Story by Dan England
To donate money, write a check to Highlandlake Church Inc., and send it to the church at 16778 Weld County Road 5, Mead, CO 80542. You can also call Pauli Smith at (970) 535-4936.
MEAD - Thanks to the sweat of more than 40 angry volunteers and nearby residents, it looked Friday as if the Pioneer Highlandlake Cemetery was finally going to bury an ugly incident in its long history.
When vandals toppled gravestones and punched a hole in its sign during Labor Day weekend in 2001, Pauli Smith, the cemetery's volunteer caretaker, turned things around with the help of dozens of volunteers.
The Felix Martinez family in Dacono made a new stone entrance in dedication to an infant baby brother buried there. Mark Parsons, who lives near the cemetery, almost four miles west of Mead, created four headstones for poor residents buried without one. And Friday, a brand-new iron gate, made with a $500 grant from the town of Mead, was finally installed.
Now they'll have to start over.
"I was feeling so good about what we had accomplished," Smith said through tears Sunday, "and then boom."
Vandals stole four headstones, shattered another one and even drove over a small cottonwood tree planted by the volunteers last year, probably killing it, Smith said. The headstones of small children, who died in the early 1900s, were stolen, and another belonged to a Civil War veteran. Smith thinks the damage will be $5,000. She reported the incident Saturday afternoon to the Weld County Sheriff's Office. It is under investigation.
The other thing the vandals didn't touch was the gate. They opened the gate and even closed it when they were finished.
"They were polite young men," said a sarcastic Smith, who doesn't know who did the deed. "The gate wasn't easy to figure out, but they did. At least they didn't run that over."
The graveyard is a historic piece of Mead and the former community of Highlandlake. L.C. Mead, the founder of Highlandlake before it became Mead, is buried there.
In fact, no one had been buried there since the late 1940s until Lee and Helen Swenson, married for 49 years, recently received special permission to bury their son, Mark, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in November, there. They arrived at the cemetery to bury Mark on Saturday and found the damage instead. They went ahead with the burial with even heavier hearts than when they arrived. Both have plots to be buried there as well.
"You look at that and say, `Why would anyone do this?' " Lee said.
The cemetery, owned by the Highlandlake Church, may need a security system, Smith said, although it will need to raise money to get one. The Swensons, who live a quarter-mile away, had a little dog about six years ago that used to bark when someone was bothering the place, but she's dead now.
"We really don't have any warning now," Smith said. "We certainly didn't hear anything during the vandalism."
Now nearby residents speak of going forth, of cleaning up and making it a place of pride once again. Parsons had one of his special gravestones torn out of the earth and run over, but he, like the rest, are determined to repair the damage.
"There are always a few people who do things like that," he said. "If we don't do anything, we let them get away with it, and we can't let that happen. So anything they break, we'll fix."
Reprinted from the Greeley Tribune http://www.greeleytrib.com/apps/pbcs.dll/artikkel?SearchID=73143061016906&Avis=GR&Dato=20030113&Kategori=NEWS&Lopenr=301130001&Ref=AR
Please Contact: Pauli Driver Smith
Please help recover this missing tombstone.
In the 1970's I got him a Civil War marker and carried it to Cass County, and put it on his grave. Within a year a first cousin of my husband's went to Cass County, took the stone to Longview, Gregg County, and it stayed on his patio the rest of his life, about 1990. His daughter was the one who told me that her brother removed it and she did not know what happened to it. She put her mother in a rest home and the stone was left on the patio. If it is found the stone is not from Gregg County, but Cass County, Texas.
I tried the sheriff's office in both counties but so far have not found it. Maybe someone else may know of it. He had three brothers who served in the war also.
No picture is available.
Please contact: Frankie Boswell Glaze