Volunteers find, honor officers' unmarked graves

October 3, 2008 10:25:40 AM PDT
Through hard work and donations, volunteers have been able to identify and add gravestones to the resting places of many police officers who died in the line of duty. Rosehill, located in the Ravenswood community, is Chicago's oldest and largest non-sectarian commentary. It's the final resting place for Chicago Police Officer Phillip Robinson killed in the line of duty in 1887. The gravesite is old but the marker is new; it was put there recently by a group of volunteers because the burial took place without one. Norman Schwartz of the Chicago Jewish Historical Society is one of them.

Officer Henry McDowell was killed in the line of duty on September 7th 1892. His marker and others placed by volunteers were donated by Tom Gast of Gast Monuments.

"The first step is to make the design...the design in this case had to do with the fact that these officers died in the line of duty so that fact had to be known the notice on each marker has the badge number of that officer," said Thomas Gast, Gas Monuments.

Since the program began, 65 unmarked graves of police officers now have head stones.

When the volunteers began their work in 2002, they were able to determine that 47 police officers killed in the line of duty were buried without markers in 13 cemeteries in Chicago and five cemeteries out of the state.

One of the oldest graves is that of Nels Handsen, who was killed in 1886 during the Hay Market Riots. Volunteer Joan Troka was involved in the process of finding the unmarked graves.

"I have children of my own and I thought how these families could face this and I thought well somebody has to do this and I felt joy in it," said Troka. "Some peace in the cemetery, every time I'd find one I could do a dance I was so happy."


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