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Bethlehem business owners to help restore hundreds of toppled tombstones in Berks

By Kimberly Davidow, Reporter
Published On: Jan 07 2013 03:51:48 PM CST

Jace Codi/69 News

The number of tombstones toppled in a beloved Berks County cemetery has now tripled.

MOUNT PENN, Pa. -

Volunteers are giving their time to help repair tombstones that were senselessly knocked over by vandals.

Thousands of people are laid to rest at Aulenbach's Cemetery, which straddles the border of Mount Penn and east Reading. One in ten is a veteran of a war.

Cemetery caretakers found last month that vandals had toppled 350 tombstones.

"This is such a disgrace. I feel bad for the town of Mount Penn and Reading here," said John McGeehan, co-owner of Barker & Barker Corp., based in Bethlehem.

McGeehan is a retired special forces colonel. When heard the cemetery's story on 69 News, he said he and his son, Gavin, felt obligated to help right this wrong.

"I'm just hoping we can take care of this. This is kind of dangerous work, though, because as you can see, they are very, very heavy," said McGeehan.

It would cost Aulenbach's Cemetery nearly $20,000 to repair the damage. McGeehan's crew is doing the work for free.

Many of the toppled tombstones weigh between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds. Because they're top-heavy, they're relatively easy to knock over, however, putting them upright again is a completely different story, McGeehan said.

"There are some stones that we can just push up. Eighty-five percent are impossible to do that. You need equipment. You need people that know their way around with heavy equipment," said McGeehan, adding that the work will take three to five days to complete. "We hope we let them rest in peace."

Crime Alert Berks County is offering a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest of the vandals. The toll-free number to call is 877-373-9913.

"I hope the ghosts of this cemetery and the lives of these people buried here will come back and haunt these people for the rest of their lives," said McGeehan.