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The Neglect and Disrespect of Our Dead

By Linda C. Arthur, May 12, 2000

Linda describes the desecration of our old cemeteries, and compels us to ask if our society today has become numb to the tragedy.

Editor's Note: This commentary was written in response to Heather Garner's commentary of March 25, 2000, "The Old Unity Cemetery in Fort Mill, South Carolina".

I agree with your article, whole-heartedly and have been witnessing first hand the neglect and gross disrespect for the dead. At this point I have visited cemteries all over Western New York and have been getting told that my relatives are not in certain cemeteries when they are, and recently in my search for my families, I have found a horrible scandal from 1901 that occurred in Buffalo.

ground flush tombstone
A ground flush marker at Lakeside Cemetery in Hamburg, NY. The Cemetery has allowed the ground to cover half the marker.

The North Street Cemetery, located at Masten and Best Streets, was dug up and replaced with a Military Armory. A man named Roland Conover was given $15.00 a body to remove 1,000 bodies to other area cemeteries. Not only did he throw our families in baskets and boxes, as reported by witnesses, he stole $40,000.00 from the cemetery, managed to get himself arrested for fraudulent bookkeeping and falsified records, larceny and more. I have just found that some of the bodies were buried in cemeteries while the stones are at other cemeteries. When I have approached not only New York State Cemetery Association, but the cemeteries, with this atrocity, I was told that I would have to get a court order to place the bodies and the stones together again. Now our family is all over the place, when originally they were placed in peace in one cemetery. Here's our local officials passing the buck, because nobody wants to take responsibility for what happened in 1901 and pay for their own mistakes. I don't care whose fault it is. It happened and let's make it right. What makes me mad is that not one person was willing to tell me anything about what happened to the bodies. I had to read the inscriptions of the stones being moved which set off signals something was wrong.

Some cemeteries are saying they had a fire so they don't have to look up records. Have all the cemeteries in Buffalo had a fire? I think not. So quit telling us that and find our loved ones.

When visitng these cemeteries, none of the rows are marked, the sections aren't marked, we cannot find our families people, let's make cemeteries visitor friendly, then maybe your job of answering phone calls will decrease when we can't find where they are buried.

When visiting cemeteries for over thirty years, it's amazing to me that no one wants to preserve their stones. Are we heading toward plastic stones that don't crumble and decay? The owners of these cemteries have been arrogant. A simple map with not only the sections but the rows and divisions for their cemeteries is all they need. While they do furnish an area map, you still end up walking hundreds of rows to find your families. In some cases the cemeteries are so large that one person is supposed to be out pinpointing graves, but you can never find them.

Lakeside cemetery tombstones
Lakeside Cemetery in Hamburg, NY. The lawn appears to be kept trimmed, while a tombstone remains unrepaired.

My father worked for the State Universtity of Buffalo all his life. He was operating a backhoe, while the campus was building a new dorm at Main and Bailey Streets, when he happened to dig up a cemetery. My father got so upset he had to be taken off the backhoe. He also started to have bad flashbacks and nightmares because he fought in The Battle of the Bulge in WWII. Bones, hundreds of them were dug up and my father refused to dig any further. Construction was halted until it was discovered that a Poor House Stood at the corner of Main and Bailey. Construction began and my father was ordered to load all the bodies and dump them in The Audobon Golf Course in Amherst. That's right a public golf course. They're all there. For those people that are looking for anyone that might have been at this poorhouse, your loved ones have been desecrated. This is disgusting. Golf anyone?

Recently five marble tombstones showed up at a local Halloween display with the name "Halleck". They were real. Where did they come from? A worker who was Native American became so upset at this that he did the right thing by calling the police and quit the show. W don't know what happened to the stones.

A little baby has been dug up from 1870 here in Springeville, New York, probably for artifacts or toys that may have been buried with the baby. Remember all the mummies stolen out of the pyramids. This is what is happening. People are falling on bad times and looking for any way they can to make a buck.

In Mount Calvary, Cheektowaga, NY, all the brass plates are being stolen because of their worth. For anyone who is burying a loved one today, keep your stones plain, simple, don't bury valuables in the crypts and don't spend money on the brass plates that can be pried off and stolen. I have seen expensive toys, vases and frames on top of graves that I realize are left in love, but are just picked up and taken by vandals. Avoid making your loved one's grave a target.

- Linda C. Arthur [LCA2112@aol.com]

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