Wyuka Cemetery has been mourning more than the dearly departed lately.

Three times in the past year, drivers -- one drunk, one disoriented, one desperate -- have taken out sections of its iconic fence.

And earlier this week, its staff found feathers from one of its two resident swans, the victim of an apparent fox attack.

First, the fence: Early Tuesday morning, the driver of a stolen car was trying to elude the owner of the stolen car, and headed east on R Street toward the cemetery’s gate at North 36th.

“They went down a road and they’re like, ‘Holy crap, a fence.’ They’re probably going too fast to stop,” said Mike Williams, the cemetery’s director.

The driver didn’t stop, and it mowed down a section of fence. But it could have been worse: The car missed the more expensive gate and, more importantly, that stretch of fence isn’t 130 years old and historically significant, like the length that lines O Street.

Wyuka Cemetery fence

Caution tape hangs on damaged fencing on the O Street side of Wyuka Cemetery on Wednesday.

Before it protected the cemetery from the city -- or the city from the cemetery -- that fence was wrapped around the original, 10-acre footprint of the University of Nebraska.

It added decoration and dignity to the young campus, and it kept the cows out.

But when the university grew to the east in the 1920s, the fence was removed and replanted at the cemetery more than 20 blocks away, along what would become one of Lincoln’s busiest streets.

Nearly 40,000 vehicles now cruise past it daily, and not all of them make it in one piece.

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Wyuka Cemetery fence

Caution tape hangs on damaged fencing on the O Street side of Wyuka Cemetery on Wednesday.

In November 2018, a driver heading east suffered a health problem. He crossed the median and jumped the curb, flipping his car, which flew upside down through the fence.

Cemetery staff ran out to check on the driver and found him unconscious but alive, his car totaled.

Later, his insurance company would rent him a car -- and he’d hit a building.

Even later, his insurance company would pay the $12,000 to replace the damaged fence, originally built in Kansas but now replicated by a Kentucky foundry that has the original castings.

And even later, Williams said, the man died and was buried at Wyuka.

Last month, a drunk driver took out four fence sections and three posts, doing more than $10,000 in damage. Insurance should pay for that, too.

And then the cemetery lost one of its swans. The male had been there for years; Williams started working at Wyuka in 2006 and the bird preceded him.

He was one of two males that spend summers in the cemetery pond and winters in its shop, with a heat lamp to keep them warm and a baby pool to keep them wet.

Earlier this week, cemetery staff discovered its feathers scattered and blamed one of the resident foxes, though it could have been a coyote, Williams said.

The cemetery is making arrangements to buy another swan.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or psalter@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter.


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