GRAFTON, Mass. — Three Grafton cemeteries have been vandalized in the past year, motivating the superintendent of parks and cemeteries to catch a thief — or two.
In South Grafton, two granite urns were swiped from a grave last fall, while a Virgin Mary statue disappeared over the weekend at the Fairview Cemetery.
At the Riverside Cemetery, on Millbury Street, a statue of a baby angel that has adorned an infant’s grave for 46 years “flew away” last week.
At the Pine Grove Cemetery in North Grafton, in an open plot site set back of the property, thrill-seekers have been tearing up the sod with vehicles. No headstones have been tipped or damaged.
“I haven’t seen it this bad in such a short period of time,” said Phil Johnson, superintendent of parks and cemeteries and 13-year veteran.
Johnson is an observant caretaker: He is on the properties daily and knows every inch. He notices when something is out of place.
On Mother’s Day, Johnson said thieves stopped by all three properties and cleared out the plants and flowers left by mourners. He then fielded phone calls from anguished family members.
“It’s heart-wrenching to hear this,” he said.
The Grafton Police have been patrolling the area but are limited in what they can do, Johnson said.
Even though the properties are technically closed after dusk, Johnson said he will not close the gates because the days are shorter and many mourners visit during the Holidays.
But the superintendent has a plan: He moved a hidden camera around the sites, hoping to photograph the thieves in action and hand the evidence over to the Grafton Police.
His goal, he said, is to bring the vandals to justice.
Johnson has asked visitors to be observant and report any suspicious activity to the Grafton police at 508-839-2858.