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Hummer's run-in with Liberty graveyard leaves it in pieces

Published: Fri, July 11, 2014 @ 12:09 a.m.

Motorist’s run-in with Liberty graveyard leaves township officials to pick up pieces


Liberty Twp Trustee Jodi Stoyak looks over damage done to fence and tombstones at township cemetery atcorner of Rt 304/193.




Two missing sections of cemetery fence along Church Hill-Hubbard Road, deeply gouged tire tracks in the cemetery and flattened, broken gravestones tell the tale.

The ornate metal fence is an attractive border around Liberty Township’s Church Hill Cemetery at the corner of Church Hill-Hubbard Road and Belmont Avenue, but it was no match for the Hummer that crashed through it after the driver, who’d been eastbound on Churchill, had a medical issue and lost control at 3 p.m. June 26.

Township trustee Jodi Stoyak walked through the damaged area Thursday, the first time she’d gotten a chance to see it up close.

The township already has contacted its insurance carrier about the damage and was given an estimate on the fence of $1,700 to $1,800, she said.

But as she walked through the accident site, in the oldest section of the cemetery with graves dating to the early 1800s, it became clear that replacing the tombstones is not going to be as simple.

She bent down and lifted the largest piece of a stone that was cracked in three, bleached white and unreadable.

“Probably a child — I don’t know how detailed our records are,” she said as she put it down and continued on.

“This is a veteran,” she said as she examined another broken stone. “Charles — I can’t read the date there — that’s a shame,” she said.

“This is from somewhere else,” she said about a stone that was lying across a grave that already had its marker. “And this is part of his car,” she said as she picked up a piece of the Hummer.

At least a half-dozen very old gravestones are broken. The families who buried their loved ones there are likely long gone, Stoyak said, and no one has come forward since the accident about repairing or restoring the stones.

The township has owned the cemetery since the early 1900s, said former road superintendent Tim Monroe.

“Unfortunately, that section — Section C — there’s no records for it,” he said.

The records were stored at one of several township churches, he said. But a tornado or a fire destroyed the church and the records. The history, as it was told to him, is fuzzy, he said.

With no way to trace who is buried there, and no way to contact families who may be interested in restoring or replacing the stones, the township could try to repair them, he said.

“A lot of those stones are so fragile,” he said. “If you even try to straighten them, they just snap. There are different types of adhesives they can use.”

He said he doesn’t know if they could be restored, or how much that type of work would cost.

“That would be up to the township to work that out with insurance,” he said.

Stoyak said the township can repair the damage in the cemetery and then file for reimbursement from the insurance company of the driver, Raymond Lewis Jr., 58, of Pinecrest Road in Girard.

She said she is leery of doing that, because she is afraid the township won’t get the reimbursement. She said she would rather have the driver’s insurance company pay for the damage.


1valleypoboy(227 comments)posted 2 years ago

And just why wouldn't this guy's insurance cover the damages he caused. Isn't that the whole point of insurance?

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2captainlinger(663 comments)posted 2 years ago

There's a Hummer in Liberty?

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3papa1(711 comments)posted 2 years ago

what was the "medical condition?" this person had to be going like a bat out of hell to crash through that fence, going uphill, and continue on to destroy gravestones. I don't care what he was driving. if he would have gone straight, someone might have been killed.

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476Ytown(1364 comments)posted 2 years ago

The driver of the car should be entirely responsible for the damage to the cemetery and to the stones. The township sounds apathetic to the problem as though they don't know who the markers belong to, they are so fragile that they may not be able to be repaired, no one has come forward since the accident about repairing or restoring the stones. Go after the guy that destroyed this property for pete's sake!!! The township has owned the cemetery since the 1900's. Sounds like they are not being good stewards.

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5HistoryMaven(1 comment)posted 2 years ago

The Ohio Revised Code charges township trustees with providing "the protection and preservation of cemeteries under its jurisdiction.... The board may enclose such cemeteries with a substantial fence or hedge, and shall keep any such fence or hedge in good repair. It may re-erect any fallen tombstones, regardless of the cause of the falling, in such cemeteries." "May" differs from "will", but the law seems to be based more on providing a safe environment for visitors rather than the preservation of gravestones.

The Liberty Township Trustees may wish to consult --or have a historian consult--the following sources to research the damaged (and other) gravestones: "Ohio Deaths and Burials, 1854-1997" is available online. The Trumbull County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society published in 1983 "Trumbull County, Ohio, Cemetery Inscriptions, 1800-1930." This volume should contain the damaged gravestones' information. Individual family histories, census and tax records, and newspaper research could also help. By Ohio law all veterans' interments are recorded by the county recorder. Veterans' gravestones may be replaced by the Veterans' Administration: Contact Rep. Tim Ryan's office.

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