‘Every person’s story matters’: Providing headstones for unmarked graves

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The local lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows is placing markers on the unmarked graves of the less fortunate at the county cemetery. It’s called The Remember Me Project.

They are often the people who fall through the cracks. The poor, the homeless the unwanted.
It’s a harsh fact of life, not everyone has family or friends who care or the monetary means for a burial plot. When they die they may end up here at the Minnehaha County Cemetery.

Members of the Odd Fellows have made it their mission to place headstones on the more than 250 unmarked graves. Today Carol Woltjer and others are marking the spots where volunteers will place headstones on Sunday.

“I don’t know if it will get done in my lifetime or not but hopefully it will continue until every grave is marked,” said Woltjer.

They’ve placed 30 headstones on the children buried here, on Sunday they will place another 30 moving on to some of the adults.

Some graves have remained unmarked since the late 1800’s.

“Because, we believe strongly that every life matters, every person’s story matters, and everybody deserves the dignity of having a lasting marker, identifying that they were here,” said Woltjer.

Since the graves are unmarked they are hard to find, so they have to have the county highway superintendent come out here with a plot map and then show them exactly where the graves are at.

Several local high school football teams have joined in “The Remember Me” project. Caleb Schneider says the reaction of his fellow athletes has been reaffirming.

“Everyone that I’ve seen is just amazed that people don’t have certain gravestones and they are just like this makes sense like we really should have this done,” said Schneider.

This Sunday football players from Tea and Sioux Falls Lincoln and Roosevelt will be helping place the headstones.

Woltjers says they wish they could do more but they have to purchase the stones and funds are limited. If you would like to help out you can contact the local order of the Odd Fellows.

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