Funeral Industry News

Burr Oak Cemetery For Sale? Any Takers?

October 14, 2009

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Burr Oak Cemetery For Sale? Any Takers?

In a Chicago Bankruptcy Court hearing on Tuesday, Judge Pamela S. Hollis gave permission for Perpetua-Burr Oak Holdings of Illinois, L.L.C., owner of Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, to sell the cemetery that became infamous this summer for a grave desecration scandal that sent families searching for their loved ones.

Perpetua filed for bankruptcy protection in September in the wake of a criminal investigation. The company told Judge Hollis it had hired American Cemetery/Mortuary Consultants Inc. as a consultant to assist in selling the cemetery.

Attorney Robert Fishman, of Shaw Gussis Fishman Glantz Wolfson, in Chicago, said Perpetua doesn?t yet know of any buyers but hired a consultant with expertise in cemeteries.

?All the pressure of the world is on us,? said Fishman during the hearing, when Paul J. Gaynor, chief of the Illinois Attorney General?s Public Interest Division, expressed concern that too much money is being spent on court costs.

Gaynor said he wants to ensure ?as much as possible for victims. The state is concerned about people and families.?

Burr Oak Cemetery opened its gates at 9 a.m. Monday to more than 50 lawyers representing claimants in the grave desecration scandal, were admitted to the cemetery, which has been closed to the public since the scandal broke this summer.

Attorney Larry Rogers, Sr. of Chicago firm Power Rogers & Smith, representing claimants, said the goal of opening up the cemetery for legal counsel was to provide the opportunity to locate family grave sites for his clients.

He lamented that it was difficult to find anything useful because many graves are unmarked and a database being compiled by the sheriff?s office is not yet complete.

The cemetery has a primarily African-American clientele. Among prominent Chicagoans buried there are Emmett Till, Dinah Washington, and Negro League baseball players Jimmie Crutchfield and John Donaldson.

Source: Medill Reports, Chicago