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Indigent will rest in peace after memorial service

The cremated remains of 37 impoverished former Kitsap County residents are currently stored in the county morgue because there were no loved ones, organizations or churches to claim them.

But now Coroner Greg Sandstrom, local funeral homes, a florist and volunteers are collaborating to lay to rest the county’s indigent deceased in a memorial service scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 8.

“It has bothered me to no end that there is no continuum of respect,” said volunteer Sue Brown of Bainbridge Island. “That’s just not OK with me.”

Brown purchased and donated burial plots at the old Silverdale Cemetery, where unclaimed remains in county custody will be properly interred. The cemetery is located on Anderson Hill Road.

“The main thing is to hold up the dignity of people who are indigent for burial,” Brown said. “Poor people are a part of our community, too, and they should have access to our cemeteries. They lived among us and their remains should be with us.”

Brown, who calls the plot donation and purchase a “small gesture,” is a former program manager at Helpline House on Bainbridge Island. Helpline is a social service agency that links needy people with food, shelter and other services.

Brown and Sandstrom have worked on the memorial project together, encouraging interested businesses and community members to join.

They received enthusiastic responses.

Port Orchard florist Freda Spain of Forget-Me-Not Bouquet donated flowers for the service.

“Everybody and every soul out there are equally important,” Spain said. “Everyone has done something good for this world and everybody should be recognized.”

Local minister Melvin Byrd was tapped to perform the memorial service.

“This is a thing of dignity and honor for our community,” Byrd said. “The heart of any community is shown by how we treat the remains of our dead.”

Several Kitsap funeral homes are donating graveside markers.

“It’s nice to know people care,” said Chris Henrickson of Lewis Funeral Chapel in Bremerton and Stone Chapel in Poulsbo.

David Rill, co-owner of Pendleton-Gilchrist Funeral home, said his business was glad to donate materials and will do what they can in the future.

The Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Department will donate tools, time and personnel to prepare the plots for burial.

“Our role is to assist,” Parks and Recreation Director Cris Gears said. “We’re all in this together.”

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