Woodlawn desecration worries living descendants

July 06, 1991|By Traci A. Johnson

Stone crosses and cement blocks that once memorialized a family's departed loved ones now lie cracked and broken in the grass along the lake at Woodlawn Cemetery.

Vandals overturned 89 cemetery monuments -- four rows of 20 and a few isolated markers -- at Woodlawn sometime between Wednesday and Thursday evenings, said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a Baltimore County police spokesman. No graves were harmed.

"Most of these graves are 50, 75, or maybe 80 years old," Betty J. Young, general manager of the cemetery.

"We're dealing with the third and fourth generation of families here. It is really unfortunate because this crime has no rhyme or reason to it at all," she said.

Yesterday afternoon, the normally quiet cemetery office was abuzz with activity as hundreds of concerned family members called to see if one of their relatives' grave sites had been disturbed.

Ms. Young believes that the families felt they had been violated.

"It's almost sacrilegious," she said. "That was the feeling. It's a highly emotional time for everyone. It's like having an intrusion in your house."

Workmen struggled most of the day to repair or reset the stones, which were as tall as 8 feet and weighed as much as 1,000 pounds.

"People cannot afford to buy markers like this anymore," said Ms. Young. "Some of the damaged monuments could easily be $15,000 or $20,000 on today's market."

But while the monetary value of the stones was a major consideration, cemetery employees worried that even a cemetery is not safe from vandals.

"There should be some things that are still sacred, no matter how crazy things get," said Dorothy Mahan, the cemetery office manager. "People come here to honor their loved ones and then someone does this."

Ms. Young agreed.

"It's such a traumatic experience for people when someone dies and then something like this happens," she said.

Sergeant Doarnberger said that beer cans were found around the area of the vandalism and that this might indicate young people partying.

But Ms. Young said that it could have been anyone.

"We had a similar case where stones were overturned and the oldest person involved was 30 and the youngest was 18," she said. "It isn't always the young people."

The presence of alcohol, however, does not surprise her.

"The only thing I can surmise is perhaps after these people had a little [alcohol], knocking over the monuments became a contest," she said. "When you look at it, these people have no feeling for human life. Why are they to care about a monument?"

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