CHICAGO (CBS)– A state lawmaker said he was “alarmed and disappointed,” Monday after seeing CBS 2 reports on problems, like flooding and water damage, at Oak Woods cemetery on the south side.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams has been sharing the stories of devastated families for months and now that lawmaker is promising an investigation.
Oak Woods is the final resting place for a many Chicagoans, including Mayor Harold Washington and Olympic legend Jesse Owens, but CBS 2 reports on the graves of those who are not famous caught the eye of State Representative Kam Buckner (D-Chicago).
“I was just completely shocked,” Buckner said. “I didn’t realize any of these things were going on until I saw that.”
For months, CBS 2 has showed floods at Oak Woods cemetery and the damage they’ve caused.
“They buried my mother in a mud-ridden sinkhole,” a community member said.
“These families have lost loved ones, and so to put them through extra angst is unacceptable,” Buckner said.
Buckner and his House colleague Lamont Robinson (D-Chicago) planned hearings this month on the conditions at Oak Woods; and they vowed to look into its customer relations.
For weeks this year, the cemetery was closed without warning, because of floods. Loved ones lined up down 67th Street, locked out. Even a funeral procession couldn’t get in.
Last Wednesday, CBS 2 reported the cremated remains of Charles Goosby are in his daughter’s home, three years after he died and 16 years after he bought a crypt at Oak Woods for $17,000.
“My dad deserves better than this,” Goosby’s daughter Bernadine Eley said.
A mausoleum at Oak Woods was supposed to be his final resting place, but his daughters showed CBS 2 photos of stained carpet, mildew, mold, and gnats inside the facility; the result of flooding.
They want his remains and their mother’s casket placed in a clean, dry part of the mausoleum. That’ll be $18,000 more, they said the cemetery told them.
“We have to do a better job of making sure that places like this are given the respect and reverence that they deserve,” Buckner said.
Paul Issac of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation told CBS Chicago state inspectors went to the mausoleum Monday and saw no problems.
The cemetery issued the following statement:
“We are committed to providing all families with a well-maintained environment and take pride in offering beautiful property grounds for visitation and remembrance. As part of this commitment, Oak Woods Cemetery has completed substantial renovations to the grounds and the mausoleum to improve the overall appearance of Oak Woods and to alleviate concerns brought forth by our client families. We truly value their feedback and encourage anyone with concerns to contact us directly.”