Michael Nowachek’s love for the Iowa Hawkeyes knew no bounds.
He had attended numerous games, watched many more on TV, and cheered on the team with relentless passion, according to his stepmother, Jody Nowachek-Miller of Anamosa
So when Nowachek, who suffered from cerebral palsy, died Sept. 23 at age 58 after a yearlong battle with cancer, his family buried him in Monmouth Cemetery and covered his final resting place with mementos. The nursing home where he’d been living bought an expensive angel that was placed next to his name on the headstone. Friends and family from near and far left black-and-gold flowers, Hawkeye rocks, a football-shaped solar light, and other similar items.
Those mementos had vanished by the next day, his stepmother said.
Family members replaced some of the items, but those new keepsakes disappeared within two weeks. And the cemetery thievery happened a third time.
“It’s really sickening that we can’t put anything out there,” said Nowachek-Miller, noting that she had placed special keepsakes at the grave of her father and first husband in the same cemetery, and some of those items also had been stolen.
She estimated that thieves have stolen at least $500 worth of mementos.
“If someone wants those items that badly, I’ll give them a gift card to buy their own,” Nowachek-Miller said. “But these things were bought specially for Michael.”
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office recently reported vandalism at another cemetery.
Vandals damaged numerous headstones at Buckhorn Cemetery, located at 12500 Highway 64 west of Maquoketa, sometime in the month of October.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office posted photos of multiple new and old tombstones that were reported damaged and vandalized at the cemetery. The tombstones lay on the ground, many broken off at the base.
Deputies continue searching for leads to identify the Buckhorn vandals.
About 40 headstones were toppled in Mount Hope Cemetery in 2017.
Nowachek-Miller is offering a $250 reward for information leading to the identities of whomever is responsible for the Monmouth Cemetery vandalism.
Anyone with information on who is defacing these tombstones or cemetery thievery is asked to contact the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office at (563) 652-3312.
“I was brought up that a cemetery is a sacred ground not to be messed with, and that’s all I want for Michael, my family, and everyone buried there,” Nowachek-Miller explained.
“Michael didn’t deserve to have anything thieved once, let alone three times,” she said. “He already had a broken body and then this happened.”