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Cemetery caretaker rebuilds after vandals cause havoc at Fergus Falls graveyard

Some of the recent vandalism at the Poor Farm Cemetery in rural Fergus Falls, Minn. (Forum News Service photo)

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — Two different groups of vandals recently hit the Poor Farm Cemetery in rural Fergus Falls.

For nearly five years, 68-year-old Bob Riepe has been caring for this cemetery. Before that, it was just a grassy field.

"When the wires cross, this means that there's a male buried right here," Riepe said, a coat hanger in hand. Riepe uses a technique called "divining" to find bodies who haven't been resting easy under this soil.

"I couldn't believe it. I wanted to cry," Riepe said upon discovering the vandalism.

Riepe says the vandals partied in the darkness, tearing out the flower beds, taking the letters off the sign and tearing down the flag.

Riepe says the vandals picked up some stones and threw them on top of the gravestones, thankfully not damaging anything.

Then they were joined by more vandals who left evidence of their path.

The cows from the south made it past the fence, eating the flowers at the head of each stone, the rosebushes and anything else they could find.

A week later now, Riepe has repaired the site to its nearly former condition.

There may not be flowers on top of each gravestone, and the flag is 5 feet shorter after finding a replacement.

"They will not break me. I am determined," Riepe said.

So he continues with the hope of putting a name or at least the correct number on each gravestone.

Riepe is working on his third historical fiction book about his discoveries and the people laid to rest in this Poor Farm Cemetery.