Punchbowl flower vases dead or dying

Gene Castagnetti
Gene Castagnetti

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

PUNCHBOWL (HawaiiNewsNow) - While heavy equipment eats at the earth and workers raise and realign grave markers, an inspection is taking place. The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl is looking for wear and tear.

"If the vase is serviceable we'll put it back in at no expense," cemetery Director Gene Castagnetti said.

But the fact is many of the flower vases at Punchbowl are cracked and crumbling, ruined by age and elements.

"It could be in their 15 or 20 years. And like any other product in the ground, exposed to the environmental conditions, they're not going to last for very long," Castagnetti said.

Outside an underground bunker that rises above the cemetery, Punchbowl's graveyard for damaged flower vases grows by the day. It's now well over a thousand.

Many of the older vases and liners contain asbestos so workers box them up for proper disposal.

The vases that can be salvaged are held while next of kin is notified. So far only a few have been reclaimed.

"We can't just maintain a storage for deteriorated vases. So after 90 days if nobody claims them we dispose of them," Castagnetti said.

As the grave work unearths more rusted and ruined vases and liners, the cemetery grows more concerned. It's not responsible for repairing or maintaining flower vases or buying new ones. So Castagnetti is putting out a plea.

"If you have a vase, come up and check it now and we'll help you look at it and determine what you want to do with it," he said.

The grave marker project is only a quarter done.  That means about 12,000 flower vases still must be inspected and thousands of them are sure to be dead or dying.

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