Extensive records will be kept for the columbarium recently built in Washington to hold unclaimed cremated human remains.
The columbarium, believed to be the first of its kind, was dedicated last month at the Wildey Odd Fellows Cemetery.
The Odd Fellows Columbarium was funded by the Grand Lodge of Missouri, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the Odd Fellows Home Board of Directors.
“The sole purpose of the columbarium is to provide a final resting place for any unclaimed remains in Missouri, whether it was someone homeless, many of whom are veterans, or others whose ashes may have been left at funeral homes and never picked up by family members,” said Danielle Grotewiel, local Odd Fellows member.
Grotewiel said a large mailing is going out to funeral homes and crematories across the state notifying them that they can send unclaimed ashes to the Washington Odd Fellows.
“We will carefully record any known information about the descendents before their entombment,” she said.
The records are important, she said, because a relative may want to locate a loved one who has passed.
“Some will have to be listed as John Doe, but others we will have a name and possibly other information to be recorded,” she said. “I know it may be hard to believe, but funeral homes often are left with the ashes of a person and they need a place to dispose of them.”
The Odd Fellows Cemetery and now Columbarium also are listed on the Find a Grave website which people search to find where a family member may be buried or entombed.
The Grand Lodge of Missouri said Washington’s Odd Fellows cemetery was chosen as the site for the statewide columbarium because of the care and pride the Washington Lodge gives to the maintenance of its cemetery.
Grotewiel said that’s something the group is very proud of.
Marc Houseman, noble grand of the Washington Lodge, agrees, saying it’s an honor to be chosen for the columbarium.
“We consider it a privilege to respectfully entomb the forgotten dead,” he said.
Since 1819, one of the four commandments of Odd Fellows has been to bury the dead.
Both Grotewiel and Houseman said many people have asked them why the group is doing this.
At the dedication, Houseman said the sad statistical fact is that each year 7,000 Missourians are cremated never to have their ashes collected by family or friends.
“Seven thousand human beings, in this state alone, whose remains are destined for storage rooms, closets, undisclosed scattering sites and yes, even to landfills,” he said. “Missouri law allows for cremated remains to be disposed of in any manner after 60 days. Yes, it is legal to dump someone’s ashes in the garbage.”
Houseman said the columbarium proves beyond a doubt that Missouri’s Odd Fellows are deeply committed to their nearly 200-year-old commandment to bury the dead.
The Odd Fellows Cemetery in Washington, established in 1865, holds the remains of nearly 1,400 people from all walks of life, he said.
“This columbarium will no doubt house those who were in life dearly loved and those who were loved by no one, those who died following a devastating illness and those who died through violence,” Houseman said at the dedication.
This tomb is for all who need a permanent resting place, he stressed, adding that cremated remains of three people were entombed at the dedication, all of whom were Franklin County residents.
The columbarium is designed to hold up to 12,000 cremated remains.