Cook County Dedicates Memorial to Forgotten Poor

Sheriff Tom Dart says the monument will help to rectify Homewood Memorial Garden's dark history of "horrific" burial practices.

Credit: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Credit: Ryan Fitzpatrick
A memorial dedicated to the 13,000 poor, destitute and often anonymous persons buried at Homewood Memorial Gardens was unveiled by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Sheriff Tom Dart during a Wednesday afternoon ceremony. 

“Some of these people are long forgotten. They were somebody’s son or daughter, or father or mother, brother or sister,” Preckwinkle said. “They were all human beings.” 

Homewood Memorial Gardens has been the burial site of Cook County's indigents since 1980, with the exception of two years, Preckwinkle said. In recent years, however, it's come under harsh criticism from Sheriff Tom Dart for its disrespectful treatment of the deceased.

“What we’re doing today is rectifying the horrible blemish on all of us," Sheriff Dart said. "This was absolutely disgraceful ... the way poor people and the indigent, were being treated. We should all hang our heads in shame."

Dart called the burial practices in the pauper's section of the cemetery as "horrific," describing how bodies were stacked 16 on top of each other or sideways.

"People were buried with animal parts," the sheriff continued. "This is great what we’re doing today, but we can never forget … we are supposed to take care of them,and  treat them with dignity.”

The county's current contract with Homewood Memorial Gardens lasts until October of 2014.


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