeteries at night just to prove they weren't scared."

Last Wednesday morning, town workers arriving to do routine maintenance in the cemetery found at least 71 stones had been damaged during the night. Some were broken in half, some knocked off their bases, and some pushed over entirely, leaving holes where they once stood.

Dubbing it "an act of cowardice" committed by "dirtbags," Kalinowski said the damage far surpassed an incident in 2007 when about half as many stones were vandalized. Although he plans to meet with various people with restoration experience this week to explore how to fix the damage, he noted some of it is simply not repairable. What is will cost "thousands and thousands of dollars" in materials and labor, he added.

The brief police report of the incident, by Officer Cynthia Iwanski, notes, "To cause this damage, there had to be more than two persons to topple the stones." Police also found a partly-consumed beer bottle they're testing for prints.

"It's a shame and painful to know there are those who find it amusing to destroy permanent memorials," said Historical Society vice president Steve Brady. "… Everyone who's buried there had someone who loved them and cared enough to put a stone up for them."

To Brady, cemeteries are more than just resting places; they're a historical record of the community. As such, preserving them is critical to knowing the past, especially in cases where paper records get lost or destroyed.

See Monday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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