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Ashes of homeless, indigent, elderly buried

December 8, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Ashes from more than 1,600 people were buried Wednesday at the Los Angeles County Crematorium Cemetery in Boyle Heights. They include the homeless, indigent and elderly who have no known relatives.A simple and somber ceremony for the lost and forgotten. One-thousand-six-hundred-eighty-nine people who died in Los Angeles County in 2007 and who were never claimed by family had their cremated remains buried Wednesday afternoon.

"Today we lay them to rest, knowing they're in God's embrace," said L.A. County-USC Medical Center Chaplain Chris Ponnet.

For decades county officials have buried the remains of people who have been unclaimed by family members. The remains are kept in a crematorium just a few feet away from the burial site, for two years, giving loved ones an opportunity to come forward and some do, but often, they can't afford to pay for services.

"The blessing is that the county holds this service and with dignity we hold the remains and then bury the remains, but on the other side of it is this tragedy that all these people were somehow disconnected to their family," said Ponnet.

Most of those attending Wednesday's burial were members of the media and county employees, except for Richard Schave and Kim Cooper, total strangers who say they felt a need to be present.

"I thought that it would be a meaningful thing to do to come and recognize some of the people who've been lost," said Cooper.

"I get my batteries recharged by coming here. Absolutely, I'm very glad we were able to make it this year, " said Schave.

Not far away, elaborate headstones honor the lives of thousands of individuals. On the other side of the fence, 1,689 people are remembered by one small marker, simply noting the year they died.