Vandals leave mark on Kenai cemetery

Senseless act adds to families' pain

Posted: Friday, May 16, 2003

It's always difficult to cope with losing a loved one, but for a few Kenai Peninsula residents, things have been even harder the last few weeks.

The reason for their pain is the recent vandalism at the Kenai cemetery.

"About 20-30 white crosses were indiscriminately broken or knocked down," said Kenai Parks and Recreation Director Bob Frates. "This is one of the most distasteful forms of vandalism I can think of. There's nothing more disrespectful."

The majority of the damage was in the pioneer section of the cemetery, where many of the graves are Russian Orthodox, but Frates said it does not appear the perpetrators specifically targeted any religious or ethnic group.

"It's still anybody's guess as to who did this or why," said Frates.

Frank Getty buried his wife in the cemetery a little more than a year ago. In that time he's taken it upon himself to volunteer as much time as possible to the cemetery's upkeep.

Getty and his son had built many of the crosses that were destroyed -- more than once. After the cemetery was vandalized last year, the city purchased the materials and they built the new crosses.

A few months later when it happened again, the Gettys purchased material themselves and built new crosses again. This recent act of vandalism has him quite upset.

"Heaven help the people who are doing this if I catch them, because there's no excuse for this," he said.

Not all the damage was confined to breaking crosses.

Monica Heath lost her daughter in an automobile accident more than a year ago. She goes out weekly to "visit" with her daughter. She was dismayed when she went for a recent visit.

"At my daughter's site, a candle holder had been smashed, a memorial letter had been removed from its frame and taken, a tiny angel that hung in a pouch on the fence had been taken, and a large stone had been stolen," she said.

Heath said vandalism is always difficult for her to understand, but treating a person's grave site this way is completely beyond her comprehension.

"Perhaps one day, the person who is responsible for this will have their heart broken by losing a loved one, and they will be in the position of regularly visiting a site. Perhaps then they will truly understand the atrocity of their act," she said.

Authorities are asking for help in solving this crime. Anyone who has any information is urged to call the police at 283-7879. Frates also had suggestions for the general public.

"The police are aware of the situation there, so increased patrols are likely, but we really need heightened awareness from the community as well.

"We're hoping people will be more sensitive, and take a glance over when driving by the cemetery, and report any suspicious activity to the police and Parks and Recreation immediately," he said.

Heath said the large, gray stone that was taken from her daughter's grave site was priceless to her in sentimental value.

It read: "If tears could build a stairway, and memories a lane, I'd walk right up to Heaven, and bring you home again."

She asked anyone who finds the stone to report it to the police immediately.

BYLINE1:By JOSEPH ROBERTIA

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

It's always difficult to cope with losing a loved one, but for a few Kenai Peninsula residents, things have been even harder the last few weeks.

The reason for their pain is the recent vandalism at the Kenai cemetery.

"About 20-30 white crosses were indiscriminately broken or knocked down," said Kenai Parks and Recreation Director Bob Frates. "This is one of the most distasteful forms of vandalism I can think of. There's nothing more disrespectful."

The majority of the damage was in the pioneer section of the cemetery, where many of the graves are Russian Orthodox, but Frates said it does not appear the perpetrators specifically targeted any religious or ethnic group.

"It's still anybody's guess as to who did this or why," said Frates.

Frank Getty buried his wife in the cemetery a little more than a year ago. In that time he's taken it upon himself to volunteer as much time as possible to the cemetery's upkeep.

Getty and his son had built many of the crosses that were destroyed -- more than once. After the cemetery was vandalized last year, the city purchased the materials and they built the new crosses.

A few months later when it happened again, the Gettys purchased material themselves and built new crosses again. This recent act of vandalism has him quite upset.

"Heaven help the people who are doing this if I catch them, because there's no excuse for this," he said.

Not all the damage was confined to breaking crosses.

Monica Heath lost her daughter in an automobile accident more than a year ago. She goes out weekly to "visit" with her daughter. She was dismayed when she went for a recent visit.

"At my daughter's site, a candle holder had been smashed, a memorial letter had been removed from its frame and taken, a tiny angel that hung in a pouch on the fence had been taken, and a large stone had been stolen," she said.

Heath said vandalism is always difficult for her to understand, but treating a person's grave site this way is completely beyond her comprehension.

"Perhaps one day, the person who is responsible for this will have their heart broken by losing a loved one, and they will be in the position of regularly visiting a site. Perhaps then they will truly understand the atrocity of their act," she said.

Authorities are asking for help in solving this crime. Anyone who has any information is urged to call the police at 283-7879. Frates also had suggestions for the general public.

"The police are aware of the situation there, so increased patrols are likely, but we really need heightened awareness from the community as well.

"We're hoping people will be more sensitive, and take a glance over when driving by the cemetery, and report any suspicious activity to the police and Parks and Recreation immediately," he said.

Heath said the large, gray stone that was taken from her daughter's grave site was priceless to her in sentimental value.

It read: "If tears could build a stairway, and memories a lane, I'd walk right up to Heaven, and bring you home again."

She asked anyone who finds the stone to report it to the police immediately.



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