Last Veterans Day at O'Hare cemetery?

November 11, 2010 (BENSENVILLE, Ill.)

A group of veterans, church members, friends and some family members attended a ceremony at St. Johannes Cemetery Thursday. The cemetery, which is technically located in Bensenville, is surrounded by O'Hare field. Thursday might have been the last chance to have a Veterans Day ceremony because the city plans to move the cemetery for expansion of the airport.

Approximately 20 veterans, including four Civil War veterans, are buried at St. Johannes. Arnold Klehm's great, great, great-grandfather is one of them.

"He came over to this country in the 1840s," Klehm said. "Now, he's buried here with part of his family."

Klehm says he does not have an opinion about the plans to relocate the cemetery, but Shirley Steele ,who has several family members buried at the cemetery, does not want it to happen.

"I don't why. It's like going through it all over again," said Steele.

As for the court battle, the Illinois Supreme Court has granted a motion that temporarily imposes a stay, which prevents the Department of Aviation from taking title and possession of St. Johannes Cemetery.

A church affiliated with the cemetery is battling the city in court.

"Certainly, we've been making this struggle for at least 10 years now, trying to protect our sacred ground here," said Rev. Michael Kirchhoff of St. John's United Church of Christ.

The president of The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War organized Thursday's ceremony at the last minute after driving by the cemetery last week.

"Many of the people are buried in wooden boxes, and they have deteriorated over time. And when the cemetery is moved, it will probably be done by machinery rather than hand, and the graves will be disturbed. We know that that's going to happen. We are here for the final time to say goodbye," said Chaplin Jerry Kowalski of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

The city Dept. of Aviation says once the court allows it, the agency will continue to work with families on relocating grave sites.

The city says approximately 30 families have already had loved ones moved voluntarily and that more than 100 others are ready and willing to go along with the move.

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