October is a good month for cemetery education.
Oregon’s historic cemeteries face their greatest threat every year during the month of October. As Halloween nears vandals begin to prey on our most vulnerable outdoor museums – our graveyards.
The typical profile is a Caucasian male between the ages of 12 and 22. He generally is accompanied by one or more friends, is operating under the cover of darkness or in a secluded area, and frequently is using drugs or alcohol.
Psychologists theorize about issues surrounding lack of respect for authority, lack of power, and peer pressure; however, most cemetery vandals have never been to a cemetery for any legitimate purpose. We live longer, try to spare our children from grief and loss, and pay modern cemeteries for perpetual care. Older neglected cemeteries have the same effect as an abandoned house with a broken window; it invites further neglect and abuse.
Education is the single most important factor in vandalism prevention. Our young people need to be taught to appreciate our historic cemeteries and recognize their value. A cemetery field trip can be the start of a lifelong interest in historic preservation, art, folklore, or wildlife habitat studies.
A graveyard can serve as an outdoor laboratory to study geology, chemistry, biology, and botany. Teachers of math, writing and literature, and social studies all can find creative outlets by utilizing local cemeteries for lesson planning. Art students will have a tremendous variety of gravestones with which to study sculpture, photography, and drawing.