Days after a vandal struck the cemetery in Franklin, Mayor Steve Barnett and hundreds of other volunteers were honoring veterans by placing flags on their graves during an event on Memorial Day weekend.
They saw the damage to at least a dozen headstones, some more than 100 years old, at Greenlawn Cemetery, which had been caused earlier in the week by a vandal or vandals. The wide swath of damage was the worst at the cemetery in years.
Tim Stakelbeck, owner of Franklin Monument Co., which is next to the cemetery at U.S. 31, Young’s Creek and South Street on the south side of the city, told Barnett he wanted to fix the damage. For free.
“That’s what makes Franklin what Franklin is,” Barnett said. He said he appreciates Stakelbeck’s work, and is grateful for him.
Stakelbeck had volunteered his time and equipment after the 2008 flood knocked down 73 headstones, causing devastating damage.
This time, he wanted to fix the man-made damage.
On Tuesday, he finished the final work of repairing the finials that had been broken when towering headstones were knocked down. He had already spent two days using his equipment to reset nine stones.
“He just did it to be a good Samaritan because he believed it was the right thing to do,” Greenlawn operations supervisor Stuart Smith said.
Stakelbeck said he wanted to do the work because he works hand-in-hand with the cemetery and he wants to give back.
“I’ve been a part of this community my entire life,” Stakelbeck said.
His grandfather founded the company in 1922, and Stakelbeck purchased it to bring it back into the family about 12 years ago.
He estimates the cemetery repair work would have cost more than $1,000 if the city had hired someone. The city offered to try to reimburse him for some of the expenses or to send a crew to mow his grass, but he refused the offer, Smith said.
“Citizens like him are what make Franklin the place it is,” Barnett said.