Bisbee graves repaired after flood damage

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BISBEE — Around 50 graves in Evergreen Cemetery were found to have sunk and caved in after heavy rains hit the city last Tuesday.

The 45-acre Evergreen Cemetery, where 15,632 people are buried, is owned and maintained by the city, and when made aware of the dire situation, city work crews moved in as soon as the roads dried to begin work.

Andy Haratyk, city streets operations manager, received a call last week one evening while at home in Naco, Ariz., from Evergreen Cemetery Committee member and former councilwoman Luche Giacomino.  

Every morning she opens the cemetery and locks the gates at dusk. It was around 6:30 p.m. as she and her granddaughters were walking around that they noticed the sink holes around the graves at the lower end of the cemetery. 

There had been a lot of flooding and it all just settled in that lower area,” she said. “I called Andy and he came up to see.” 

Haratyk told her as soon as the roads were passable, he would have the crews at work. In the meantime, he cordoned off three sections to make sure no one was hurt trying to visit their loved ones. 

At no time were any of the caskets exposed or any bodies or bones,” said Haratyk on Thursday. “Some of these people have been buried here for many, many years. The weight of the water and dirt on the top of the coffins just caved some in, and the force of the water shot down holes alongside the coffins sinking them.

It was a mess and the guys did a great job. We made sure the new soil was tamped down and the grave stones secured back in place. We are making sure the graves are presentable for the families.” 

On Thursday, the city’s two groundsmen, Russell Duckworth and  Raul Hildago, with two Department of Correction (DOC) inmate workers, were heaving dirt into the next-to-the-last grave. They had been working hard to get the holes filled in, not just for safety’s sake, but out of respect for those who lie in peace there. 

Duckworth operated the backhoe and brought dirt from a pile used for burials, leaving it as close to each site as he could get. The men, in the midst of an aggressive attack by thousands of pesky gnats, managed to finish the tedious job of manually moving tons of dirt from the loader bucket to the gravesites via wheelbarrow to fill in the sink holes. 

Raul Hildago, another city employee, said that even some of the graves that had been surrounded and covered with concrete had been affected. Those graves were filled in, but there would be no new concrete poured.  

As the men tamped down the soil, they knew more work needed to be done in the cemetery. Thanks to the abundant rainfall, grass, wild flowers and weeds were everywhere and growing tall.

That project, takes seven men five days to mow it all, noted Haratyk.

We couldn’t do it without the help of the DOC inmates.”

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