(WGN-AM)- Dozens of Chicago-area African-Americans showed up today at Mt. Glenwood Memorial Gardens South Cemetery to check on departed loved ones after learning that a human bone was discovered near a storage area on Friday.
Montrey Simpson of Chicago, who had come to check on his grandmother's grave, said someone in the office at the cemetery told him: "This is a cemetery. You're going to find human bones, just like finding broken bottles in a liquor store."
The discovery of the bone came four days after a lawsuit was filed against the cemetery alleging tampering with grave sites, similar to allegations earlier this month at Burr Oak Cemetery near Alsip.
Cook County sheriff's police are investigating how the bone ended up by a vault storage area at Mt. Greenwood. A worker delivering concrete vaults found it.
A sheriff's official said cemetery workers, "among others," will be interviewed as part of the investigation.
Some visitors to Mt. Glenwood today confirmed hearing the "liquor store" analogy. Others, unable to find their loved ones' final resting places, reported being told the cemetery sometimes relocates bodies after 20 to 25 years.
The cemetery located in the 18300 block of Glenwood- Thornton Road, north of Chicago Heights, is the final resting place of such notable black Chicagoans as Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam, and Fred (Duke) Slater, Illinois' first African-American circuit court judge, according to the Encyclopedia of Chicago History.
Cemetery president Jeannie Walsh told WGN-TV that "this is not Burr Oak" and that she was confident the sheriff's investigation will clear the air.
Chicagoan William Lemon said he was particularly concerned because his sister's grave was unmarked, making its location particularly difficult.
He said he asked for a specific location, "and the lady inside told me she didn't have a clue," he said.
"It's bad enough you can't find peace here on earth," said Lemon, who combined public transportation and walking to get to the cemetery. "Now it seems you can't find it when you die."
Standing three feet from a headstone next to the Mt. Glenwood office building, Richton Park resident Gelenda Love said cemetery representatives offered to bury one of her deceased relatives on top of another dead person. She said she returned to her grandmother's grave after the headstone was in place and the grave "felt like it was in a different spot."
Homewood resident Ruthie Osborne said the United States Marine Corps marker on her husband's grave disappeared in 2000. Her husband, Joseph Osborne Jr., a Marine, died in combat in Vietnam, and was buried with full military honors.
Osborne said she complained about the marker, and "they sent some guy out there with me who was reeking with alcohol. He measured the distance with his foot," she said. "The grave was exactly where I thought it was.
"But there was no military headstone."
"He reached down on the ground, picked up some dirt in his hand and let it fall to the ground. 'If you dig it up, this is all you'll find.
"'He's not here anymore,'" she said the man told her.
Today, she said, Mt. Glenwood Cemetery staff told her, "After 25 years (the cemetery plot) doesn't belong to you anymore and we have a right to bury somebody else there."
"Now," Osborne said, "not only do I not know where his headstone is, I don't know where his remains are."
(The Chicago Tribune contributed to this story)
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