Volunteers needed to restore damaged gravesites at historic Black cemetery

Volunteers needed to restore damaged gravesites at historic Black cemetery

ELSMERE, Ky. (FOX19) - The steps to restore vandalized gravestones at a historic Black cemetery will soon be underway.

Around 30 gravestones were toppled or spray-painted with anti-government and anti-religious symbols at the Mary E. Smith Memorial Cemetery in December, according to Elsmere police.

Chris Brown, who runs a Tri-State non-profit, walked the graveyard Friday with a local contractor. Brown says she got a call from the president of the Northern Kentucky NAACP to ask if she could help.

Brown and independent contractor Charles Griggs began assessing the damage and righting some of the wrongs they say were done by the vandals.

“Hate doesn’t win here,” Brown said. “This is a community and we’re going to band together and we’re going to restore this place. We’re going to fix these stones. We’re going to wash off the filthy graffiti that you put on these people’s tombstones.”

Beneath the cemetery sign sits a marker saluting the veterans who are resting in peace at Mary E. Smith Memorial Cemetery.

World War II veteran James E. Ross is among those buried at the cemetery. Sadly, the vandals knocked over his tombstone from the grave.

“James E. Ross, well, he’s a vet, I mean that’s enough said to come by and see any war hero’s grave laying on the ground, kicked over, disrespected and trampled on is beyond something that I thought people were capable of,” Griggs said.

Brown says she is going to organize a cleanup crew to come out to the cemetery on Dec. 26.

She says they could really use the donated services of a water pressure cleaning company to help erase what Brown called filth the vandals left behind.

On Thursday, Detective Eric Higgins says based on the type of vandalism used, it leads him to think it was a younger person behind it.

“From the symbolism that is being used and the graves being toppled over, it leads me to believe it would be someone - a younger person would do it,” explained Higgins.

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