Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Holy Cross Cemetery to be final resting place for unclaimed cremated remains

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the Dec. 4, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

On a windy Nov. 20, 192 unclaimed cremated remains that had been stored at the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s office found a final resting place. An inurnment of the boxes of remains is currently underway at Holy Cross Cemetery in north Spokane, in a special new area called the Garden of Peace.

The garden had been blessed as part of the All Souls’ Day Mass at Holy Cross on Nov. 3. On Monday, Dec. 8, the last set of remains, representing all 193, will be memorialized in a special liturgical ceremony at 2:30 p.m.

Maggie Albo of Spokane, who works as a chaplain with Hospice of Spokane, was the project’s impetus. At a chaplains’ luncheon she learned that many times families who can’t afford to bury their dead will abandon the remains. Some deceased have no family to claim their remains. At that time there were the remains of 150 individuals at the medical examiner’s office.

Albo contacted Holy Cross Cemetery director Dennis Fair-bank. Her quest to honor these forgotten dead coincided with the same thoughts Fairbank had. He said he had been thinking of “doing something along these lines” for some time since he knew there was a need. Her information was just what he needed to get the project started.

Fairbank also envisioned a place of inurnment for families who prefer a “low-cost, minimally memorialized alternative to dispersing the ashes of their loved ones, who want a spot to visit or as a focus for their grief,” he said.

Fairbank especially credited two men for their work to construct the garden.Tony Bishop of Bouten Construction was the major planner; Curt Kneeland of Environment West implemented the plan. Cemetery staff laid irrigation lines and put down sod.

Inurnment of the ashes of 193 people will take some careful planning, but Fairbank said they had to wait until the weather settled down. Once they’re started, “We can do about five or six a day,” he said.

Each box had a name, Albo said, and one she noted in particular was that of “Charlie Bowlegs.” The smallest box, with remains of a tiny baby, measured 2x5x2-1/2 inches.

Members of Albo’s Scripture group attended the delivery of the boxes of remains. She said the members of her group bolstered her “courage to pursue the project. I feel privileged to be a part of it.”

Respecting a deceased’s ashes is part and parcel of respecting their life, Albo said, and part and parcel of Catholic beliefs about life.

“I have come to a greater awareness of the depths of dying people’s hearts and souls since I started work at Hospice,” she said. “Each one lived a life, and I couldn’t imagine something like that (being abandoned) happening to them.”

Thanks to the efforts of Albo and Fairbank, the remains of 193 people were respectfully laid to rest. Thanks to Holy Cross Cemetery, there will be always be a final resting place.

(For information about the unclaimed remains or the Dec. 8 ceremony, call the cemetery: 467-5496.)

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