WOLFVILLE, NS – More than 20 headstone pillars have been pushed over at the Willowbank Cemetery in what its manager says is the worst case of vandalism he’s ever seen.
Cemetery manager Chris Fuller saw several large pillars separated from their bases Nov. 23 as he drove up Gaspereau to the cemetery.
When he walked over, he counted over 15 – one after another, side by side – that are wrecked.
“This is not normal. This is far from it. Who does something like this?” he said.
The stones and their historic setting
It’s a place steeped in history. The land for the cemetery was donated in 1880 and is perhaps best known for the gravesite one of Wolfville’s most famous residents, Mona Parsons.
The now-broken pillars are from different decades. Pillars like that of Gideon Palmeter, who died in 1843, and Annie Elderkin, in 1895, now lie on the ground.
Fuller says this vandalism was not carried out alone, since breaking the pillars off their bases would require at least two people due to their massive weight.
The 15 graves toppled in a row in the cemetery’s area backing onto Gaspereau are also too coincidental.
He doesn’t know exactly when it happened since the cemetery has no surveillance, but knows it was within the past few days, as he walks the grounds daily.
This is also not the cemetery’s first vandalism incident this fall – two pillars were knocked over Acadia’s Homecoming Weekend between Oct. 12 and 15, and two others Fuller estimates happened two weeks ago.
It’s an alarming trend Fuller hopes has ended.
“To think of the stress and sadness this will cause the families of those whose headstones are now ruined, it’s just sickening,” he said.
Challenges facing stones’ restoration
To make a bad situation worse, Fuller is unsure how the pillars will be restored. The pillars are heavy, and would require a machine to lift them back onto their bases.
But this could cause further damage to the cemetery, since the area these graves are located is stepped where the sloping land has shifted.
Fuller also needs to determine what kind of cost would come with such a project.
“There are a number of factors that will make this very difficult to fix,” he said.
“I don’t know how we’re going to get these restored. We may not be able to do it.”
Fuller has contacted local heritage groups in hopes of finding a solution, but remains doubtful. He’s also contacted the RCMP but, without surveillance footage or any known witnesses, there’s not much to go on.
In his thirty years of managing cemeteries in the area, he’s never felt as saddened or disappointed as he does now.
He hopes to find some resolution to the problem, but is for now unclear on how to move forward.
“For someone to disrespect this place in such a huge way – it’s just a horrible feeling, just really horrible,” he said.
More updates to follow.