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At vandalized cemetery, anger

Most headstones righted in Lynn

By Sydney Lupkin
Globe Correspondent / July 7, 2010

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LYNN — A statue of the Virgin Mary stood watch once again yesterday over the graves of the McCarty family, but she bore the scars from weekend vandalism, the stony hem of her robes reduced to jagged rocks at her feet.

The McCarty headstone was one of more than 100 toppled at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Lynn over the Fourth of July weekend, police said. Although most were righted before lunchtime yesterday, several remain damaged.

“It’s bad enough you have to die, but you’ve got to be disturbed after your death,’’ said the Rev. Michael Ferraro of St. Mary’s Parish. “What they did is an invasion of a very sacred place.’’

Although the parish does not run the cemetery, Ferraro said many parishioners and their families have been laid to rest there. “I’ve buried so many people there,’’ he said. “It’s sad.’’

Motorists drove the winding single-lane roads, checking on gravesites. Those on foot carried lists of names and plots.

Dennis Lineham, 68, said he was disgusted that someone would desecrate a cemetery.

It took four hours yesterday morning, from about 7:30 to 11:30, to reset all 105 stones, said Lily Lynch, spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.

“They’ve done a good job,’’ Lineham said, adding that stones he checked were fine.

Although most people yesterday afternoon wondered aloud where the damage had been, some headstones were completely broken from their bases, one lying facedown in the grass. Damaged stones will probably be repaired through individual families’ homeowner’s insurance, Lynch said.

Joseph Farrell, 64, came to check on the graves of his grandfather and his parents. Although the headstones were fine, Farrell called the act of vandalism insane.“If you’ve had any loss in your family at all, you should know better,’’ he said.

Farrell said he was angriest about the extent of the vandalism and the time it must have taken. “They didn’t do that in two minutes,’’ he said.

Captain Michael Mageary of the Lynn police said the investigation is in its early stages. Although those at the cemetery blamed young people, Mageary said it is too early to be sure.

“I don’t recall anything of this magnitude, for sure,’’ he said of local cemetery damage. “This is above and beyond anything you would ever expect.’’

Four youths were charged last November with toppling 91 gravestones in a Kingston cemetery over Veterans Day.

Almost 100 headstones were vandalized in a cemetery in Lowell last October, causing more than $10,000 in damage. An 18-year-old turned himself in two weeks later, according to the Lowell Sun.

When John Saltzman, 75, of Lynn saw St. Mary’s Cemetery on the news yesterday morning, he had a sinking feeling because some of his ancestors are buried there. “I was devastated,’’ said Saltzman.

When he arrived, he was thankful to find the graves unharmed, but the idea that someone could have disturbed his grandmother and great-grandmother after death upset him.

“It’s a despicable act that someone would do a thing like that to a cemetery,’’ he said.

Sydney Lupkin can be reached at slupkin@globe.com.

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