Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio , which on the website "Find A Grave" lists 143,084 memorials, and 49 listed as famous, was once among Ohio's most preeminent cemeteries - being Columbus' largest - but has now become vastly violated with increased vandalism. The criminal destruction of monuments and markers have happened on several occasions during 2016 leaving the cemetery needing more help on all fronts.
So it is I feel compelled to share this entire news story from the "Columbus Dispatch" with details that should be of concern to anyone reading it whether or not they have ancestors, family members, or friends buried at Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus.
“Grave markers nearing two centuries old lie on their sides in the dirt. Obelisks are shattered into pieces. Statues that have stood watch through the decades are pushed straight off their pedestals.
Over two summers, vandals have crept into historic Green Lawn Cemetery after dark on several occasions and have kicked and pushed and broken their way to more than $1.25 million in damage. The nonprofit Green Lawn Cemetery Association has turned to Central Ohio Crime Stoppers — and the public — for help.
"A couple of damaged markers, we can handle that," Green Lawn Trustee Randy Rogers said. That happens in a storm or when a giant limb falls from an old tree. But more than 600 monuments? "It's completely overwhelming."
Anyone who turns over information leading to the arrest of a cemetery vandal or thief will receive a $1,000 cash reward, said Crime Stoppers President Kristen McKinley. It will be an ongoing partnership between the two groups, with Crime Stoppers collecting information from tipsters, who will be kept anonymous, and the cemetery funding the rewards. Signs will be posted around the cemetery announcing the award, which officials hope will be a deterrent
"To the person or persons who are committing these despicable acts, you will get caught," McKinley said. "To the person or persons who have information regarding this or have knowledge of who is doing this, think about the families of the deceased who are buried in these gravesites. How would you feel?...Do the right thing."
Because of the dollar amount involved, said Detective Jason Evans of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, this is felony vandalism. He has gotten some leads but could use some more information, he said.
Green Lawn Cemetery, established in 1848, is 360 acres of rolling hills designed by a landscape architect. Many notable people are buried there, including Samuel Bush, the grandfather of President George H.W. Bush; former Ohio governor and U.S. Sen. John Bricker, who was the running mate of presidential candidate Thomas Dewey in 1944; World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker; and humorist James Thurber.
The oldest sections of the cemetery, which have seen the most damage, are the farthest from the main entrance.
The perimeter is about 3 1/2 miles with 2.2 miles of fence. Tuesday, a man cutting through the cemetery slipped right between two bent slats in the fence backing up to Brown Road
Cemetery officials think the 10 or so incidents, all during the warm months of 2015 and 2016, are related. The security patrol chased and almost caught two men on one occasion, and describes them as two white men around 20 years old, average height and build.
On Aug. 14, the vandals damaged 109 monuments in one night. On Nov. 26, the most-recent incident, they pushed over 30 to 40 markers, causing between $35,000 and $45,000 in damage. Just to reset a small stone marker costs $600, Rogers said.
"They've been very vindictive," he said. "They'll pick a tablet up and smash it on top of another tablet."
Some of the most-extensive damage is to a monument for Gustavus Swan, a War of 1812 veteran, Ohio Supreme Court justice in 1829-30 and best known for organizing Ohio's early banking system. He died on Feb. 6, 1860.
The vandals must have climbed the tall stone base to get to the columned portion at the top, and they shattered a life-size bust of Swan. The pieces, with the face destroyed, are still sitting at the base.
The cemetery has a portrait of Swan and a piece of the tile that the bust was made from. But to have it remade will cost tens of thousands of dollars
People can call in tips to Central Ohio Crime Stoppers at 614-461-8477 or using the website stopcrime.org. Identities are kept anonymous, McKinley said.
The association does take donations from the public, both by mail and in person at the Green Lawn office.
Rogers also started aGoFundMe.com page for cemetery restoration about a month ago.”
"Vandals destroy more than graves"
December 22, 2016
Author/Byline: Theodore Decker, "The Columbus Dispatch"
More than 150,000 of Central Ohio's dead have been laid to rest in Green Lawn Cemetery since 1849, and they say there is room for another century of burials.
Here among Green Lawn's 360 acres lies Franklinton's founder, Lucas Sullivant. Philanthropist Hannah Neil is buried here, as are World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker, artist Alice Schille, and humorist James Thurber.
There are opulent shrines to the well-to-do, where sunlight shines through Tiffany-style glass windows, and modest stones erected in tribute to generations of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters.
Occasionally, especially in the cemetery's more recent history, there have been those who would defile the place. They have hacked bronze fixtures to sell for scrap and torn up the lawns with a stolen dump truck. Over the past two summers, vandals have toppled and broken hundreds of monuments, causing damage that the cemetery association now estimates at more than $1.25 million.
"It's completely overwhelming," Trustee Randy Rogers told Dispatch Reporter Shannon Gilchrist.
Rogers' comments came as the cemetery announced Wednesday a partnership with Central Ohio Crime Stoppers, hoping that a standing offer of reward money will out those responsible for the ongoing destruction.
It's a special breed of pond scum that delights in the wanton and sustained vandalism of a cemetery. The more recent damage has been confined largely to the cemetery's older and historic plots, probably because those graves are farthest from the entrance and weasels are adept at sniffing out the coward's path.
With rows of weathered granite and centuries-old trees, it's easy to think of the place as frozen at a point long past. But while the bulk of the broken monuments may date back decades, the vandals' disrespect is an affront to even the most recent families to mourn at Green Lawn.
Just this month, some of those families have paid their respects to an 87-year-old South Side husband and father who ran a wrecking company and served with the Army's 503rd Field Artillery Battalion during the Korean War. To a Grove City woman who spoiled her grandchildren, loved to knit and crochet, and made hats and blankets for infants who were ill. And to a noted photographer whose pictures chronicled decades of the African-American experience in Columbus and beyond.
The vandals have stolen some of the peace of the place even from those who have been spared physical damage.
One woman, whose family has deep ties to Columbus and whose mother died on Dec. 5, said generations of her family are buried at Green Lawn. She goes there to reflect and pay tribute to her ancestors, and one day she'll be buried there too.
Hearing about the vandalism left her disgusted and worried, to the point that she didn't want her name mentioned here on the off-chance that her family's graves might be targeted.
"It's beyond comprehension to me, what someone would be thinking to do that," she said. "We're talking about a cemetery. It's supposed to be people resting in peace.
"It's almost too much to bear," she said.
Her mother, though, was a positive force in life and remains one in death.
"She wanted the world to be better, starting with her," the woman said.
Here's what she imagines her mom would say about the vandals:
"We have to get to those sorts of people, and encourage them with positivity, and let them know they are loved."
That is a mere fraction of the legacy of Green Lawn. A kindness standing firm against hatred, even as headstones fall.
PUBLISHED: 12/21/16 02:03 PM EST.
UPDATED: 12/21/16 02:09 PM EST.
1721.14 Cemetery policemen.
The trustees, directors, or other officers of a cemetery company or association, whether it is incorporated or unincorporated, and a board of township trustees having charge of township cemeteries, may appoint day and night watchmen for their grounds. All such watchmen, and all superintendents, gardeners, and agents of such company or association or of such board, who are stationed on the cemetery grounds may take and subscribe, before any judge of a county court or judge of a municipal court having jurisdiction in the township where the grounds are situated, an oath of office similar to the oath required by law of constables. Upon taking such oath, such watchmen, superintendents, gardeners, or agents shall have, within and adjacent to the cemetery grounds, all the powers of police officers.