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Boalsburg Memorial Day events carry on despite recent vandalism
Reported By: Gary Sinderson
Written By: Marc Stempka
HARRIS TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- The Memorial Day remembrances and activities continued in full swing under sunny skies in Boalsburg, Centre County, despite the recent desecration of headstones at the cemetery where Memorial Day is believed to have started.
Earlier in May, 51 headstones at the Boalsburg Cemetery were knocked over or damaged by vandals. More than $100,000 in damage was done, and crews worked feverishly to upright and make minor repairs to as many headstones as possible before the Memorial Day events.
In that cemetery in 1864, three women decorated the gravesites of Civil War veterans, sparking what is now widely considered as Memorial Day nationwide. A statue of the women stands in Boalsburg, marking the women's actions 150 years ago.
In addition to the annual festivities, this year included a check presentation to the Boalsburg Cemetery Association from a local restaurant owner. The donation was from a fundraiser that was held to help cover some of the costs of repairing the damaged headstones.
David Letterman, of Bonfatto's restaurant in Boalsburg, held the barbecue fundraiser a couple weeks ago, raising $11,225 for the Save the Graves group, established to help with the repairs.
"At first it was disbelief, then anger, and then quickly turned into, 'Okay, what can I do?'" Letterman said. "Yeah, I'm pleased. I had a goal and we exceeded our goal. It was great to see all the support of the community."
After this year's Memorial Day events conclude, cemetery association president Pete High said work will continue to repair the headstones.
"Guys will probably still be working on this most of the summer because a lot of the stones that were tipped over were just stood back up," High said. "They need to be reset and set straight."
As thousands came through Boalsburg Monday, more money continued to be donated to the association to help cover repair costs. So far, an estimated $30,000 has been collected.
"As an association we know how much we care about this cemetery," association member Jeff Selvage said. "But now we also know how much it means to people in the community."
Association members said the Memorial Day events continue to focus on honoring those who've served the United States, and not about being first in the nation to celebrate the holiday. They said it's about the fact the community has come together to honor those who've served for 150 years.
A reward is still being offered for anyone with information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the vandalism case. The reward is currently at $3,000 and is being offered by the State College Police Department and the Harris Township supervisors.