Funeral Industry News

Burr Oak Cemetery Sees New Funerals

November 13, 2009

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Burr Oak Cemetery Sees New Funerals

image Some burials resumed at Burr Oak Cemetery near Alsip about six weeks ago, months after it was shuttered because of a grave-reselling scam, according to a funeral home director and a pastor in the area.

Daisy Donahue’s last wishes were to be buried next to her husband, John, at Burr Oak Cemetery. Those who knew them, speak of their love and their kindness to others.

But when Donahue died on July 18, at the age of 104, her last request turned into a nearly three-month saga for Pastor David Pope of the Brotherly Love Missionary Baptist Church.

Donahue died five days after the cemetery was closed when four workers — Carolyn Towns, Keith and Terrence Nicks, and Maurice Daley — were accused of removing as many as 300 bodies from their graves and dumping them in a vacant lot to then resell the burial plots. After the cemetery closed relatives were left with no choice but to wait until early October, when at least one funeral home was allowed resume burials.

It is unclear why the cemetery decided to resume the burials but not open the doors to the general public. Repeated calls to Howard Korenthal, who was appointed to oversee the cemetery at the end of September, were not returned.

Spencer Leak Jr., co-owner of Leak and Sons Funeral Home in Chatham, said the funeral home had to keep four bodies since July because the family members wanted them to be buried at Burr Oak. Two weeks ago, they buried the last of the four.

Leak said he got calls every day from frustrated relatives, but there wasn’t much he could do. Finally, about a month and a half ago, he got the OK to start burying one person at the time. Donahue was one of them.

Daisy Donahue met John, her husband, at the Pilgrim Baptist Church in the early 1940s. They got married after a courtship in 1944. They had no children, but they were like parents to the children of the church, said Johnnie Noble, a member of the church, which was co-founded by John Donahue.

“They were devoted to each other, to God and to others,” said Noble. After John died in 1981, Daisy devoted herself to the church. She was the pianist, taught Sunday school and served as a president of the missionary department.

“She was a mentor, a friend and a counselor,” Noble said.

While Pope waited, he said he was offered options: he could have buried Donahue at Cedar Park Cemetery and transferred her later to a Burr Oak, or he could have re-buried her husband at Cedar Park Cemetery.

But those weren’t her wishes. So he waited.

Finally, in early October, he called the cemetery and got the good news: he could bury Daisy next to her husband.

“It was great to no longer having to worry,” he said.

Writer: Alejandra Cancino