‘I just want somebody to say I’m sorry’: disappointment after vandals desecrate memorial

Dorothy Reitsma passed away in February 2018

A memorial set up in remembrance of Houston resident Henry Reitsma’s late wife was vandalized for the second time in two years after an individual or individuals removed the heads of a plaque set up at the location representing the couple. (Submitted photo)

The husband of a late Houston community member has questions after a memorial commemorating his wife was damaged for the second time in as many years.

Henry Reitsma told Houston Today that he originally built the memorial to commemorate a spot which held a special significance to him and his late wife Dorothy, especially in the couple’s later years when he said his wife was unable to go for longer hikes but that they would still try to get out to take in the local views.

“She was suffering from brain cancer so that’s as far as she could walk,” he explained. “[So] I thought I’m going to build a bench so we can rest there before we start our walk back home.”

Dorothy passed away Feb. 5, 2018. Shortly after Reitsma added a plaque to the site in her memory. In addition, a statue of a mother holding her baby, symbolizing a family friend of the Reitsmas who had lost both their daughter and grandson in a car crash on Hungry Hill, was also added to the location.

This was partially destroyed last year when Reitsma said that vandals removed the plaque from its post and appeared to have used it as a frisbee, with his granddaughter eventually recovering it from the bottom of the hill where the memorial stood. During this incident the first statue was also destroyed.

Despite the shock of seeing a memorial dedicated to the two families vandalized in such a manner, both Reitsma and his neighbour decided it was important to rebuild the site. After reattaching the initial plaque to a stronger steel post an additional statue — this time of a couple, representing Henry and his wife — was added.

It would stand there until about two-and-a-half weeks ago when Reitsma said it was once again destroyed by vandals who removed the heads from the new statue. He said while the act of vandalism was painful that they were not going to be intimidated or scared away by it.

“We are just not going to let vandalism get the best of us,” he said, adding that his neighbour will be ordering a new statue to replace the one which was destroyed.

As for Reitsma, he said above all the frustration he feels he just wishes that the individual or individuals who decided to vandalize the site realizes what they did was wrong.

“I just want somebody to say I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done it,” he said. “They don’t even have to come to me and apologize or anything like that, it’s just something senseless and I hope the somebody who did it has learnt a lesson.”

Local author Debi Smith, who came across the vandalized memorial earlier this month, said that she couldn’t figure out what would possess someone to commit such an offense against such a personal monument.

“What is so terrible in that person’s life that they have to try and show their pain in this manner? Hurting others hopefully brings guilt and remorse which definitely doesn’t feel as good as love and acceptance.”

She said she hopes the vandal or vandals reassess their actions so that in the future memorials like Reitsma’s are around for all in the region to visit.

“May your life improve to where you can learn to enjoy and not destroy things that give pleasure.”

The Houston RCMP detachment told Houston Today that they were unable to locate a file on the most recent event, however Cpl. Mark Smaill confirmed a previous incident had taken place last year, adding that while there were a few suspects, no charges or arrests were made in response to the 2019 incident.

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