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Community rallies to raise funds to repair vandalized gravestones

Mark McGreevy and Ryk Bezemer

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
Picton’s Regent Theatre was rockin’ Sunday afternoon as the community gathered to show its support for Glenwood Cemetery. A full house was treated to a matinee concert lasting almost three hours.

The concert was put together in just a few weeks after news that some 175 gravestones and monuments had been aggressively toppled and broken, some destroyed beyond repair, in Picton’s historic 145-year-old Glenwood Cemetery when vandals struck on June 20.

Outrage, disgust and disbelief were felt by many local residents at the senseless and devastating desecration at the tranquil resting place. Some people were lost for words, others had many words, but what transpired was a community that rallied, coming together to put their energy toward a determined effort to transform a bad situation into something good.

“The more destroyers destroy, the more creators must create,” said visual artist Vanessa Pandos.

There are more than 11,000 graves in Glenwood’s 62-acre park-like setting.

“Every life is worth loving and remembering always” are the poignant words inscribed in stone at the entrance way to the picturesque cemetery.

All the musicians and artists performing Sunday were from the County and all donated their time and talent to the cause. One hundred per cent of the proceeds from the event will be put toward restoration and repairs.

The musical extravaganza, dubbed Glenwood Live!, was dreamed up and organized by husband and wife team Sid Wells (host) and Lenni Stewart (performer). The house rocked to the sounds of jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, East coast, opera, ragtime, folk, Broadway, pop and the blues.

“You all know the reason for this concert, I don’t have to tell you, but I do have to say we are not surprised at the outpouring of support from our community,” said Wells. “We knew we would all come together and to make your time and effort, we have 30 musicians, who usually on Sunday are out singing, but they are here to entertain us.”

“What a sense of community this is,” said Rick Zimmerman, the afternoon’s master of ceremonies. “When a community needs to come together and wants to come together, you are right there supporting and I especially want to give a shout out to our arts community and all those people who support the arts community.”

Thanks were given to the many supporters of the cause who had donated time, services, wares and funds, but especially to the event sponsors, Lanny and Catharine Huff, of Huff Estates.

A small silent auction was set up in the lobby which included donated items from local businesses. A table of Glenwood merchandise for purchase included books, angel pins, T-shirts and the new Glenwood Cemetery poster produced by Marc Keelan-Bishop. An information table hosted by Glenwood volunteers provided information about the cemetery.

A Glenwood Cemetery poster signed by all performing musicians was put up for auction and as Zimmerman turned his talents to auctioneering, and within a few minutes of determined and playful bantering, one generous individual offered up $300 for the one-of-a-kind poster.

“Fun, Fun, Fun” was on the playlist for The Reasons who began the afternoon’s event with “Oh Boy”. Judy Fraser Sanders joined the band as vocal accompaniment for a few tunes, including a version of “It’s a Heartache”. Caleb Hutton did double duty as he ducked out of his soundman responsibilities for a few solo songs. He also skillfully continued on with one song, adding words and making up a few notes, after he noted his iPod had stuck.

“That song has more words in it than they are notes in the song”, said Zimmerman to Hutton.

Zimmerman noted there were a few hiccups just 15 minutes into the concert. Things didn’t quite go to plan and the acts didn’t quite follow the scheduled programming, but the technical difficulties and the musical mix-ups simply added to the enjoyment of the afternoon’s entertainment and didn’t seem to matter one bit. Musicians came together to do what musicians do in a professional and entertaining way and a good time was had by all and most importantly, funds were raised for an important cause. It showed the wonderful County spirit and how even when things don’t turn out as planned, you carry on anyway and have a good time.

Lenni Stewart and Rita Di Ghent got together for an unexpected and unplanned duet, making up some of the words as they went – much to the amusement of the audience. “Summertime” and “Route 66” were among some of the duet’s tunes.

“This show should be called ‘Is Caleb [Hutton] around?’” said Di Ghent referring to needing his technical expertise when something wasn’t sounding right.

Celine Papizewska

Other performers included soprano Celine Papizewska who entertained (and dressed up) along with Telegraph Narrows, Astrid Young and Ray Farrugia, Mark McGreevy and Ryk Bezemer, Tom Dietzel, pianist Tibor Császár and others.

“I am really pleased and comforted by all the support that the community has given us through this terrible ordeal,” said Sandy Latchford, Glenwood’s volunteer board chair. “I join Sid in thanking all the performances and Lenni and Sid particularly for organizing this so quickly in a two-and-a-half week period.”

“I also want to thank the OPP,” said Latchford. “They have been working very hard and they were very good at keeping us posted on their work and I know that they have done a great job.”

“I also want to thank those in the community who gave tips and leads to the OPP,” said Latchford. “We are a community and we have to stick together and be vigilant on what goes on around us.”

Two arrests were made by Prince Edward OPP last week relating to the extensive vandalism at Glenwood Cemetery. A 15-year-old male from Kingston and a 17-year-old male from Picton are set to appear at the Ontario Court of Justice in Picton on August 20 to answer to the charge of mischief over $5,000 contrary to the Criminal Code of Canada section 430(3).

It was announced at the concert by Latchford that there may be a third arrest in the works.

Damage at Glenwood is conservatively estimated at $150,000. And due to the extent of the destruction, repairs are expected to be a long-term effort. Other community fundraising events are expected throughout the year.

Latchford noted that an inventory of the damage at Glenwood has now been completed.

“It’s not 100 monuments, it’s really 175, so that’s the bad news” said Latchford. “The good news is the Ruth Guest angel which is made of Carrera marble, which was damaged very badly with broken wings, has been assessed by a stonemason and they are going to be able to repair it. And I am pleased to say, they have offered to do it for free.”

A printed draft list of damaged monuments was available for those who wished to check on family stones, or who were simply interested. The list included the family name, section/block and type of damage noted.

While many stones were noted as tipped over, a few were rolled down the hill, found in a ravine, creek and ditch and many noted damage. A number were also broken into between two to seven pieces although one was broken into 11 pieces. A few crosses and angels were also damaged.

As a non-profit, the cemetery’s only revenue is from the sales of graves, commissions from the sale of monuments, bequests, some from the municipality, fundraising and donations.

Further information on Glenwood Cemetery or for those wishing to donate, can be found at:

Judy Fraser Sanders performing with The Reasons.

Lenni Stewart

Rita di Ghent

Rick Zimmerman auctioning off a Glenwood Cemetery poster signed by all 30 musical acts.

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  1. Pamela Fraser says:

    Very Sad to see people can do this type of heartless damage that affects so many but
    So Wonderful to Live in this Great Community with Hearts to Help Heal.
    Thank You All💝🎼🎸🎶🌷

  2. Ray Hobson says:

    +2 for huge amount of fun. The technical glitches etc were present as expected for an All-Star type show but they only added to the unique atmosphere as the professional side of the entertainers shone. I truly think that was a Concert that will be remembered for the ages. Even better was the financial contribution to Glenwood as our Community Spirit kicked in again.

  3. Gary Mooney says:

    This event was a complete sellout, and more than $10,000 was raised. It was also a huge amount of fun for the performers and audience alike. Rick Zimmerman did a great job as MC, leveraging his great sense of humour.

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