Judge OKs deal to sell Burr Oak

April 27, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The deal comes less than a year after four burr oak workers were charged in a scheme to re-sell burial plots.

One of Chicago's oldest and most historically significant cemeteries appears likely to sell for next to nothing. Burr Oak's 105 acres is now on the verge of selling for $110,000.

"I can't comment on what happened in the past because I don't rightfully know. I just know our intent and what we plan to do going forward," said Lafayette Gatling, Burr Oak buyer.

"That was the purpose of getting involved, try to restore the dignity to Burr Oak," said Willie Carter, Burr Oak buyer.

Carter and Gatling are no strangers to the burial business. Mr. Carter owns Restvale Cemetery just down the street from Burr Oak in Alsip. Mr. Gatlin operates two well known funeral homes. Together, they are paying $1 million to buy Burr Oak and Cedar Park Cemeteries. Both were owned by Perpetua, Inc. Under that company's stewardship: Four employees were charged with digging up the dead and reselling their burial plots.

There is a catch to the deal: It's contingent on obtaining permission to perform burials in 9 acres on the northern side of Burr Oak Cemetery. It's the area the workers allegedly used as a dumping ground for human remains.

"It's very important to get the cemetery into the hands of qualified operators who have the funds to run it the way it should be run," said Robert Fishman, Burr Oak debtors' attorney.

Insurance policies maintained by Burr Oak's former owner will provide for nearly $700,000 worth of improvements to the cemetery. Things like roads, drainage improvements and groundskeeping.

If the sale goes through, Burr Oak's new owners promise new respect for those with loved ones buried here.

"I hope now they can pick up the pieces and move forward and trust us to do a wonderful job and a good job they rightfully deserve out at those cemeteries," said Gatling.

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