Liberty group returns cemeteries to former glory

LIBERTY, Mo. - An act of vandalism in 2009 inspired a small team of volunteers to look after three Liberty cemeteries. Four years later, they're still going strong.

"There's a lot of them here that (are) leaning, and nobody seems to take care of them." 76-year-old LeRoy Coe said. "You've got to get them up, clean them out, put your gravel in and put them back down."

Coe is a part of the Liberty Cemetery Advisory Committee, which maintains headstones and the grounds in Fairview, New Hope and Mount Memorial cemeteries.

In June 2009, vandals overturned more than 200 headstones in Fairview and Mount Hope. The cemetery committee fixed them all in less than a year, but their work continues today.

"We've leveled and straightened stones that have been hit by mowers or nature has just overturned," committee co-chair Mary Cravens said.

Her uncle discovered the vandalism while walking his dog and Cravens quickly made it her mission to make things right.

"Damage was done mostly in the oldest part of the cemetery, and these graves aren't visited very much, so there would be nobody to fix them," Cravens said.

A group of seven volunteers has spent hundreds of hours volunteering, using mostly-donated materials to restore the cemeteries to respectability.

"I have a grandson that's buried there. He was born premature and died, and I just didn't feel like we could leave the headstones on the ground," Cravens said.

She said the work will continue as long as her volunteers are able. And their work is paying off. Mount Memorial Cemetery was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places.

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