Cook County memorial to poor, forgotten dead
By Casey Toner firstname.lastname@example.org December 11, 2013 1:00PM
Updated: January 14, 2014 12:14PM
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and county board President Toni Preckwinkle on Wednesday dedicated a monument to more than 13,000 poor or unidentified people who are buried at Homewood Memorial Gardens.
The monument, donated to the county last summer by Wenta Monument Co., of Milwaukee, is located on a hill at the northern end of the cemetery, across from the Thornton quarry. The county contracts with the cemetery for public burials of the indigent and those whose bodies go unclaimed or unidentified.
“This Monument is Dedicated to the Deceased of Cook County Who Were Poor Or Forgotten,” reads the monument’s inscription. “May Their Souls Rest In Peace.”
Almost two years ago, Dart disclosed that the public burials involved coffins being stacked on top of each other, some eight at a time, in a grave at the cemetery in unincorporated Thornton Township.
“What we’re doing today is rectifying a horrible blemish on all of us,” Dart said during the dedication. “This was absolutely disgraceful what was going on out here. The way the indigent were being treated, we should all hang our heads in shame.”
In May 2012, the county ordered that its public burials consist of one body per grave, and the burials were moved to the cemetery’s western end.
All the coffins have GPS coordinates and can be located in the “virtual cemetery” on the county medical examiner’s website, cookcountyil.gov/medicalexaminer.