Remy Boulbol said it was like “a punch in the gut,” when she heard upwards of 18 plaques were stolen from a Centennial Park Memorial Garden sponsored by the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON).
“How desperate must someone have been to do something so horrific. It’s gut wrenching,” said Boulbol, a manager with the Sarnia chapter of the homecare and outreach charity.
Police say the brass plaques were first noticed missing on November 18. By the next afternoon even more were gone.
They were located near the Suncor Agora band shell, and appear to have been ripped or pried from a concrete mount. Before the theft there were about 30 plaques, each weighing about 10-pounds each and eight inches wide with varying lengths. On them are names of loved ones in the community who have passed away.
For a $100 donation to VON, families can have their loved one memorialized on the plaques, Boulbol said, and this year they added 100 new names to the display. For some families the plaques are the only memorial they have for deceased family, she said.
“It’s a place that’s supposed to be one of calm… reflection, and memory, but right now it’s a place that’s sad, and that breaks my heart.”
Boulbol said they notified families about the thefts right away, and they’re focused on replacing the missing plaques as soon as possible. They each cost over $2,000 to produce and she estimates it’ll take about $20,000 to replace them all.
VON is seeking donations to replace the plaques. For more information visit: http://www.von.ca/en/sarnia/support-von.
VON officials have since removed the remaining plaques to prevent any more from being stolen.
It’s widely suspected thieves nabbed the plaques in hopes of selling them as scrap metal. Sarnia Police constable Shawn Urban wondered if the recent end to the Sarnia General Hospital demolition has anything to do with the bold theft.
“It’s been a steady source of income for a bunch of people,” he said of the hospital, which has since been levelled after a 14-month demolition. But while it was standing it saw a steady stream of copper thieves rummaging through the halls.
But unlike the generic wire and pipe pulled from the hospital, these plaques are unique and easily identified – even if cut into tiny pieces, said Doug Slipacoff, fourth generation owner of Sarnia metal recycler Trijan Industries.
But that doesn’t mean the thieves still won’t try to sell them.
“We’ve had people steal from the cemetery… trying to steal brass urns off grave sites,” he said. “We called the police.”
Slipacoff says they’re on the front lines of metal theft in Sarnia, and work closely with police to curb it. He said metal sellers that come to Trijan are verified with proper identification. He thinks most area metal recyclers do the same.
“Of course there’s probably some bad actors out there who really don’t care where they’re buying the material from… but 98% of all companies in scrap metal are honest companies that don’t want to deal with stolen metal.”