Burr Oak Cemetery revitalized, new monument honoring loved ones unveiled

Friday marks a new day for Burr Oak Cemetery.
Friday marks a new day for Burr Oak Cemetery, after the historic burial site became the focus of scandal in 2009.

The Cook County Sheriff's Department discovered that graves were dug up, double-stacked and destroyed at the Alsip cemetery.

The destruction was apparently part of an elaborate scheme to resell the plots by a cemetery manager and three workers. They were eventually charged. One pleaded guilty, three others are awaiting trial.

After further investigation, experts found human remains buried all over the cemetery.

Burr Oak Cemetery is a historic African American burial site. It has been the final resting place for the loved ones of thousands of families since 1927. Blues singers Dinah Washington and Willie Dixon, heavyweight boxing champ Ezzard Charles and civil rights icon Emmett Till are buried at Burr Oak.

Now under new management, there was a special ceremony for the opening of a new office building and improvements to the cemetery Friday. A new monument to pay tribute to some of those families affected by the scandal was also unveiled Friday

Governor Pat Quinn and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who led the investigation, were on hand to watch the ceremony.

Judge Patricia Brown Holmes was in charge of taking over the cemetery after the scandal.

"I have a historian that's working with me to refurbish the history, dignity, honor and respect to Burr Oak Cemetery," she said.

After the investigation, Burr Oak got a much-needed makeover - new landscaping, updated grave sites, new fencing, new paved roads, a new building and better identification as to where each grave is.

"This was nothing short of a national disaster, a national disgrace here, to see where we are at now is so amazing," Dart said.

Amazing for families, like Velma Washington-Curry's, whose mother Haddie is buried there, whose grave was thankfully untouched.

"I was a little unnerved about the situation, hoping her grave wasn't touched, but concerned about everyone else," she said.


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