Gone but not forgotten — organization holds ceremony for children buried in unmarked graves

Posted at 5:16 AM, May 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-31 05:17:35-04

MUSKEGON TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Seventy-two children buried in unmarked graves in the Shady Rest cemetery in Muskegon are receiving new headstones and will be remembered a special ceremony on Thursday.

The Muskegon County Genealogical Society over a year ago approached the county's board of commissioner with the idea of making May Cemetery Awareness Month.

When the board approved the request, the society quickly got to work restoring and cleaning up cemeteries and grave sites throughout the county.

"We are doing a cemetery project for the Muskegon County Genealogical Society," said Bill Hansen, cemetery committee chairman. "We are attempting to map all of the cemeteries in the county into an interactive mapping system, and we have done seventeen so far, and as part of that we sort of unofficial adopted this cemetery to work on."

Since May 2017, they have raised 255 headstones, repaired entrance gates, painted metalwork, and planted flowers.

"We came out here a year ago, and we had a ground penetrating radar survey done of the cemetery to look for any unmarked graves that are out here," Hansen said. "We knew that there was some children buried in unmarked graves, but we didn't know exactly where they were at. So during that survey that was done, we found the location that we believe that these children were buried. So our goal was to put markers out there so they didn't have unmarked graves anymore."

That is how they determined that there were 72 children buried at Shady Rest Cemetery in unmarked graves.

Special name plates for each of the children were created and mounted using headstones the group obtained from the Superior Monument Company.

The dedication of these new headstones will be held at a special ceremony on May 31 at 4 p.m. at the northwest corner of Oak Avenue and Quarterline Road in Muskegon Township.  The ceremony is open to the public.

"We are trying to help maintain it and make it look nice, so that the people will respect it and honor those who have died," Hansen said.