AVON, Ohio (WJW)-- The mausoleum at St. Joseph Cemetery in Avon is steeped in the history of the Catholic church in Northeast Ohio.
The art work, pews and alter in the mausoleum’s chapel were salvaged from the historic St. Joseph Church in Cleveland after it was destroyed by fire in 1993. It's common for the families of the departed to gather in the St. Joseph Chapel for prayer services and to light votive candles in memory of their loved ones.
"A family just comes and lights the candle, has a moment and the candles will burn for seven days," said Callahan Miller, cemetery family service representative.
The operators of St. Joseph were disappointed to learn that someone pried open the chapel's candle donation box and stole the cash.
“It's a very upsetting thing, not only to the staff here at the cemetery, but the families. You know, we have many families that come in and light the candles on a regular basis, and for them to come and see somebody with it broken into, it's kind of a shame. It kind of puts a damper on the whole spirit of things,” Miller said. "For somebody to have the mindset to come in here, you know, to a place of remembrance, a place where burials take place and come in and do something like that, I couldn't even believe it."
The theft is now being investigated by Avon police and the cemetery reports the candle donation box has been broken no less than five times in recent years.
That's why the operators of St. Joseph are now taking steps to place the box in a more secure building currently under construction on the grounds of the cemetery.
The opening of the family visitation center will mark a new chapter in the history of St. Joseph, and the staff is hoping the thief or thieves who have been targeting the cemetery will learn to respect its hallowed grounds.
"If somebody's situation has put them at that point, I wish them nothing but the best, and you know, I hope everything gets turned around for them. But at the same time, we've all had low moments and that's another low moment to hit, so all the best to them, but let's make sure it doesn't happen again," Miller said.