County conducts mass burial for unclaimed bodies

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County hosted an online ceremony Dec. 1 to mark the burial of 1,780 people who died in 2018 but whose remains went unclaimed by relatives or loved ones.

The service included the Lord’s Prayer in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Ukrainian and prayers, songs and blessings by a rabbi, an iman, a Native American sage and chaplains from several Christian denominations.

The individuals honored at the Los Angeles County Crematory and Cemetery in Boyle Heights died in 2018. The county generally holds the cremated remains for three years before burial to allow family members and loved ones a chance to claim them. The ashes were placed in a single mass grave a couple of days earlier and a marker indicating the year of cremation will be placed atop the plot.

Though the numbers do not reflect deaths related to the pandemic, the total is nearly 20% higher than the average over the prior five years from 2016-2020. The total of unclaimed dead was below 1,500 until last year, when 1,547 individuals were unclaimed by family or friends.

Supervisor Janice Hahn, who spoke during the memorial, adjourned the Nov. 30 meeting of the Board of Supervisors in memory of the dead.

“The ceremony is part of a commitment that the county has upheld since 1896 to ensure that everyone in Los Angeles County, no matter their means, is laid to rest with respect and dignity. They may have left this world alone, but they were one of us,” Hahn said, her voice breaking and quavering, “and our responsibility to honor their lives and grieve their deaths falls to us.”

Last year’s interfaith remembrance was also virtual due to health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Family members searching for deceased loved ones can call the county Office of Decedent Affairs/Morgue at (323) 409-7161 or the Medical Examiner’s Office, (323) 343-0512. The cost of cremation may be waived for families facing financial hardship.

 

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