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Grave Relocation At Cemetery Near O’Hare Creates Confusion

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St. Johannes Cemetery

St. Johannes Cemetery near O’Hare International Airport. (CBS File Photo)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Some families are complaining about the way the city is removing bodies from a suburban cemetery to pave the way for the further expansion of O’Hare International Airport.

As WBBM Newsradio 780′s Regine Schlesinger reports, the bodies are being unearthed as the city demolishes St. Johannes Cemetery in Bensenville to make way for a new runway at O’Hare.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Regine Schlesinger reports


Some families of those buried at St. Johannes have said the city is being sensitive and respectful in the relocation of graves to other cemeteries. But some relatives have told the Chicago Tribune that the process is flawed.

Alice Ashley, of Florida, has 10 relatives buried at St. Johannes, but she was allowed to choose where only two of them would be reburied. Other relatives whom she’s never met decided where the other family members’ bodies would go.

Rev. Michael Kirchoff, of St. John’s United Church of Christ – which used to manage the cemetery – said it’s a painstaking and complicated challenge to relocate the bodies at St. Johannes.

“It’s time-consuming, it’s a lot of details and there’s been concerns by family members, knowing the condition of any remains of their loved ones, they’re concerned that some of those will be left behind,” he said. “Many of these people interred out at St. Johannes were buried over 160 years ago.”

The city and church have said they are doing all they can to work with families and find the proper relatives to decide about relocating bodies buried there. City officials have hired a board-certified geneaologist to analyze original church records in an effort to contact the proper next of kin.

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