It was five months ago that the I-Team revealed photos of bodies piled up in the Cook County morgue, a horrifying byproduct of state funds being cut off for indigent burial. The money has since been restored, but not all of the bodies were immediately removed and buried. Wednesday afternoon, county officials buried dozens of indigent remains at a Catholic cemetery on the Far South Side.
A procession of hearses donated by funeral directors transported the remains from the Cook County morgue: 25 adults and 48 unborn children whose families couldn't afford private burials were given free interment at Mount Olivet, operated by Catholic Cemeteries.
"This is just a continuation of our offer to the county to bury some of the indigent that were backed up or stockpiled at the morgue," said Catholic Cemeteries Exec Director Roman Szabelski.
Among those in simple wooden boxes provided by the county was 69-year-old Patricia Ann McDonald, who died unexpectedly on December 3. Her body was one of those stored in the Cook County morgue when public aid funds for burials were stopped, a situation that resulted in serious overcrowding.
McDonald's family didn't want her remains in one of these mass graves, the county's standard indigent burial that they felt was undignified.
"It gives you peace just to know that we could give her the proper burial she deserved, because she didn't deserve to go out like that," said family mourner Renisa Newton.
"It feels great that she'll be buried in a single grave by herself, and not in a mass grave, and that we all got the chance to be here to see it," said McDonald's daughter Crystal Newton.
After a short memorial service, the coffins were maneuvered into concrete vaults, one by one, until the burials were finished.