Photos of broken gravestones in a pile of rubble at the Elk Falls Cemetery generated confusion and outrage on social media this week. Inquiries by the Mirror confirmed that the city removed those markers and set them aside after family members replaced the slabs.
But questions remain about about how the “neatly stacked” markers ended up in a disorderly heap.
Facebook user Johnny F. Elickus, who posted the photos on Monday night to the Facebook group Campbell River Rant, Rave and Randomness, said he was “in shock” after finding the slabs “hidden behind a fence” at the graveyard.
Photos show perhaps 20 gravestones in a pile among bits of stone rubble, apparently from broken headstones.
Other photos show the slabs laid out neatly on the ground – Elickus had apparently placed them this way to display the names of the deceased, so that loved ones could collect the gravestones.
“[Y]ou should get them before they bury them,” he said.
Facebook user Jamie Derken added that the photos were taken at the Elk Falls Cemetery, “by the power lines.”
By Wednesday morning, the post had garnered more than 150 reactions and dozens of outraged and alarmed comments, many from people with loved ones buried at Elk Falls.
Another post showing the same pile of gravestones on the popular “rant and rave” site also sparked dozens of reactions and fuelled animated discussions by people concerned about the apparent desecration of gravestones.
One user, identified as Santana Orel, commented online that one of the headstones belonged to her uncle Ernest Sylvester, but that he was buried at the “old cemetery” – a reference to the graveyard in North Campbell River.
Orel later investigated, and then reported to the group that her family’s graves “do not seem to be missing any stones.”
She added that Sylvester’s gravestone had been replaced around 2005-2006 to accommodate the names of four family members onto one stone.
This led several users to speculate that graveyard officials were discarding stones no longer in use.
Following inquiries by the Mirror, the City of Campbell River confirmed that city workers had stacked a number of disused slabs at the Elk Falls site “as part of its maintenance service.”
Those “neatly stacked” markers were then disturbed by persons unknown, according to Julie Douglas, a city spokesperson.
Douglas told the Mirror that city crews remove markers when families replace old slabs. A number of those markers had accumulated over time, she said, some dating back to the 1950s.
She said it’s up to families what happens to the old gravestones. In this case, families of the deceased “did not want to keep the old ones, and the city found no viable option to recycle them.”
“These markers had been neatly stacked behind a fence and have been recently disturbed,” she said in a July 3 email. “These markers will be removed from the area today.”
Who was responsible for disturbing those neatly stacked stones? That question remains unanswered.
“We can confirm city crews did not disturb them,” said Douglas.