The damage to gravestones at the historic Boalsburg Cemetery has been assessed, and the price tag is high.
More than 50 memorials were vandalized overnight Saturday: Celtic crosses toppled from their bases, obelisks snapped in half and pushed over onto the ground, traditional tombstones cracked diagonally right through the name of the person memorialized.
“It’s bad,” said Dick Stever, owner of Mayes Memorials in Lemont.
The problem, he said, is not just that the memorials were pushed over; in some cases, they were totally uprooted. Some are more than 100 years old, made from materials that aren’t common anymore.
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“You’re talking mostly marble, and that’s not inexpensive,” he said.
Overall, Stever is placing the cost of the vandalism at more than $100,000, “and that’s a very, very conservative figure.” It’s also a figure that only accounts for the cost of the stones with their carving and decoration, and not the cost of labor to pick them up, prepare the ground and set them into place.
Pete High, president of the Boalsburg Cemetery Association, said that the cost of just one of the most ornate memorials is estimated at more than $20,000.
High has received plenty of offers of help from the community.
“People have been just super,” he said. “We’ve gotten a start.”
In addition to volunteers, the BCA is receiving calls about making donations toward the repairs and restoration. That’s good, because fixing broken stones isn’t generally part of the budget.
“Normally, that’s your property,” he said. If a stone is damaged, it falls to the family to have it repaired. But when the stones belong to people who died in the 19th century, there might not be anyone to call.
“Cemeteries aren’t insured for that,” said High. “We’re just going to do what we can get done.”
Some of the smaller ones will be repaired soon, but many are just too big to be fixed by volunteer labor alone.
“We’re going to re-erect and put some of the degradation back together, hopefully get it back together by Memorial Day,” said Stever, who is donating his services to help. “It’s such bad timing.”
High said some of the damage will be left in place deliberately, allowing people who visit the cemetery for Memorial Day at the end of the month to see what the vandals did.