Signs to warn of falling tombstones

Despite their occasionally ghoulish reputations, historic cemeteries are generally tranquil, peaceful places. But there are potential dangers lurking among the tombstones.

The Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries is trying to spread the word that granite and marble markers that once were sturdy and firmly planted can loosen over time and pose a danger to cemetery visitors.

Dirk Siedlecki, vice chairman of the state commission and president of the Friends of Jacksonville Cemetery, is heading up the effort.

Over the next few months, Siedlecki will install signs in all the historic cemeteries in Jackson County, warning visitors of the dangers of falling monuments. The signs will eventually be installed in every historic cemetery registered in the state of Oregon.

Siedlecki said it's a precaution more than a response to local mishaps.

"Nothing locally has happened," said Siedlecki, "nothing serious." However, Siedlecki said, a few years ago a woman in Ashland broke her leg in several places after a marker fell on her and two years ago in Colorado a child was killed by a falling cemetery monument.

"There are accidents," he said. "This thing in Colorado two years ago was such a sad situation and the commission has been talking about it ever since."

The signs were designed by cemetery commissioner Mike Leamy from Astoria and are done in a European style showing a stick figure with a marker leaning.

"It should help, sometimes pictures are better than words. They are easy to read and clear to understand what we are trying to tell people," said Siedlecki.

Signs will appear in the Eastwood, Logtown, Antioch and Phoenix cemeteries as soon as Siedlecki can install them. Larger sites such as Jacksonville will require more than one sign.

"There's been a lot of concern by people who work and volunteer in the cemeteries about a lot of the markers that are loose or leaning," said Siedlecki. "We really do want to warn people or adults that these things can be quite dangerous. We really urge people not to lean on them or touch them, they can quite easily fall."

Reach reporter Mandy Valencia at 541-776-4486 or by email at

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