TIVOLI - Sunlight streaked through the grayed, dead branches of a tree as a butterfly fluttered through the nearly hidden pasture.

The highlighter-yellow winged insect landed on a cracked cross, a headstone broken after a 150-year-old tree branch landed on it during Hurricane Harvey.

"This used to be such a beautiful, quiet, peaceful place," said Tivoli native John Moraida as he looked over the old Tivoli Cemetery.

He reflected on the times when he would walk over to the back of the cemetery, where several of his family members are buried. He'd sit and talk to five generations of family members or just meditate in the country meadow.

Almost five months have passed since Hurricane Harvey swept through the Crossroads, but rural cemeteries are still feeling the effects of the storm.

Moraida has only recently gained access to his family plot. For several weeks after Hurricane Harvey, debris blocked entry to the back part of the century-old graveyard.

In Refugio County, where the towns of Refugio, Woodsboro, Tivoli, Austwell and Bayside were hit particularly hard, the final resting areas for former residents were also affected.

Lydia Aguirre, the caretaker of the Tivoli Cemetery, said hurricane debris broke several headstones. Most of the damage came from the large, old trees in the cemetery.

Wind was the culprit, not water. Trees were either uprooted or blown over, or large branches were tossed throughout the cemetery. One large tree in the back part of the cemetery fell over and blocked access to that part of the cemetery.

"You couldn't even walk in there or see any of the tombstones," Aguirre said.

Right after the storm, a group of volunteers helped clean the predominantly Hispanic cemetery as much as they could, she said. The volunteers also tied an American flag to the branch of a tree at the entrance of the cemetery, where it still hangs because the flagpole was damaged by the storm as well.

Still, it wasn't until late November that volunteers were able to chop down a large, century-old tree that fell in the middle of the back area of the cemetery. Though the tree was taken apart and the path is walkable, the chopped debris is still at the cemetery in a large pile. Equipment such as lawnmowers still cannot navigate through that area to cut the grass, Aguirre said.

Several headstones have cracked, fallen over or shifted from the storm. Other headstones are in danger of damage; the roots of several other trees were loosened from the storm and have started to tilt. One tree uprooted through a cross marker.

While family members have been notified of the damage, some of the damaged headstones - including the cross - do not have names. Or worse, there is no one to notify or pay for the damages.

"Some of these plots are the whole family, and the end of the line has already been buried," Aguirre said.

Christopher Aguilar, the president of the South Texas region of the Texas Funeral Directors Association, said when it comes to storm debris, one hopes trees do not fall on headstones or markers.

"Repairs and replacements can get expensive," he said.

Depending on size and material of the headstone or marker, repairs and replacements could cost hundreds to several thousands of dollars.

Statues or bigger monuments can cost even more, he said. Casket replacement, when water is the reason for damage, can also cost a couple thousand dollars, he said.

Since the headstones or markers are damaged on property purchased by an individual or family, the bill goes back to them, said Jim Kennerly, secretary of the Texas Cemeteries Association. There are home insurance policies, though, that cover memorializations.

"People should check with their insurance carrier to see if that type of coverage is offered," Kennerly said.

Though no cemeteries in the Crossroads have reported having issues with flooding after Harvey, it is not unheard of for caskets to emerge during floods. For that to happen is especially devastating, Kennerly said. Those caskets would have to go through interment again.

"The cemetery business is not an easy one, especially when you get natural disasters like hurricanes," Kennerly said.

In the town of Bayside, the St. Mary's Cemetery - the only cemetery in town - is still in recovery mode from Harvey as well.

Evelyn Barnes, president of the St. Mary's Cemetery board of directors, said many large oak trees came down during the hurricane and headstones toppled over. Families have been notified to get their loved ones' headstones remounted, she said.

The trees and branches, though, didn't break any headstones that she is aware of. Barnes said although most of the branches have been picked up, there are still several trees that are down.

"I've been on the board of directors for over 30 years, and this is the first time we've ever had this much damage. This is the worst I've ever been through or seen in this area," Barnes said.

Volunteers have cleaned up most of the debris at the cemetery, but Barnes said she has not hired a tree removal service to take care of the remaining damaged trees. She is not sure how much it would cost to clean up the 160-year-old cemetery.

"It would be astronomical. We just don't have the funds at all to do all that," Barnes said. "We have been very fortunate to have had volunteers come help."

The Lockhart Cemetery in Cuero also had several large, old cedar trees that broke or were blown over. The trees damaged several headstones and concrete borders surrounding plots, said George McNary, president of the Lockhart Cemetery Association.

"There were trees all over the place. It was just a mess," McNary said.

Cleanup took a couple of weeks and was done by volunteers. The damages are still there, though, he said.

In Tivoli, there is no cemetery association, and the money paid goes toward regular maintenance of the cemetery. Aguirre and a few other residents are trying to get the cemetery back to the quiet, rustic, peaceful place it used to be.

Aguirre is asking families to clean their loved ones' gravesites, and there are plans to have a spring cleaning day to expedite the cleaning process.

But as for the costs of fence repair from the storm and tree and branch removal, Aguirre is just not sure what to do.

"It would cost thousands to get the cemetery back to what it used to be," she said. "At some point, this is where most of us in Tivoli will end up."

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Education Reporter

Amber Aldaco is the education reporter at the Victoria Advocate. She's covered various events in the Crossroads including a zoo rescue, a biker funeral and a state meeting with the governor. She enjoys singing with her significant other.

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