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Church collects to repair headstones

| Saturday, July 20, 2013, 12:41 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Seemingly random acts of vandalism such as these toppled headstones are plaguing the old St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church’s cemetery in North Versailles Township. The church is offering a reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of those involved.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Seemingly random acts of vandalism such as these toppled headstones are plaguing the old St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church’s cemetery in North Versailles Township. The church is offering a reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of those involved.

McKeesport's St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church will pass the offering plate this weekend for donations to repair 12 vandalized headstones in its North Versailles Township cemetery.

The incident apparently happened between July 6 and 8 — one month after the church along Eden Park Boulevard was plunged into a lengthy blackout by the crash of a car into a utility pole.

“It is probably kids,” said the Rev. Gregory Madeya, St. John's pastor, about the vandalism at the cemetery along Crooked Run Road.

“Around a concrete bench there were pop bottles and potato chip bags,” Madeya said.

“They also ripped out veterans' flags, some of the flag holders are missing, and solar lights (at some gravesites) were tossed around and broken.”

The vandalism was discovered in the afternoon on July 8.

“One of the parishioners came to the door and told me about it,” Madeya said. “There were two ladies who said they were up there on (July 6) after our 4 p.m. Mass and they didn't notice anything.”

Collections are slated at Saturday 4 p.m. and Sunday 9:30 a.m. Masses at the church, which serves up to 200 Mon-Yough area families.

The pastor estimated repairs to the headstones could cost between $2,000 and $3,000.

“Some of the footers may be damaged,” Madeya said. “Some you won't know (if they are damaged) until you move those headstones.”

Madeya said the church is trying to raise money for a reward it is offering for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case. Those with information can call the church at 412-672-0923.

Since the vandalism, parishioners have kept a closer eye on the cemetery — as have local authorities.

“North Versailles Township police have been real good about this,” Madeya said. “It is a big chunk of money for us, especially after the accident.”

McKeesport police said the driver in the June 7 accident in which a car sheared a pole between St. John the Baptist and Holy Family Parish Polish National Catholic Church was conscious when paramedics arrived but required treatment at a Pittsburgh trauma center.

Police said the man was southbound along Eden Park when his car crossed the double-yellow lines and hit the pole head on.

City Deputy Fire Chief Don Sabol said power lines were on top of the car. City electrician Tom Rosso was able to cut the lines and remove them from the vehicle, allowing firefighters to extract the driver.

Duquesne Light crews responded to fix the pole and wires. A transformer also was damaged — as was a conduit that carried electricity into the Ukrainian Catholic church.

“We were without electricity for a month,” Madeya said. “They had to dig up a trench 2 feet wide across our parking lot.”

Damage was estimated at $27,000, much of which was covered by insurance. The damage went beyond the parking lot.

“One of our commercial refrigerators and our commercial freezer were shot,” Madeya said. “When the accident took place, we were not able to have as many pyrohy sales.”

After a week without electric service the church brought in a generator that was utilized until the electrical lines could be repaired.

The parish is holding its next pyrohy sale on Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Homemade bread, soup and haluski also will be offered.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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