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Vandals wreck scores of headstones at Holy Name

Tuesday, April 04, 2006



Resting in peace may be difficult after vandals knocked down 172 gravestones sometime before yesterday morning in Jersey City's Holy Name Cemetery, police said.

The desecrated stones were discovered by maintenance workers at 7:30 yesterday morning in a far western corner of the 68-acre cemetery, a Holy Name employee said. Most of the graves in that section date to the 1930s, the employee said.

Some 267,000 people, including former Jersey City mayors Frank Hague, John V. Kenny and Thomas F.X. Smith, are buried in the Catholic cemetery on West Side Avenue, which was constructed in 1866.

Police haven't determined yet what means were used to topple the stones, which weigh several hundred pounds each, but they suspect they were knocked over at random, in various rows - perhaps as an act of vandalism by teenagers.

"It was probably a big group, kids in the cemetery," Police Sgt. Edgar Martinez said.

Holy Name closes its gates at 4:45 p.m. daily and the perimeter of the cemetery is surrounded by a 6-foot-high gate, said Jim Goodness, spokesman for the Newark Archdiocese, which owns the cemetery.

"This was probably done sometime last night or very early this morning," Goodness said.

Goodness said the cemetery does have security, but refused to elaborate. He said it was the first act of vandalism in the cemetery in some time.

Former Jersey City acting mayor Joe Rakowski, who recently buried his mother in Holy Name and lives near the cemetery, said he used to see a security van in the cemetery at night up until a year ago.

"It cost us $1,450 to open up a grave there. What about the security?" asked Rakowski.

Holy Name is fixing the fallen headstones and calling the affected families; those that have been broken or damaged will be replaced by the cemetery, said Goodness.

John Burns, head of Burns Brothers Memorials, estimates it will cost Holy Name $100 for each gravestone to be fixed.

"Gravestones become loose after so many years and they can be toppled over with force, even just by a couple kids pushing," Burns said.

Maryanne Carney, who lives near the cemetery and has relatives buried there, was relieved to discover none of those graves were involved.

"This is terrible. How would you feel if the ground your loved one was buried in was abused and desecrated?" she said.

She said the incident has made her worried about who is hanging around in the cemetery, and that she'll no longer go there alone.

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