A Limestone County family discovered an unwelcome addition to the family cemetery over the weekend — the word "LOSER" apparently spray-painted on a headstone in the corner.
The headstone marked the grave of George W. Hardy, who is listed on the marker as a private in the 9th Regiment of the Alabama Calvary of the Confederate States Army during the Civil War. Born in 1846, Hardy died in 1914 and was laid to rest in the family cemetery on Hardy Road, next to his wife, Elvy.
His descendant, Sharla Deschaine, said her uncle discovered the vandalism Sunday when he went to mow the grass in the cemetery. She called it "disrespectful," because Hardy can't speak for himself.
However, of all the military or Civil War era graves in Hardy Cemetery, his headstone in the corner is the only one that was vandalized.
"Somebody wanted to just take advantage of the situation, with all the Confederate stuff that's being vandalized," Deschaine said. "It was just opportunity."
Limestone County hasn't been immune to conversations about Confederate memorials, with one group even taking up money to move a statue off the courthouse grounds and several residents speaking at government meetings on either side of the issue. However, Hardy Cemetery may be the first report of a Confederate soldier's headstone being vandalized in recent months. A nearby cemetery featuring multiple Confederate soldiers, including a few whose graves are decorated with Confederate flags, remained untouched Monday.
Furthermore, Hardy's grave is in the corner of the cemetery property, with only a few feet of grass and a chain-link fence separating it from the road. Deschaine said whoever did it was probably someone who "had no idea about history or what's going on. They just wanted to be a hoodlum."
Regardless of intent, vandalizing a grave marker remains a crime, punishable by up to one year in jail under Alabama law. Deschaine said she spoke with an LCSO deputy Monday morning and sent pictures of the vandalism.
She said it's not the first time someone has vandalized the cemetery, and while she's worried it may happen again, she also believes raising awareness of the issue is important.
"You're defacing somebody's grave," she said.
She and her family are direct descendants of Hardy, she said. In addition to him, her mother, aunt and other relatives are buried in the same cemetery, and it's their time and money that is spent on upkeep.
In fact, when Deschaine arrived at the cemetery to speak with The News Courier about the vandalism, she arrived with rags and spray bottles so she could spend her Monday afternoon trying to remove the paint from her great-great-grandfather's headstone.
"People spend good money on these grave markers," she said.
She said the family is considering increased security to prevent another incident — or, at the very least, to catch the next person who tries to vandalize markers in the cemetery.