Vandals damage headstones at 3 Modesto cemeteries

05/14/2012 11:24 AM

05/14/2012 10:28 PM

Vandals knocked over centuries-old headstones and caused thousands of dollars in damage at cemeteries along Modesto's Scenic Drive Sunday night or early Monday.

"This is Modesto's history. To destroy it is inexcusable," said Modesto Citizens' Cemetery board Vice President Glen Poteet as he surveyed the damage.

About 15 headstones were ravaged at three of the five cemeteries: St. Stanislaus Catholic Cemetery, Acacia Memorial Park and Modesto Citizens' Cemetery.

The headstones, some weighing up to 2,000 pounds, were pushed off their bases between 7 p.m. Sunday and 6 a.m. Monday when a gardener arrived at work.

A Modesto police officer and identification technicians were at the cemeteries Monday morning documenting the damage.

In 2008, about $50,000 in damage was done to 80 headstones that were knocked down in two of the cemeteries. Community members and business owners pulled together to help with repairs and costs.

About 80 percent of the daily work at the cemeteries is volunteer-based, said Poteet's wife and Modesto Citizens' treasurer, Pat Poteet.

Timothy Copenhaver, who manages Modesto Citizens' and Pioneer cemeteries, works part time and volunteers the rest.

"It destroys me every time I see something like this," he said. "I respect everything and everybody that is buried out here. It is just really sad."

His mother is buried at the cemetery, and while her plot was untouched, the damage to the others hit home.

The Poteets took note of all the broken headstones and will contact families of the deceased. In some cases, there are none left.

A number of the headstones date to the 1800s, but one was for a woman who died in December 2008.

"The family is still in the grieving process," Pat Poteet said. "They take a lot of energy and emotion to choose a marker. I am sure they will take it very personally."

Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at or (209) 578-2366.

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