Cemetery marred by vandals before
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:57 PM
"Acts of vandalism have marred Port Blakely cemetery's history, president of the cemetery's board of trustees Barry Sacks says. Shortly after I became involved there, in 1992, there was a large amount of vandalism, Sacks said. Every stone that could be knocked down was.Since the early 1990s, there has been sporadic vandalism that Sacks speculates may have been perpetrated by island youth. Although the 1992 violence coincided with the brief residence on Bainbridge of a white supremacist group, Sacks did not believe that there was a connection. Sacks calls the the 1992 vandalism non-discriminatory in nature. While it did more damage than the latest vandalism, it was not in the same league of what's happening now, he said It's incredibly frustrating. I hope I'm relating how upset I am about it. Sacks notes that Jewish gravestones seem to be the primary targets of the latest vandalism. The cemetery's policy regarding damaged stones is first to try to contact family members. Then, if the family can't afford repairs, or if they cannot be found, the board pays to replace or fix the stone.After one spree, the board spent several years replacing stones, allocating several years' worth of the cemetery budget to do so. I've on my own looked into hiring private security, Sacks said. This is just a jewel of a cemetery. It should be an absolutely cherished and sacred spot.Like others, Sacks' interest in the cemetery stems from having buried a loved one there. Sacks lost an infant son in 1991, and has been involved with taking care of the grounds ever since.While one chapter of the cemetery's history is people acting out destructive impulses, it also boasts a noteworthy cadre of caretakers. According to Sacks, the cemetery, founded in the 1880s, fell into disrepair around 1950. In the early 1980s, Sue Noritake, Art Johanson and Andrew Price, with other cemetery board members, reclaimed the grounds from the blackberries that had taken over.Price, a retired banker, revitalized the cemetery association through his interest in island history. Price set up a table at the cemetery every year on Memorial Day and interviewed people about the gravesites they visited. His aim was to record the history of gravestones too worn to be legible.Today Price, though in his 70s, maintains his interest in cemetery lore and upkeep, often visiting the grounds.He and wife Marianna have seen the recent damage. My father and mother saw what had happened to the Jewish markers, daughter Deborah Cheadle said. When my mother noticed the overturned stones her reaction immediately was, 'That makes me want to go over and put flowers on those graves.' "