Nyssa cemetery gets a little help from some anonymous friends

While private citizens volunteering funds to help fix the damage at Nyssa’s Hilltop Memorial Cemetery the amount of money for tips in the case has also climbed. (The Enterprise/Jayme Fraser).

NYSSA – Private donors are stepping up to help recovery from vandals’ damage at Nyssa’s Hilltop Memorial Cemetery.

Sandy Smallwood, secretary for the cemetery district, announced an account has been set up for donations to be used for repairing damaged headstones and other memorials.

“Any branch of Umpqua Bank is able to accept donations in the name of Hilltop Memorial Cemetery Restoration,” said Smallwood. Checks made out to that name can be mailed to Umpqua Bank, 271 Main St., Nyssa Oregon, 97913.

Money is mounting for tips to find the culprits.

The Cemetery Association of Oregon has announced a $1,000 reward, joining the donation of $1,000 by Three Rivers Crimestoppers and a $250 amount by OM Stone, a memorial company in Hillsboro. 

The cemetery district board initially believed insurance would cover the damage. Only after contacting the carrier did it find that wasn’t the case.

Since 2000, most homeowner’s policies will cover damage to headstones, but only if the homeowner was the buyer of the stone. Standard policies usually carry a $5,000 limit.

“I have only heard from families who don’t have the coverage,” Smallwood said. “A few families have contacted us and said they are replacing the headstones by themselves. None of the damage has been replaced yet.”

Smallwood said the district is estimating the damage at $50,000.

For the upcoming Memorial Day, temporary markers will be in place.

“Three companies who wish to remain anonymous have paid to have temporary markers placed on the sites where the names were destroyed,” said Smallwood. “Those temporary markers will remain on the sites until the permanent ones are in place.”

A Meridian monument company has also stepped up to help.

Memorial Monuments sent a letter to the Nyssa district stating the company is offering a significant discount to replace the monuments. In the letter, the company said it has collected the specifications on all the damaged stones and will work with families on replacement monuments.

“We have already been out and fixed what can be fixed,” said Joey Chandler, owner.

Chandler said the damage is beyond what he has ever seen. His company has restored headstones knocked over, but for many, the process will need to start from scratch.

“We get a call about once a year from a cemetery where damage occurred,” he said. “By far, this is the most extensive we have ever seen.”

Chandler said the damage goes beyond money and new stones.

“You just can’t replace the sentimental value of some of those markers,” he said. “There is one we believe was originally made by a family member. We can replace it, but not the time and effort made by a family member.”

Chandler said people have been in his office offering to pay and wishing to remain anonymous.

“A lot of great people have stepped up in this horrible situation,” Chandler said.

The Malheur County Sheriff’s Office is continuing the investigation.

“We welcome any information from the public on this,” said Undersheriff Travis Johnson. “We continue to track down leads we are receiving, but have no suspects at this time.”