SPANAWAY, Wash. - For 13 years, Laurie Porter has managed and maintained Bethany Cemetery, making it her duty to ensure everyone here gets the respect they deserve.
“This makes it personal,” she said.
Hundreds are buried in the Spanaway cemetery, including a Civil War veteran and the 4-month-old baby who was the first person laid to rest here in 1896.
So, when Porter showed up to the cemetery Tuesday, there was a hole in her heart.
“I'm sick. Just really angry at mankind," she said.
Someone stole dozens of metal vases from the graves. They’ll cost thousands of dollars to replace, but are worth just a few bucks in scrap for whoever took them.
Glenda Clemons says she considers the cemetery a sort of second home. With 22 relatives buried here she certainly is surrounded by family, including her beloved husband who passed away five years ago. She tries to be philosophical about the situation.
“I've cried a lot of tears,” she said. “This I can fix. I can't bring him back, but this I can fix.”
The gravestone vases are just the beginning. It turns out the little cemetery has been the target of vandals for months. Thieves have broken into a storage shed, taken metal valves from the well that serves the church next door and cut off copper faucets. They even stole the heater from the bathroom.
And if you're wondering why it's so personal for Laurie Porter, among all the destruction here are the graves of her mother, grandparents, great grandparents and a stillborn sister, all vandalized as well.
“There’s nothing I can do about it at this point,” she said, forcing a smile. “But you can’t help but wonder who could steal from people who are gone?"
The cemetery is funded by a small trust and maintained by a group of dedicated volunteers, all of whom have family buried there. If you’d like to help, contact the cemetery at 253-846-1381 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone with information about the thefts should call the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.