Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City firm restores vandalized headstones

Aided Jewish cemetery in 1999 attack as well

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Matthew From, of Everlasting Memorials, shows how the company plans to repair a headstone from the Hebrew Sick Benefit Cemetery.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Matthew From, of Everlasting Memorials, shows how the company plans to repair a headstone from the Hebrew Sick Benefit Cemetery. Photo Store

A stonecutter and his crew have restored the cemetery headstones vandals toppled last week.

"We wanted to put the headstones back up. We put anchors and bolts in the larger ones and silicone into the others," said Ray From, whose family operates Everlasting Memorials in Winnipeg.

The crew, which included most of his family, drove a truck and power lift Wednesday to the Hebrew Sick Benefit Cemetery to restore the stones free of charge.

On the May 10-11 weekend, vandals knocked over 20 to 25 headstones at the cemetery north of Garden City.

Police investigated and ruled out anti-Semitism as a motive.

Jonathan Buchwald, executive director of Etz Chayim Synagogue, which oversees the cemetery, called the damage "fairly minimal."

He said the vandalism was confined to two rows in a couple of sections.

"At this point, there's no graffiti and no evidence that it's anything more than just kids goofing around and thinking they're smart," Buchwald said at the time.

On Wednesday, Buchwald expressed his appreciation.

"We are very grateful and appreciative to Everlasting Memorials for helping us out and stepping forward. At the same time, there are other memorial companies that have offered to help, as well as concerned citizens and congregants," he said.

Police are investigating the vandalism and though there is no suggestion the attack was a hate crime, the vandalism is still a shock.

News of the attack struck a chord of compassion with the stonecutters.

"We did what we could do to help," From said.

The Froms used mechanical equipment because eight headstones that had been knocked over weighed close to 362 kilograms each. Remounting them meant using a power lift.

"We couldn't do that by hand," From said.

The heaviest stone, a granite marker weighing close to 408 kilograms, was damaged, so the crew brought it back to the memorials shop to repair. They'll erect it once it's fixed.

The same family of stonecutters came to the aid of the cemetery the last time it was vandalized.

In 1999, vandals knocked over 300 headstones, smashing 85 of them beyond repair.

The attack made international headlines and hostilities intensified when five young people behind the attacks were spared jail, largely on the grounds of their expressed remorse. Everlasting Memorials helped fix the damage, From said.

"We dropped everything and went to help," From said. "That time, it looked like bomb hit it."

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 22, 2014 A8

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