Michael Gibbs, president of the Surrey Historical Society, inspects vandalized grave markers in the Surrey Centre Cemetery April 27. Gibbs wondered if it might be time to install security cameras in the 139-year-old cemetery. (Photo: Malin Jordan)

Gravestones vandalized at Surrey Centre Cemetery

Pioneer headstones toppled in Cloverdale

Seven grave markers were knocked over last week in Surrey Centre Cemetery.

The graves stones were nearly all one metre or taller in height and were in the pioneer section of the cemetery, where most graves are more than 100 years old.

“It’s absolutely horrible,” said Michael Gibbs, president of the Surrey Historical Society. “I don’t understand why someone would do something like this.”

SEE ALSO: Surrey Historical Society president offers advice on staying connected and sharing one’s ‘heritage’ during pandemic

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Sue Bryant, a member of the Surrey Historical Society, said she first heard about the vandalism April 26 through the “Friends of West Cloverdale” Facebook page.

“I went up right away and took a bunch of photos,” said Bryant. “Several of the older headstones on the City side of the pioneer section of the cemetery were damaged.”

The damaged grave markers include families such as: McCallum, Elliott, Acorn, Wood, and others.

Bryant gives cemetery tours and is very familiar with the stories of the families that are interred in the graveyard.

“This is very sad, given some of the damaged headstones date back to the late 1800s, early 1900s, and at least two are of children less than a year old.”

Bryant said the pioneer grave sites occupy a part of the graveyard that is somewhat secluded.

“You can’t see the area from any houses. I’ve been there late at night and I’ve seen a lot of people hanging out there.”

SEE ALSO: Surrey Centre Cemetery a wealth of history

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Bryant said the only other vandalism at Surrey Centre Cemetery that she can remember happened about 25 years ago.

“In the mid-90s, a big group of (gravestones) were vandalized.”

Gibbs wondered if, given the profile of the pioneers, the historical value of the pioneer section, and its century-old markers, it wasn’t time for some more security.

“I think we need some cameras in here,” noted Gibbs. “This cemetery is part of our heritage.”

“Cemetery staff have started the process to repair the monuments which were vandalized last week,” wrote Laurie Cavan in an email to the Cloverdale Reporter. “The contractor expects to have the repairs completed by the end of this week (May 1).”

Cavan, the general manager of the Parks, Recreation, and Culture department, said the repair work will restore the grave markers in such a way that they’ll retain their historic appearance.

“To prevent future vandalism, the repaired monuments will be fastened with a metal rod through the monument into its base,” added Cavan. “It is rare for historic monuments in Surrey to be defaced or damaged by acts of vandalism.”



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

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