As a retired member of the Armed Forces, I settled down in a part of my home state that I consider being very pleasant and rich in history. I love visiting all the interesting museums here in our local area around Maple Valley and visiting the quaint little communities such as Black Diamond, Ravensdale and even strolling through the grounds of what was once Franklin. Another activity that I occasionally enjoy is going for a leisurely walk through cemeteries in the surrounding areas. It just so happened that a couple of weeks ago I was visiting the final resting place of those before us in Black Diamond when I discovered that several of the tombstones had been desecrated, some completely destroyed beyond irreparable restoration. How could a person or group of people be so demented and bend on cemetery vandalism at all I asked myself.
Experts say that vandalism sometimes can occur out of spite or hatred, so simply because they feel that they can get away with it and are just plan bored. Some perhaps will be quick to blame bored teenagers with nothing better to do than to sneak in under the cloak of darkness and heartlessly commit their senseless act. There are however other people out in our communities that are motivated by the idea that they can get away with a crime or because they are hurt because of a loved one passing. I once knew a young lady that was angry at her husband for dying so young and would go to the cemetery and driver her pickup truck over his grave. The recent criminal acts in Black Diamond Cemetery however was devastated indiscriminately; from a lady who had passed away back in 1905 at the age of 62 to that of a 3-month-old child.
This isn’t the first time that the Black Diamond Cemetery has been vandalized nor the only one in the local area. All one has to do is drive a short distance over to the sleepy little town of Ravensdale to find the unkept grounds of the Ravensdale Cemetery all covered over with underbrush and a broken down fence. Back in the ’60s young people use to come up to Ravensdale Cemetery to congregate and party on the small mound, but they did more than party, they desecrated the graves with total disregard and no sense of respect. The land developers that erect beautiful homes surrounding the grounds had said that they would refurbish the dilapidated graveyard, but that was never done and it remains in shambles. The graves of local ancestors and the final resting place of miners killed in the mine explosion of 1915 remain ignored and forgotten by all.
As I stood there looking down with a heavy heart at the child’s headstone, I wondered what could be done to help prevent such hideous acts in the future? We all know that old cemeteries are spooky and hold a mystifying spill-especially after dark. Often under a dare to enter such sacred grounds (a challenge that most adolescents can’t back down from), find graveyards like Black Diamond and Ravensdale a perfect place to hang out. Perhaps what we need to do as a community is to foster a sense of appreciation for our cemeteries and the history they hold. Instead of a place of death and spooky ideals, teach our youth and our community the richness and respect of these scared resting places.
Perhaps we as members of our wonderful communities we could:
• encourage our local schools could have field trips to the cemeteries and share the history with the students;
• visit the local museums in Black Diamond and Maple Valley, which has an abundance of many different artifacts and antiquities of the past;
• schools and local organizations could possibly create a treasure hunt or mystery hunt about some of the tombstones or about some particular individual that is buried there;
• as a community or organization have a restoration day where the markers are cleaned and the grounds cleaned up. (I noticed where the Boy Scouts had once did this to the Franklin Cemetery, but that has been several years ago.
• Notify the police when you see suspicious cars or people at the cemetery at night. Also notify them when you see even one toppled stone.
As I was about to leave the grounds of the cemetery a city councilman from Black Diamond appeared and he also took photographs of the damage done and said that they would have to do what they could to repair the vandalism, but I feel it is everyone’s responsible and not just the local government. If it was one of your ancestors or a loved one that has passed, I’m sure that none of us would want this done to their final resting place. So let us not just be upset with words, but actually do something to make a difference.