Vandalized headstones at Highland Cemetery repaired

Published 1:08 pm Friday, November 11, 2022

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A crew of employees from Hitchcock Memorials and Tetrick Funeral Home worked most of the day Thursday repairing and resetting tombstones on their bases in the old Highland Cemetery. The headstones had been turned over and many knocked from their bases by vandals in the dark of night in late October.
“There probably were 20 or more of the headstones — some of them very old and heavy that were vandalized,” said Joe Alexander, president of the Carter County Cemetery Association, which oversees the historic cemetery.
Five workers from Hitchcock Memorials with two trucks used a lift mounted on the back of the trucks to lift the toppled stones back on their bases. “Some of them weighed almost a ton,” said Eric Mondrage of Hitchcock Memorials, which is owned by Tetrick Funeral Home. “Before we put them back in place we will seal them at the base with a type of concrete putty. If we don’t, water will seep in between the headstone and base, and in freezing weather, the water can freeze and cause cracks in the stone,” explained Mondrage.
In addition to the vandalized stones, the monument company employees also straightened several other headstones in the cemetery that over time had settled and fell over. “These graves will also be made right,” said Mondrage.
“Some of these stones are very old and are worn from both time and the elements. It is a very historic cemetery, and probably some of the people buried here no longer have family living. So, it feels very good to help with putting these markers back in place,” said Mondrage.
Tyler Tetrick, vice president of Tetrick Funeral Home, who was also on scene, said he was happy to help. “Sadly, we see vandalism, such as this, happen from time to time. This has been a hurtful thing for so many families who have loved ones buried in this historical cemetery. My wife has family buried here. So many families have connections to this cemetery. And, when your community’s hurting and you have the assets and the people to help out, you step forward and you volunteer to be helpful to the community in any way you possibly can,” said Tetrick.
Alexander, who has an old map of the cemetery, said he hopes to do a census of the cemetery in the near future, to get a correct count of the number of graves there. “I do know that we have a lot of vacant spaces here. Many of these graves are old and many interred here were born in the 1800s. Some were leaders in early Elizabethton. There are soldiers from the Civil War buried here as well as soldiers from World War I and II,” said Alexander.
The old part of the cemetery, located on top of the hill on Tipton Street. is maintained by a perpetual fund. The newer part of the cemetery, located on the north side of the old cemetery, is maintained by the families who have members buried there.
Alexander said the Carter County Cemetery Company was set up when the Tipton and the Viall families set up a trust fund for the care of the cemetery. Both families have family members buried in the cemetery. “We are responsible for making sure the grounds are mowed and landscaped. However, we don’t have money in the fund for repairs like this, so we were pleased when Tyler volunteered his company’s resources to fix the damaged headstones,” said Alexander.
Tetrick said his family’s funeral home had served a number of the families who have members interred in the cemetery, and “we just wanted to help. We are the only monument company in the area with the ability to repair the damage, and we owed it to the community to do it.”
Tetrick estimated that the repairs at the cemetery would have cost $15,000 to $20,000 if there had been a charge. “It is a local cemetery. We are a local company and making the repairs was the right thing to do,” he said.
Alexander said he’s thankful for Tetrick’s contribution and the workers with Hitchcock Memorials.
“It’s a beautiful cemetery and very historic. Also, it sits on top of a hill in Elizabethton. You can kind of overlook the whole community from this cemetery,” said Alexander. He said he drives up to the cemetery about once a week and checks things out.
He said he plans to improve security adding surveillance cameras and lights around the property.

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