Stolen Down East Christmas wreaths never located in rural Montana

Posted Dec. 29, 2011, at 12:39 p.m.

What became of 170 decorated balsam wreaths stolen just before Christmas from the graves of military veterans near Kalispell, Mont., remains anybody’s guess.

Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said Thursday his investigators still have no leads despite the offer of a cash reward for information and widespread appeals through local and regional media for help in tracking down whoever was involved in the theft.

The stolen wreaths were made in Washington County by Worcester Wreath in Harrington and were among 322,000 balsam wreaths made there for the Wreaths Across America program. This year that program saw 12-inch wreaths decorated with red bows laid at 741 locations nationwide, including the Glacier Memorial Gardens cemetery just north of Kalispell. Within five days of a December 10 wreath-laying ceremony there, every wreath had been snatched from the grave sites they marked.

“It happened before a snowfall, so there were no footprints, or anything else to go on,” Curry said Thursday in a telephone interview. “The theft was well publicized, and there were public service announcements on local TV. People were told what to look for, but the wreaths haven’t surfaced in this part of the state.”

Curry said area residents were “outraged and saddened” by the theft.

“It’s not seen as a black eye for Kalispell; there are bad people everywhere,” Curry said. “It is seen as a pretty low thing for someone to do.”

A second wreath-laying ceremony was held last week to replace most of the wreaths stolen. Worcester Wreath donated 100 of the replacement wreaths, as requested by the Montana Civil Air Patrol unit that organized the Kalispell Wreaths Across America ceremony.

“We did our best to help out,” said Karen Worcester, the executive director of the Wreaths Across America organization, which is headquartered in Columbia Falls. “It’s the first time in all the years of this program that we’ve ever had anything like that happen. It’s just a sad, sad thing.”

A community of 20,000, Kalispell is located about 50 miles south of the U.S. border with British Columbia and is 25 miles southwest of Glacier National Park.

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