Community, families rallying to repair broken monuments
It appears there might be justice for Picton’s “city of the dead.”
Prince Edward OPP announced late Wednesday they had charged two male youths in connection to a costly vandalism spree that toppled scores of gravestones and monuments at Glenwood Cemetery June 20.
After a month-long investigation, members of the Prince Edward County OPP Community Street Crime Unit (CSCU) arrested two males for the vandalism to gravestones and monuments at the cemetery.
A 15-year-old male from Kingston will appear at the Ontario Court of Justice in Picton Aug. 20 to answer to the charge of mischief over $5,000 contrary to section 430.3 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
Also charged was a 17-year-old male from Picton who will also appear at the Ontario Court of Justice in Picton Aug. 20 to answer to the charge of mischief over $5,000 contrary to section 430.3 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
On June 20, police were notified around 8:30 p.m. there had been extensive acts of vandalism committed at Glenwood. Sometime between 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. that day, numerous gravestones and monuments around sections H and F of the cemetery were damaged.
Conservative estimates left the damage at $150,000 however Glenwood staff and board members expect that figure to grow higher under closer examination.
Board chair Sandy Latchford said the group was putting the finishing touches on a thorough inventory of damaged stones and monuments.
An indication of the depth and the breadth of damage comes by way of the fact the list continued to evolve as staff members were finding pieces of monuments and stones up until a few days ago.
“We’ve been searching for the pieces missing and it’s been a very long and intensive process,” Latchford said. “As it stands now, the inventory list is about nine pages long and it’s likely going to get longer. We’ve found more pieces from the creek and the bushes that are cracked and they will have to be either repaired or, in some cases, replaced.”
Latchford said monument companies will have representatives attend the cemetery and conduct a final walk-through at which time a more precise estimate will be determined.
A number of families have stepped up and told Glenwood they will cover the cost of the repair for a loved one’s monument but, in many cases, the monuments in the H and F blocks were erected in the 1930s with some dating back to the 1890s.
Latchford explained in those instances, the family or the family name just isn’t part of the current Prince Edward County vernacular.
“There’s just no one left in terms of family members. The families are just not here anymore and there’s no one to ask,” Latchford said.
The damaged inventory list will include names, surnames, and dates of passing and will be made available electronically so a forgotten or unknown family member might recognize a departed relative and contribute something to the overall repair.
Unfortunately, there’s not much insurance when vandals strike a cemetery.
Latchford said the monuments are considered to be the the property of the family and no insurance coverage of this type was offered up until about 20 years ago.
“Some monument companies offer vandalism insurance now but that only started happening in the 1980s so many of these monuments aren’t covered. These are mostly older and really unique monuments that were erected a century ago or more,” Latchford said.
The outcry from the community over the act of vandalism was immediate and wide ranging.
The story appeared in daily newspapers in Ottawa and Toronto and was also featured in television news broadcasts in the days following the occurrence.
But the sense of community and banding together to expose and fix the damage has been just as loud as the calls for justice.
“The support from the community has been so uplifting,” Latchford said. “We are attached as the guardians of the property so we were heartbroken when we saw the damage but the community support is strengthening us and helping us move forward.”
Among the more recent initiatives include a donation from the Demorestville Women’s Institute and an upcoming benefit concert featuring local musical acts at the Regent Theatre Sunday afternoon.
In terms of the charges, Latchford said many people she spoke with were satisfied that there had been progress made in the case.
Latchford said there was a sense of calm restored with the news that the alleged vandals had been discovered and charged.
“These individuals were so brazen in their destruction, which took place in the light of day,” Latchford said. “Anyone walking through the cemetery could have stumbled upon them.”
The chair stated the Prince Edward OPP have been working hard on the case and have been in regular contact with cemetery officials over the past month.
“We understand that the process takes time and we have been patient and letting them do their work,” Latchford added.