Monday, March 14, 2011

Sacramento Bee article December 21, 2000*

*Wherein "new" owners accidentally break/move markers, admit incompetence, and pledge to do right by the dead. Over a decade later, has anything improved?

Cemetery Cleanup Leads to Mix-Up

Workers Knock Over Old Bellview Headstones; Managers Seek to Correct Problem

A 30-year period of mismanagement had things at Old Bellview Cemetery looking pretty grim, but when the new owners tried to spruce things up, they stirred up a storm of criticism. While trying to clean up an area of the cemetery with a small tractor, workers knocked over some headstones, said Valintin Kalinovskiy, the cemetery's executive director. Old Bellview Cemetery is a small portion of Arlington Cemetery which was bought by Bethany Missionary Slavic Church less than two years ago. "We were cleaning up," said Kalinovskiy.The problem was not easily solved, however, because the cemetery does not have an accurate map of where all the headstones belong or where all the bodies are buried, Kalinovskiy said. Critics and cemetery management met Wednesday in an attempt to solve the problem. The two groups are looking for family members of those buried at the old cemetery to come forward and help figure out where the headstones belong. "Unfortunately for them," said Bob LaPerriere, chairman of Sacramento's Old City Cemetery Committee, "they inherited a cemetery with 30 years of problems." The cemetery on Elder Creek Road between Bradshaw and Excelsior roads "had been vandalized, unkempt, and in really poor shape before the Slavic Missionary Church bought it," LaPerriere said. Kalinovskiy said that the number of headstones disturbed by the cleanup efforts had been grossly exaggerated and that most of the displaced stones had been out of place before the church took ownership. "Only two headstones were moved by us," Kalinovskiy said. The cemetery is looking forward to working with the families to correct matters, he said. "We want to work together and do the right thing," Kalinovskiy said. Margie Porteous is one of the handfuls of Sacramento residents who attended the meeting with the church. Porteous said she has many family members buried in the cemetery, including her grandparents and great-grandparents. She was among those upset with the condition of the cemetery."You would not be happy if you went into the cemetery and found that grave markers were not in the right spot. It is very upsetting," Porteous said. She repeated the call for those with family members buried in the cemetery to come forward to help identify grave sites and eventually rehabilitate the cemetery. She also said there ought to be better laws governing cemetery record-keeping. "There is really nobody to oversee what is going on," she said. LaPerriere said there was no malicious intent on the part of the church. "I don't think the church meant to do anything out of bounds. They weren't aware of how to approach this. They have done some good out there," he said. LaPerriere said he thinks that ultimately more good than bad will come from the situation. "Sometimes it takes something like this to draw enough public attention so some good can come from it," he said.Anyone with a family member buried in Old Bellview is asked to call the Old City Cemetery Committee at (916)448-5665.

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