By Keith Gushard
UNION TOWNSHIP — The grave of former Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond P. Shafer of Meadville was targeted by vandals who did damage at St. John’s Church and St. John’s Cemetery in Union Township over the weekend.
“We’re horrified,” Diane Shafer Domnick, Shafer’s daughter, said in an interview at The Meadville Tribune on Monday afternoon.
St. John’s is an isolated church located along Mercer Pike in a rural area of south-central Crawford County. The church and cemetery, about four miles south of Meadville, are located across from each other along Mercer Pike.
The red brick church building of St. John’s was painted with graffiti, while the earth over the former governor’s grave was disturbed. Domnick confirmed to the Tribune that someone had dug down several feet to the burial vault, which contains a casket with the governor’s remains.
Stone work on the Shafer family monument in the cemetery was damaged and painted with graffiti, Domnick said. The grave headstone of Domnick’s mother, former Pennsylvania First Lady Jane Shafer, also was disturbed, she said.
“It was desecrated,” a visibly shaken Domnick said quietly during the interview. “We’re working with Waid Funeral Home to get it repaired.”
Pennsylvania State Police at Meadville are investigating the vandalism incident which took place sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning, according to a news release. That news release was issued Sunday by state police, but the release didn’t indicate the vandalism had included the former governor’s grave site.
Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz confirmed Monday there had been vandalism at the church and there was an ongoing investigation, but he declined to comment on any specifics of the case.
Domnick said she was devastated after learning of the incident via a phone call about 10:30 a.m. Sunday from a parishioner of the church.
The Shafer family has deep roots to St. John, with Shafer ancestors helping to found it. The Rev. David Philip Shafer, the former governor’s father and Domnick’s grandfather, was its pastor at one time.
“It’s horrible to think that people were going to worship when they had to look at this,” Domnick said of the vandalism.
She quietly declined to specify what was written on the church and monument.
“I will not tell you anything that was written, except my father’s accomplishments were targeted,” she said.
Attorney Chuck Swick, a Shafer family friend and still an active partner in the Shafer Law Firm of Meadville, said he was surprised by the vandalism directed at the gravesite when informed by a reporter on Monday.
Domnick said she, her brother, Phil, and other family members are at a loss as to why it may have been done.
“We don’t know the purpose other than to gain notoriety without blame,” she said. “It had to be a group (because of the amount of damage). We’re very confident they (state police) will find out who did this.”
Persons with information about the incident are asked to contact state police at Meadville at 332-6911.
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