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Sat, Aug. 24

Century-old headstone back in place

Conservator Donna Williams puts a piece from the broken base back into place on a headstone she is restoring that vandals damaged at the Citizens Cemetery in Prescott.

Courier/Les Stukenberg

Conservator Donna Williams puts a piece from the broken base back into place on a headstone she is restoring that vandals damaged at the Citizens Cemetery in Prescott. Courier/Les Stukenberg

One would assume that the tragedy surrounding the life of Vivie Green was over when she committed suicide in Prescott on Aug. 9, 1905.

But vandals revived her tragic circumstances a century later when they tore the ornate cross from her headstone in Citizens Cemetery and dumped it in the bushes next to a nearby hotel.

Vivie got her revenge, however. Police caught the vandals.

Corey Terry, 20, of Cathedral City, Calif., and a 17-year-old Prescott boy pleaded guilty to felony theft and must pay as much as $2,000 each to repair the historic gravestone. The court dropped other charges of criminal damage and minor consumption of alcohol.

Terry, a part-time deli worker, told a Prescott Police officer that he threw the headstone in the bushes back in February because he was “anti-Christian,” according to the police report.

Citizens Cemetery along Sheldon Street is the final resting place for about 2,500 people. It opened in the 1870s and the county government stopped allowing new graves in 1933 when the cemetery filled up. The dead there include prominent lawmen, miners killed in the harsh Bradshaw Mountain conditions and children who succumbed to the pneumonia epidemic in the 1910s.

For years while the cemetery fell into disrepair, vandals continued to steal many of the headstones and vagrants made the cemetery their home.

Since the Yavapai Cemetery Association members began volunteering their time to keep the cemetery clean, the vandalism has gone down substantially, but it hasn’t gone away completely despite the close proximity of homes and a major city thoroughfare.

Being a non-profit group, the Cemetery Association has a hard time coming up with the money to fix all the vandalized gravestones and replace others.

As a result, President Pat Atchison made sure that the judges involved in the latest vandalism case forced the guilty parties to pay to repair the grave of Eveline “Vivie” Green.

Her death was big news in the small community of Prescott in 1905. The Journal-Miner dedicated two stories to the sometimes gory details of how she shot herself at the edge of town and how her husband E.S. Green, manager of the Yavapai Club, was “deranged” with grief. She also left a 5-year-old son.

E.S. Green, like 40-odd other grieving relatives of those buried at Citizens Cemetery, decided to buy a new-fangled “white bronze” headstone for his wife.

It actually was made of zinc, but the manufacturer marketed it as “white bronze” to make the poured molds more acceptable to the public. It doesn’t erode like marble or become green with lichen like granite, and its details of vines and flowers remain striking.

The lone manufacturer started making the zinc headstones in 1879 but basically stopped production at the onset of World War I, and that was the end of the white bronze gravestones.

That’s one reason it was so hard for Atchison to find someone to fix the scrapes on the cross and affix it on a new, stronger base. She finally found art conservator Donna Williams of Los Angeles.

Williams spent about two days this past week repairing and mounting the cross. A monument that cost only a handful of dollars to buy cost thousands to repair.

Atchison hopes that the fact that the vandals now have felony records and depleted pocketbooks will deter others from stealing the markers that adorn the graves of Prescott’s pioneers.

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