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Vase thefts add to grief

Crime: At least 300 solid-bronze fixtures stolen from graveyard

Posted: August 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 23, 2011 1:57 a.m.

Chan Reader removes flowers from his son Sean’s gravestone, from a space that usually houses a bronze vase, at Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall on Monday.

Thieves keep stealing metal vases from the grave of a local boy who died of leukemia five years ago, and the boy’s frustrated father wants something done about it.

Since 2006, Chan Reader has worked diligently to preserve the memory of his son Sean, who was 12 years old when he died Aug. 14, 2006.

But three times in one month, thieves stole the brass vase from Sean’s headstone at Eternal Valley Memorial Park & Mortuary in Newhall.

The thefts pain him every time, Chan Reader said.

“If my garage is broken into three times, then that’s a message to me that I have to do something to stop it happening,” said Reader, who is not the only victim.

In the last six weeks, at least 300 solid-bronze 8-inch vases — valued at about $150 each — have been stolen from more than 100 graves in the Rose Garden area of Eternal Valley, owners of the facility confirmed Monday.

“Right now, we are temporarily replacing the vases with less-expensive ones until the issue is resolved,” said Jessica McDunn, spokeswoman for Eternal Valley owners Dignity Memorial based in Houston, Texas.

“A sheriff’s deputy has been assigned to the area. There are now nightly patrols,” she said.

“It’s very difficult to secure cemeteries,” said added. “By their nature, they are open to the public.”

Repeat offenses
In July, thieves stole at least 13 brass flower vases from graves at Eternal Valley, according to incident reports logged by deputies at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.

The vases are attached by a thin chain to each bronze grave plaque.

On the day of the first theft three weeks ago, Chan Reader replaced the vase on his son’s grave, but thieves returned later that same day and stole the replacement vase.

“The day I called, it was stolen again. It’s unbelievable,” Reader said.

Thieves struck three times in the span of three weeks, he said.

Each time they strike, they rob Chan Reader of far more than just a vessel in which to place flowers in his son’s honor.

His love for his son and his devotion to his son’s name turns from disappointment to frustration, and frustration into anger, Reader says.

Chess champ
Every year, Reader keeps the memory of his son alive by holding a benefit dinner in his honor.

Sean’s Night — which helps raise money for the  California Youth Chess League and local chess programs by purchasing magnetic chess boards for hospitalized kids — is held this year on Sept. 10 at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Newhall.

The event also raises scholarship money for after-school chess classes.

Sean Christian Reader, who was leader of the Meadows Elementary Chess Team, was born in Santa Monica on Sept. 18, 1993.

When he attended first grade at Meadows Elementary, he was excited at the chance to join the chess team there.

Three years later, he won the title of Southern California State Third Grade Champion.

In 2005, he became the Western States Sixth Grade Champion — ranked in the national top 100 and ranked in the top three among Southern Californian chess players his age.

Just days after being diagnosed with leukemia, Sean Reader boarded a plane bound for the 2005 SuperNationals in Nashville, where he put his illness out of his mind and finished with five wins and only two losses against the best elementary-school players in the United States, leading his team to a tie for second place nationally.


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