Destruction found at Cedar Hill Cemetery

PAT FRIDGEN
Some of the tombstones toppled last Wednesday night are so old, the names and dates are difficult to read. Cemetery officials believe most family members have also passed away.

Vandals struck, perhaps in the dead of night, leaving over $20,000 worth of damage at Cedar Hill Cemetery. Pennsylvania State Police reported that between 2 p.m. Nov. 9 and 7 a.m. the next morning, tombstones were the target of institutional vandalism.

Twenty-one markers were knocked down, and 11 of those were broken, in the oldest section of the cemetery, said Cedar Hill Cemetery Association secretary/treasurer H. Martin “Marty” Zimmerman. They had been in place since the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Caretaker David Woodring, a fulltime employee, found the disarray Thursday morning and called police. Monday of this week he was putting back into place the ones he could.

"This has a lot of people upset," said Zimmerman. "They stand for 100 years, and it's over in one night."

He predicted several people were involved because many of the tombstones, often made of marble, were so heavy. The families of the deceased were probably also dead so they couldn't give input on repairs. The association would do the best it could, Zimmerman said, and the stones that could not be restored would be laid flat onto the ground.

This was not the first time the cemetery was targeted. In December 1994 something similar happened and those people were caught. They paid restitution.

"That's what we're hoping for this time, that someone will talk," said Zimmerman. "We hope they come forward and tell police."

Because of the dollar value associated with the crime, it falls into the felony category.

Cedar Hill Cemetery opened in 1870 and is managed by a board of seven. Revenue for its maintenance comes from lot sales, burials and an endowment fund.

Some of the old grave markers damaged by vandals cannot be replaced. Because of the weight of the stones, Cedar Hill Cemetery Association members think several individuals were involved.