Ceres Memorial Park manager Clayton "Clay" Guzman couldn't believe his eyes when he pulled into the main entrance on Monday, Feb. 20 and saw the cemetery's historic Howitzer cannon removed from its pedestal and sitting in the middle of the lane. Vandals - or possibly would-be thieves - succeeded in breaking it free from the mounting that secured it in place.
"I think they were trying to steal it but they didn't get it out of the gate," said Guzman. "The thing is, how are you going to get rid of something like that? It's obvious, everyone knows about this cannon in Ceres. They're going to question where you got it from."
Right now the cannon, which was tweaked a bit as it was being tussled, is temporarily being stored in a safe place out of public view.
"We moved it to a safe area until we repair the supports and use a more heavy-duty chain," said Guzman.
Having moved the heavy item before, Guzman knew that more than one person was likely involved in the act of tampering.
"It's heavy, I mean, I've pushed this cannon myself one time and it's heavy. It takes a lot. It's not an easy thing to move."
The cemetery has security guards at different intervals and all day long on the weekends and holidays.
"It had to have happened on Sunday night between 7:30 and midnight," said Guzman. "I don't know how there were going to get it out - it's very heavy."
The cannon was made in 1907 and according to Guzman once belonged to the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars chapters. It was once situated in Whitmore Park until it was moved to the cemetery and given to the cemetery. The late George Cabral made the wheels which were fitted to the cannon.
"They gave us ownership and so we moved it where it was a prominent area where everybody could enjoy it at the entrance of the park," said Guzman.
He theorized that the vandals pushed the item back and forth repeatedly until the chain broke, or they pulled it as there are marks where "they wrapped something on it."
Guzman has been employed at the cemetery for 14 years and this was the first time anyone has messed with the artifact of war. He said two people had accidentally placed their vehicles in contact with the cannon but never hurt it.