The damage vandals inflicted on the small hillside cemetery at the eastern edge of the city in April depressed the entire county.
Sandhill Cemetery is not unique in the sufferance of neglect and downright meanness.
There are dozens of small cemeteries around the county that have literally disappeared from sight because of the lack of anyone to care for them.
And it would be an exercise in futility to enumerate those final resting places that have been disturbed by drunks and under-aged (and under-intelligent) teens seeking bragging rights among their peers.
Explaining why someone would topple headstones onto someone’s grave is pointless.
In the end it amounts to pure evil.
And it’s that conclusion that makes what is about to happen to that small hillside cemetery overlooking 25th Street so wonderful.
In February, volunteers and workers with a Nashville-based company called Stonehugger Restoration Inc. will begin the arduous task of putting back together hundreds of pieces from shattered headstones.
In all, more than 85 headstones either will be made whole or secured to solid foundations.
The cemetery itself also will get a facelift through such steps as weed-control measures.
It’s a pricy venture.
The estimated cost is $25,200.
Normally those expenses could have been paid by government sources, in this case the Clay Township Trustee. Unfortunately, that office has been dealing with its own problems. A former trustee is under investigation in a case involving allegations of mismanagement of funds. The township doesn’t have any money to pay for putting back together a single monument, much less more than 85.
Fortunately, there have been individuals and groups that have been willing to take on the mission of restoring Sandhill. A group called Friends of Sandhill cemetery was formed, and studies were initiated on finding what was needed to repair the damage and restore the headstones.
It was a grass-roots group led by Columbus resident Ron Shadley who had no experience with fundraising projects or repairing headstones.
Judging by what’s been accomplished, I’d have to say that he’s a quick learner.
Earlier this month Ron reported that the group had exceeded the $20,000 mark, enough to make a commitment to go ahead with the project.
“The folks from Stonehugger have said that they’d work with us in getting every one of the stones repaired, but we’re moving full steam ahead on raising the remaining $5,000,” Ron said. “This is something the whole community should support.”
There has been significant support from major donors such as the Custer and Nugent foundations and Johnson Ventures, but there also have been dozens of donations from individuals and families.
When the work is completed sometime next year, the picturesque scene that for better than a century greeted motorists coming into and leaving Columbus on 25th Street will be returned.
There also will be something less visible but more real — the sense of goodness that went into the restoration.
How to help
Bartholomew County residents can support the rehabilitation of Sandhill Cemetery by adopting one of the damaged headstones or making outright cash contributions.
Contributions for specific amounts can be set aside to pay for work based on the amount of damage to the stones:
- $250, which would be applied to one of the 63 stones least damaged
- $350 for 17 of the moderately damaged stones
- $500 for seven of the most severely damaged
Contributions or adoption checks should be made out to Friends of Sandhill Cemetery and mailed to 3729 25th St., Columbus, IN 47203.
All donations are tax deductible.
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