Vandals Hit Monee Cemetery

Published November 20, 2012 by admin in Cemetery, News

Vandals Hit Monee Cemetery

Many tombstones damaged or destroyed


November 20, 2012|By Steve Schmadeke, Chicago Tribune reporter

cemetery vandalism

Dozens of tombstones in a south suburb’s cemetery were toppled or broken over the weekend, an act of vandalism that left many in the small town feeling “violated,” its mayor said.

St. Paul’s Cemetery dates back to Monee’s earliest days as a German farming community in the 1850s, and some of the damaged grave markers date from that era, officials said. Police said 44 tombstones were damaged, but officials overseeing the cemetery said more than 100 grave markers were destroyed.

A walk through the small cemetery next to St. Paul’s United Church of Christ revealed dozens of tombstones, some made illegibly smooth by the passage of decades, had been knocked over or even shattered. Among them were a marker for an early church pastor and an infant who died in 1894 whose parents had chosen the inscription “Peaceful be thy silent slumbers.”

“It’s a very, very personal thing, this hits everybody very hard,” said Christi Holston, who called police Sunday after discovering the damage while visiting her father’s grave. Holston, who serves on the cemetery board, recalled her father taking her on walks through the cemetery, recounting the deeds of those buried there.

Police Chief John Cipkar said it was the worst act of vandalism at the cemetery in 20 years.

“It’s just such a senseless act of violence that you can’t even begin to understand,” said the Rev. Peggy Johnson of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ.

Holston said the church probably will need to organize a fundraiser to repair the damage. “I’m sick to my stomach, just so sad that someone could willfully destroy things that mean so much to the community,” she said. “And I’m mad. I want the people found who did this … to be held accountable.”

Mayor Daniel Tovo Sr., who has friends buried at the cemetery, has offered a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the damage.

“They’re devastated by this — I do believe that the community feels violated,” he said of Monee residents.

St. Paul’s is the only cemetery in the town of 5,000 about 35 miles south of downtown Chicago. The damage was done in both old and newer parts of the cemetery. Church leaders are attempting to assess the damage and notify families whose loved one’s tombstone was toppled or broken, Johnson said.

The vandalism apparently happened sometime between Friday and Saturday afternoon. Vandals also struck the cemetery last year, Johnson said, damaging 11 headstones.

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