Bethany J. Royer
PIQUA – A grinch -or more than likely a few grinches- have made for less than holiday cheer after an antique urn that had been on a family plot since 1944 at Forest Hill Cemetery was stolen.
“We didn’t know it was gone,” said Jim Roth, cemetery superintendent, of the theft that may have transpired last month given the enormity of the cemetery – 120 acres with nearly 30,000 burials and some 27,000 monuments - poses some challenges in keeping track of the many urns and decor.
According to Roth, thefts of smaller items may go unnoticed until they weed, mow or, in the most recent case, it is reported by family. However, the absence of larger items certainly gets attention as several years ago two large cast iron urns weighing as much as 500 to 600 pounds were stolen.
“One day we went out that way and they were gone,” explained Roth of the private lot location where thieves took off with the urns on the same night. “They didn’t even leave a mess.”
The brazen thieves took off with not only the hefty antiques but the dirt for plantings still inside, with Roth speculating they crossed states lines to sell the items at auction or flea markets. Buyers will pay top dollar for such historic, quality-made cemetery pieces that can be well over a hundred years old.
“People are looking for those things,” said Roth as thieves walk away with a couple grand at the expense of family and their departed loved ones.
For the family of the most recent theft, a long-standing tradition of planting flowers in the urn has been taken from them and they wanted others to know so as to potentially deter future thefts.
Fortunately for Forest Hill Cemetery, thefts are down after last year’s front page headlines of graveside flowers being stolen by a local woman who was subsequently caught by the deceased’s grieving family.
Unfortunately, for those who may have concern about their graveside urns and other mementos, Roth says if a theft does occur the best thing to do is make a police report but it is unlikely the items will ever be recovered.