(KRON) — Sonoma County leaders will host the county’s first-ever memorial service on June 10 to honor the lives of hundreds of homeless, poor, elderly, and other people who have died in the county without family or money to make burial arrangements.
The public is invited to participate in the 1 p.m. ceremony at Pleasant Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary in Sebastopol. It is organized by the county Office of the Public Administrator, Department of Human Services, and the Sheriff’s Office Coroner Unit.
“People who pass away without family or means deserve to be remembered,” said County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins. “This memorial is the first of its kind in Sonoma County to honor people who have been interred without a funeral in the rose garden at Pleasant Hills Memorial Park. People of all faiths and those who are non-religious are welcome to join us.”
Under state law, blood relatives are required to arrange for the disposition of remains when a family member dies. If the family cannot be located by the county or afford the cost of disposition, the county coroner will cremate and bury the remains.
There are no provisions for a funeral service through the county’s indigent burial program.
Every year, the bodies of approximately 140 people who die in Sonoma County go unclaimed at the coroner, local hospitals, and funeral homes. Many were unhoused, veterans, people who outlived their family, or were estranged from their next-of-kin.
Their names are sent to the Public Administrator’s Office, which attempts to find family or friends to make final arrangements. People who remain unclaimed — about 45 per year — receive an indigent burial through the coroner.
“Some of our indigent have served in the military or have been fixtures of our community. Everyone deserves a proper burial and this ceremony will go a step further to honor and remember the deceased,” said Paul Dunaway, director of the Human Services Department’s Adult and Aging Division.
Since 2010, the indigent burial program has interred the cremated remains of approximately 500 people in the rose garden at Pleasant Hills Memorial Park.
Speakers at the June 10 event will include Hopkins, Coroner Sgt. Detective Michael Schemmel, Human Services Director Angela Struckmann, and Veterans Remains Officer Ron Collier. The event will be held in Pleasant Hills Memorial Park at 1700 Pleasant Hill Road.