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Violet Cemetery desecrated by vandals, OPP investigate

The Lennox & Addington (L&A) County Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is currently investigating damage to nearly 20 headstones, including four large family monuments, at Violet Cemetery on Violet Road in Loyalist Township.

A statue of a young woman lies toppled against the monument of the Furrs family, the missing hand revealing the bright white marble beneath more than a century of wear and lichen. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.
Close up: a century-old statue bears the scars of thoughtless destruction. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.

Officers of the L&A County Detachment responded to the report on Monday, Apr. 11, 2022, at approximately 8:30 a.m. It is believed that the act of destruction occurred over the weekend, or possibly over the last week.

Most of the damage occurred at the back of the cemetery, which is not easily visible from the road and where many of the oldest monuments are located. Many of the headstones date back to the 18th and 19th centuries and are damaged beyond repair.

The shocking act of vandalism was announced Monday in a Facebook post by Joe Vanberkel, 15, who has family laid to rest in the cemetery. Vanberkel said he posted photos and the names of the deceased whose markers were damaged to help his neighbours who might be concerned. 

“At lunch yesterday, I went to the cemetery and took photos because I wanted to document the destruction. I wrote the names down just so people knew whose stones were damaged. My Opa [grandfather] and I think that it is terrible that this happened,” said Vanberkel, whose grandfather currently serves as one of the caretakers at the cemetery.

“My Opa, Bill Vanberkel, got a call from another caretaker of the cemetery, Harvey Sharpe, saying that someone called the funeral service [about the vandalism]. My Opa checked it out Saturday night (April 9, 2022) after he got the call. The part that is damaged is … the ‘old side’ of the cemetery. Most of the stones are over 120 years old. My Opa and Harvey talked to the police at about 2:30 p.m. yesterday (Monday, Apr. 11, 2022).”

Furthermore, Vanberkel commented that the historical nature of the tombstones damaged is heartbreaking and that loss cannot be repaired. “Some of the oldest tombstones were older than Canada itself,” he noted.

Headstones lay toppled in the beautiful country cemetery. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.

Many concerned citizens circulated the post on the Facebook page ‘What’s Going On Napanee.’ Comments on the post echoed and re-echoed the “disgraceful” and “disrespectful” nature of individuals who would destroy cemetery property.

Linda Wyatt-deGroot expressed her absolute disgust with this sort of destruction: “You know, even as a kid, sure we did crazy things, but for anyone, young or old, to derive any kind of excitement or joy from doing this, and causing the loved ones the kind of pain it will cause, is just really, really messed up.”

Tombstones are wrenched from the ground where they have stood for more than 150 years and left unearthed. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.

“It’s also, no doubt, costly to repair,” she lamented. “I just buried my daughter less than two years ago. The process of coming up with a headstone was, in itself, one of the most heart-wrenching things I have ever done. If someone did this to hers, it would be like someone hurting her and me, all over again.”

Vanberkel also noted that this wasn’t the only recent act of vandalism in the vicinity: “Three weeks earlier, there was a group of teenagers by the cemetery, and they broke the Violet Road sign and stole it.”

The L&A County OPP is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying those involved in this incident. Anyone with information is asked to contact L&A County OPP at 1-888-310-1122. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477(TIPS), or submit a tip to Crime Stoppers at www.ontariocrimestoppers.ca.

This is a developing story with more to come.

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