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Cemetery excavation leaves families up in arms

By CAROLINE GABLE

PORT LEYDEN, N.Y. (WKTV) - A cemetery is a place where loved ones hope that those who have passed will find peace, but a Port Leyden family is up in arms after a disturbance at their family plot.

Members of the Kohl family say that they have parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles buried at the New Covenant Church cemetery, so they were shocked and disturbed to find that ground had been dug up. The church owns the cemetery, and a board member says they hired Shue Brothers last fall to put in a waterline for a wood burning furnace at the nearby parsonage.

After the work was completed, family members coming to visit grave sites were upset at alleged damage to ornaments, and deep trenches close to headstones. Some family members say headstones were moved 180 degrees, and are now facing the opposite direction of their caskets.

Others wonder how it is possible that Shue Brothers could have dug a wide space without moving caskets buried bellow. Calls to Shue Brothers were not returned as of this writing.

Shirley Kohl cried at the grave sites of many, unable to understand how the church wouldn't find the situation insensitive.

"It just ain't right," she said. "How can they rest in peace now? That is what the cemetery is, for them to rest in peace."

Church board member Ruth Reese says that they will follow through to see repairs are made, but many feel the damage has already been done. Jason Kohl says his father and grandfather were both buried at the New Covenant Church Cemetery.

"How would you feel if this was your father, your mother, your son, your daughter, whatever," Jason Kohl said. "Laying here and you had construction come and run over and crack in and sink down in?"

After this incident, some family members say they'll reconsider the Covenant Cemetery as their final resting spot. A deputy from the Lewis County Sheriff's office has been to the site, but police aren't releasing the status of the investigation. However, family members like Jason Kohl say they don't want to pursue any legal action, they just want the cemetery fixed so their loved ones can rest in peace.

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