Vandals damage grave markers at pioneer cemetery

EUGENE, Ore. - Vandals damaged two grave markers at a pioneer cemetery this week.

The Luper Pioneer Cemetery suffered extensive vandalism damage in 2009, when vandals smashed gravestones and used the pieces to make a fire pit.

Volunteers banded together to repair the damage to the cemetery, founded in the mid-1800s.

Peter Thurston with Luper Cemetery Inc. said the new damage will be dealt with as part of ongoing rehabilitation efforts.

Thurston said volunteers found two grave markers knocked over, one dating to 1867.

"We'll stand it back up again," he said. "It didn't get broken; that's great."

Across the way, another headstone was completely shoved off its base.

"It would have really taken some heft to push it over," Thurston said. "It's off of its pedestal so we'll have to figure out how to lift that thing back up."

This is at least the third vandalism episode at the pioneer cemetery in the last four years. "It kind of throws you for a loop, and to have, you know, come out and find somebody has just thoughtlessly tipped some things over is kind of discouraging," Thurston said.

"This represents our history. This is where we came from; the people who first arrived in this valley.  Many of them came in the mid-1800s," he said.

Over 160 people are buried at Luper, including 17 people who arrived in the area via the Oregon Trail.

A special event is set for Memorial Day Weekend for the public to visit and hear some of the pioneer stories. 

The cemetery gate on West Beacon Drive will be open each day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

This is a developing story. Watch KVAL News at 11 and KVAL.com for updates