Grave Relocation At Cemetery Near O’Hare Creates Confusion

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.

  • bob

    Does anyone really belive all the remains will be relocated with their proper headstones? Unless someone is there to supervise that remains A gets put with marker A, they’ll all get reburied and the markers put wherever it’s easiest and cheapest. Any jewerly or valuables will just end up in someones pocket. The old caskets were wood and will crumble when dug up and who knows what will fall out. This will end up a major Cluster F….

  • Keziah

    You are right. This is sad and upsetting, especially all for stupid OHare airport.

  • creamationtheway

    You do realize that if we continue burying our dead every day, there won’t be enough land to be used for other things? Why don’t these people just get over it and or have their remains cremated instead? That way it takes up less space and saves lands from more cemeteries popping up here and there AND grave robbing problems.

  • MrsAmerica

    Amen, creamationtheway. Burying the dead is irresponsible. Eventually creamation will be mandatory. The land should be used for the living.

  • Bob Roberts

    The confusion is not surprising, considering there was never any RFP for a professional cemeterian to be involved in this process. Funeral directors, archaeologists, and geneoligists, but no cemeterians. That’s like asking a janitor to do surgery for a doctor. Cemeteries, especially historic ones, require special handling and knowledge. No wonder Chicago has so many problems in thier cemeteries. Burr Oak a year ago, and the new one where they find mulitple bodies stacked in mass graves. Get a clue Chicago. You have the wrong people in charge of this project, or at least the wrong profession.

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