To The Editor:

As many of you have heard, I’ve been honored to have been involved in the disposition of the remains of a veteran who laid unclaimed in the St. Louis City Morgue for more than three months, awaiting not only positive identification, but also, for someone to step forward and claim his body. The Washington Historical Society was contacted for assistance in locating relatives and thus began the adventure to organize an honorable and appropriate burial for Sgt. James Edward  “Jim” Helton, which he certainly deserves.

I’m pleased to announce that thanks to the cooperation of St. Louis Cremation Society, Luebbering Citizens Community Cemetery, the Missing in America Project and Paul Annable, St. Louis City Morgue and its caring staff, the Odd Fellows Columbarium in Washington, Washington Historical Society, the American Legion Riders, and other concerned and caring citizens, the cremated remains of  James Helton will be honorably put to rest Saturday, Oct. 13, at 1:30 p.m. at the Luebbering Citizens Community Cemetery, located immediately east of 7998 Fairview Church Road, Grubville,  (Luebbering area).  This cemetery is not to be confused with the Fairview Methodist Church Cemetery, which it adjoins.   Sgt. James Edward Helton served in Vietnam and was on active duty in the U.S. Air Force Aug. 3, 1965, to Jan. 6, 1969.

A cousin of Mr. Helton kindly signed the release forms necessary to remove the remains from the morgue, and also authorized the cremation of his remains, but was unable to be financially responsible for the process.

Mr. Helton’s ancestral roots are in southern Franklin County.  Though his family moved to St. Louis many years ago, his parents were buried near their hometown of Luebbering.  The family owns additional grave spaces, one of which will be used to inter Mr. Helton.  Mr. Helton has one immediate survivor, his brother, for whom he was the caregiver for the majority of his lifetime.  The brother is severely mentally disabled.  

James Helton was found dead in his home in St. Louis June 4; his brother was unaware that James had been dead for as much as two weeks.  The body, in an advanced state of decomposition, was taken to the morgue.  

James’ brother was sent to Barnes Hospital where he received a clean bill of (physical) health and was then transferred to a nursing home in St. Louis.  For a multitude of reasons, Mr. Helton’s body was not positively identified to the satisfaction of the authorities for over three months.  His body was finally released and cremated Monday, Sept. 17.

For those wishing to attend the graveside services, you can either gather at the cemetery or, if you choose to follow in procession, meet at the Wildey Odd Fellows Cemetery in Washington at 12:30 that afternoon.  Mr. Helton’s cremains will rest temporarily in the Odd Fellows Columbarium for unclaimed Missourians.  

Those of us involved would love to see a large turnout for Sgt. Helton’s service.  Please consider joining us for a short time that afternoon to lay to rest someone who otherwise, might have been relegated to a pauper’s grave.

       Marc Houseman

       Museum Director

       Washington Historical

       Society and Museum