By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — SARANAC — Vandals damaged 75 headstones at Independence Cemetery in a daytime raid that has left Samuel Tedford heartbroken.
“What satisfaction would anybody get out of doing something like this?” the Saranac man said, still distraught more than a week later.
“It just makes no sense whatsoever.”
Tedford is president of the Independence Cemetery Board of Trustees, and he and the other board members are trying to figure out what they are going to do about the grave markers that were damaged on Monday, Sept. 16.
Stones were knocked over throughout the Route 3 cemetery, which dates back to before the Civil War. Many of them have cracked at the base or at the top.
Some crumbled into pieces.
Most of the damage is in the back of the cemetery, away from Route 3, but some stones closer to the main road were toppled over.
“Some of these stones can just be reset, but others are broken in two, three or four places,” Tedford said.
The random act of vandalism occurred sometime during the day. Tedford said he got a call from a man who said he went for a walk in the cemetery at 9:30 that morning and did not notice any problems.
“Later that day, he went for a walk again about 5 p.m., and he noticed the damage, and he called me,” he said.
State Police have been notified, and they are looking into the incident, Tedford said, but have not made any arrests yet.
The damage has been estimated at about $8,000, but he thinks that might be a bit low.
He reported the damage to the State Division of Cemeteries in Albany and hopes to get some financial help from their vandalism fund.
The cemetery operates on revenue from sales of lots, as well as interest from its Perpetual Care Fund.
But it’s not much, Tedford said.
“If we spent $8,000 on this, it would put an awful dent in our finances,” he said.
The cemetery, which features headstones from the 1800s, including dozens of Civil War soldiers, was hit by vandals in 2002, when 38 stones were damaged.
No one was ever caught in that incident.
The Cemetery Board does not have insurance for the stones, and most of the family members of the deceased are long gone.
Tedford, 71, takes pride in caring for the cemetery, which has a special place not only in Saranac and Adirondack history but in national history.
And he has relatives from the late 1800s buried there.
“This is the final resting place for these people, and it should be respected,” he said.
“There is just no rhyme or reason to this.”
He hopes the perpetrators will be caught.
“They should make them do about 250 hours of community service under my direction,” he said.
“Their souls may belong to Jesus, but their ass would belong to me, and they would come away respecting this cemetery.”
Email Joe LoTemplio:firstname.lastname@example.org