Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Cemeteries of Nanticoke

Originally published on Another Monkey on June 20, 2008




In a lot of ways, the cemeteries of Nanticoke form the heart of the city.

Actually, they form what used to be the Southern border of the city, before a bunch of culm banks were cleared out to make way for Luzerne County Community College some thirty-five or so years ago. But LCCC is separated from the rest of the city by a ravine. The complex of cemeteries belonging to several different parishes and the city itself present about half a mile of frontage along Washington Street alone. They contain the remains of ancestors and relatives of many of the people who live in Nanticoke, and of many more who are forgotten and nameless save for the engravings on their stones.

These cemeteries have modeled for me many times, and have provided scenic backdrops for many photos and even subjects for two of my paintings.
This week the cemeteries have come under attack. Vandals smashed flowerpots and vigil lights and toppled headstones. Estimates put the damage in the thousands of dollars.

Wilkes-Barre Citizens' Voice: Nanticoke cemeteries vandalized

Nanticoke police are investigating vandalism to St. Mary, St. Francis, St. Joseph’s and City cemeteries.

Someone toppled gravestones and statues, broke candle holders, ruined and stole flowers, and otherwise did a variety of damage in the cemeteries.

“This is the first time we had anything like that in a long time,” Mayor John Bushko said.

The vandalism most likely happened Sunday into Monday, probably by more than one individual, Nanticoke Detective William Shultz said. Police have not been able to determine if anything of value was missing. They are waiting for lists of damages from the churches, Shultz said.

Shultz called it the worst he’d seen, perpetrated by “some type of sick individuals.”

“I wouldn’t even think of doing something like that for fear that I would go to hell when I die,” he said.

Anyone with information should call Nanticoke police at 735-2200.




Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader: Vandals hit 5 Nanticoke cemeteries

Headstones toppled, American flag sticks broken and other damage
reported at sites.

EDWARD LEWIS elewis@timesleader.com

NANTICOKE – Paul Kankiewicz and his friend Dan Kotsko noticed broken wooden American-flag sticks at St. Francis Cemetery earlier this week.

Thinking the damage was caused by recent thunderstorms and high winds, they continued with their summer job of updating cemetery burial records.

But, when they arrived at the cemetery Wednesday morning, they noticed 16 headstones had been toppled.

Police said the damage is widespread and involved four other city cemeteries -- Nanticoke City, St. Stanislaus, St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s -- that are adjacent to each other in the area of Washington and Prospect streets.

Capt. Detective William Shultz said more than 100 tombstones were knocked over at the five locations. Most of the damage was found in Nanticoke City Cemetery on top of the hill.

A few reports of toppled headstones were reported to police earlier in the week, he said, noting the vandalism became more widespread. Flower pots, religious statues and solar lights were also vandalized, Shultz said.

A toppled headstone was reported on Monday by people who left the cemetery to buy topsoil, only to return to find additional vandalism at the site, Shultz said.

“Based on that report, we can’t say for sure all this vandalism took place at night,” Shultz said.

Shultz believes more than one person is responsible.

Tom Roman, who was cleaning his parents’ burial site in the Nanticoke City Cemetery, said he didn’t notice any veterans’ grave markers missing from other plots.

Contact police
Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to contact Nanticoke police at 735-2200.

Edward Lewis, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7196.


I don't believe in ghosts. I don't believe in revenants - spirits in corporeal form who are set out to avenge a specific wrong. (Think of James O'Barr's The Crow, later made into a movie that proved fatal for Brandon Lee.)

I don't believe in curses, or hallowed ground, or magic inherent in cemetery soil. I don't believe any supernatural force will marshal itself to see to it that the people who committed this crime against the dead, and against those who loved them and honored their memories, have a fitting punishment bestowed upon them in this life and the next.

I believe in what I call the Cosmic All. Essentially, it's the universe put under an integral sign, with limits at plus and minus infinity. Our task in life is to contribute to this in a positive way. If we do harm to people, to the universe in general, we're contributing in a negative way - and that's fundamentally wrong.

The national economy is in terrible shape. Nanticoke's is even worse. Nobody - no individual, no church, not even the city itself - has a few thousand dollars just siting around waiting to be spent to repair the damage done by a few individuals on a vandalism spree.

But the damage will be repaired. The money will be spent. And if nobody can afford it right now, someone will go deeper into debt. The damage will be compounded.
No, I don't believe that some curse will fall upon the heads of the people who did this. I don't believe that some rotting, stinking, blackened corpse will rise from its grave and dog their steps until the day they die, always just behind them, just out of sight, to be glimpsed briefly in the edges of their vision and in reflections in mirrors in darkened rooms. I don't believe in any of these things.
But I hope somewhere, on some level, they do.

And I hope in time they know fear, and maybe guilt, and perhaps even remorse.

And if I should ever catch them in the act, they will wish that curses and avenging spirits were the worst things they ever had to fear.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

I am very saddened by this. My grandparents are buried in St. Francis cemetery. They worked hard their entire lives to make a better life for their families, endured the depression and many hardships. This aggressive act is insulting to their memory.