Man claims driver caused $20,000 in damage to New London gravesite

Joseph Spadaro is asking the Diocese of Norwich to help pay for the cost of repairing his parents' mausoleum, seen Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. It was struck and damaged at St. Mary Cemetery at 600 Jefferson Ave. in New London by an unlicensed driver who fled the scene on Sept. 3. An initial estimate puts the cost of repair at $20,000. (Greg Smith/The Day)
Joseph Spadaro is asking the Diocese of Norwich to help pay for the cost of repairing his parents' mausoleum, seen Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. It was struck and damaged at St. Mary Cemetery at 600 Jefferson Ave. in New London by an unlicensed driver who fled the scene on Sept. 3. An initial estimate puts the cost of repair at $20,000. (Greg Smith/The Day)

New London — In all the years he’s traveled from his home in Long Island to his parents’ gravesite here, Joseph Spadaro had never given much thought to the cost of the mausoleum where they are entombed.

That changed on Labor Day weekend, when he received a call from someone at St. Mary Cemetery in New London. An unlicensed driver on cemetery property struck and damaged his parents’ mausoleum, crashing through its gate and upheaving the granite structure housing two caskets.

Estimates he’s gotten so far for the repair and reconstruction of the mausoleum top $20,000. Spadaro, 82, is appealing for help from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich and anyone else who will listen.

He is the lone remaining family member, he said, and therefore responsible for the mausoleum. He says he will not only have to pay for repairs but all related expenses — including removal, storage and re-entombment of the caskets containing the remains of his parents.

Spadaro’s homeowner’s insurance has offered $1,000, he said.

He's called on the Norwich Diocese, which maintains at least seven cemeteries and has its own cemetery corporation, to "have some compassion" and contribute to the repair costs.

However, cemeteries and their owners typically are not responsible for damage to tombstones or mausoleums, regardless of whether it was caused by an accident or act of vandalism.

Dale Fiore, president of the Connecticut Cemetery Association and manager of the Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, said people buy a plot on cemetery property and the cemetery maintains the grounds around it.

“It’s not the cemetery’s responsibility to repair or replace them. It would drain the funds of the cemetery,” he said.

The exception is community mausoleums maintained by a cemetery. He said cemeteries will in many cases make the effort to correct problems such as overturned tombstones but don’t have the funds to maintain the thousands of gravesites.

While sympathetic to Spadaro’s case, Fiore said a private trust or insurance should have been considered when a mausoleum of such worth was erected, something akin to a private escrow account to cover future repairs and maintenance.

“I don’t know if that was done,” Fiore said.

Spadaro said he doesn’t think damage of this sort was contemplated at the time the mausoleum was purchased.

Spadaro’s parents, Patrick and Letizzia Spadaro, are entombed in the large granite mausoleum to the rear of the cemetery. Patrick, a New London native, died in 1966 and Letizzia in 1992.

It was the middle of the afternoon on Labor Day, Sept. 3, when police said 25-year-old Lindsey Wysoczynski crashed a Ford Windstar minivan into the mausoleum at the cemetery, which is situated along Jefferson Avenue.

A witness to the accident told police the van was traveling too fast. The witness confronted Wysoczynski after the crash, telling her to call police. Wysoczynski drove off instead.

Police caught up with her in Waterford. She said she left because she was scared and explained that her brakes were the cause of the crash. The investigation revealed it was not her car and she did not have a valid driver’s license, according to the police report in the case. Officers issued Wysoczynski a misdemeanor summons for evading responsibility, reckless driving and driving without a license.

Her case is pending in New London Superior Court and a prosecutor in the case could not be reached for comment on whether the state would seek restitution for the Spadaro family.

Spadaro said he is seeking legal advice as to how to proceed but expects restitution from Wysoczynski is unlikely.

“From what I understand, she doesn’t have two nickels to rub together. I won’t get anything from them,” he said.

Spadaro said he still is contemplating his next move but hasn’t given up on the Norwich Diocese. If nothing else, he said it was a lesson learned and one in which others should take note.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Norwich declined comment.

g.smith@theday.com

Joseph Spadaro is asking the Diocese of Norwich to help pay for the cost of repairing his parents' mausoleum, seen Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. It was struck and damaged at St. Mary Cemetery at 600 Jefferson Ave. in New London by an unlicensed driver who fled the scene on Sept. 3. An initial estimate puts the cost of repair at $20,000. (Greg Smith/The Day)
Joseph Spadaro is asking the Diocese of Norwich to help pay for the cost of repairing his parents' mausoleum, seen Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. It was struck and damaged at St. Mary Cemetery at 600 Jefferson Ave. in New London by an unlicensed driver who fled the scene on Sept. 3. An initial estimate puts the cost of repair at $20,000. (Greg Smith/The Day)

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