CLYDE, Ohio - Inside his workshop at Community Park, Jim Mason spent Wednesday morning piecing together a sandstone monument that had been toppled and broken by vandals at McPherson Cemetery.
Mr. Mason, the city's parks and cemetery superintendent, drilled holes in the 100-plus-year-old stone, placed pins inside, sealed them with a special epoxy he ordered from an East Coast company, and applied clamps. "It won't look like new, but it will stand up in one piece," Mr. Mason said.
He and his crews plan to repair nearly two dozen of the headstones. Others will be sent out to be repaired professionally, while the majority of the 171 stones that were knocked over, but not broken, during three nights of vandalism already have been reset.
The 10-acre McPherson Cemetery along U.S. 20 on Clyde's east side was named for Gen. James B. McPherson, a Clyde native who was the highest-ranking officer killed in the Civil War. A bronze statue of General McPherson stands guard at the entrance of the well-tended municipal cemetery, which is a source of pride for local residents.
Businesses and individuals donated more than $6,500 to add to a $2,000 reward offered by police when vandals struck late last month, causing an estimated $100,000 in damages.
"You really can't put words to the way you felt when you got there that first morning," City Administrator Paul Fiser said. "It was cowardly and soulless."
While the first two nights in which headstones and monuments were toppled were disturbing, Police Chief Bruce Gower said the third night - when flowers, plaques, veteran's markers, and other mementos placed at grave sites were thrown into the driveways - was almost worse.
"They took all this stuff into the drives and smashed it," the chief said. "It looked like a small tornado went through there."
Mr. Mason said the desecration was discovered by a cemetery worker about 7:30 a.m. A funeral was scheduled for 10 that morning. "It was heart-wrenching for the community," he said. "There were people just crying their eyes out. They took it personally, they really did."
Last week, two 17-year-old boys were arrested in connection with the vandalism spree. One of the boys, who confessed to police, was charged with delinquency in connection with vandalism, while the other is being held on a probation violation.
Chief Gower said Wednesday that investigators believe a third teen was involved, but they are awaiting the results of forensic testing on hand and footprints found at the cemetery as well as polygraph exams to be conducted this week before pursuing further charges.
Police, working with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, were able to lift handprints from the tops of stones that had been pushed over. They also found dusty footprints on a six-foot black granite monument to local veterans that the vandals had knocked over and then walked on, Chief Gower said.
Riding his bicycle through the cemetery Wednesday, Clyde resident Stephen Boone said it disturbed him to learn of the vandalism.
"This is sacred here," he said. "There are people laid to rest here, and anybody who had any brains about them wouldn't do something like that."
Chief Gower said the city planned to return all of the money that was donated for the reward because the information that led to arrests in the case came from one of the suspects.
"When I asked him why they did it, he said, 'I don't know. We just did it,'" the chief said, adding, "It's a beautiful place, and to trash it like that is beyond me."
While the statue of General McPherson was not damaged by vandals, an urn that was part of Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Rodger Young's gravestone was knocked over.
Chief Gower said that since the incidents, neighbors have been vigilant.
"If somebody pulls into the cemetery after dusk, we're getting a call, which we want," he said.
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