Local 727 Members Donate Time, Archdiocese Donates Plots to Aid Cook County
CHICAGO, April 26, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Teamsters Local 727 funeral directors are volunteering their time -- and hearses -- to give proper burials to 300 bodies that have been held at the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.
The Archdiocese of Chicago's Catholic Cemeteries has donated up to 300 plots and the Cook County Funeral Directors Association (CCFDA) have offered to transport the bodies from the medical examiner's office to Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery on Chicago's South Side.
The first burial of 13 adults and 120 fetuses and babies took place on Wednesday, April 25. Police escorted the procession of 27 hearses through a light rain to Mount Olivet, where Francis Cardinal George presided over the services.
"We are stepping up as a community of funeral directors to provide this service until all 300 graves are filled," said Local 727 steward Mark Rizzo, who has been a funeral director at Colonial Wojciechowski for more than 20 years. "We are trying to do our part to help the county get back on track financially."
Because of financial constraints, the medical examiner's office has been unable to bury a backlog of bodies. Cook County's only cost at the April 25 ceremony was $2,662 for the 18 wooden caskets. Each of the 13 adults was in his or her own casket, while the fetuses were placed in five large, compartmentalized caskets.
More than half of the funeral director volunteers and hearses came from Teamsters Local 727-represented funeral homes throughout the Chicago area.
"Our members are dedicated to serving their communities, and this is just another example of their unwavering commitment," said John Coli Jr., President of Teamsters Local 727. "These men and women really do go above and beyond to help people."
Rizzo helped organize the burials alongside Cook County officials and the CCFDA, which has three Teamsters Local 727 members on its executive board. Leonard Zielinski of Nelson Funeral Home is president, Roland Weis of Evanston Funeral Home is treasurer and trade embalmer Susan Dyer is secretary.
"As funeral directors, we wanted to add respect to the process and have a procession with hearses," Rizzo said. "At the cemetery, each casket has its own individual grave. We are committed to doing this the right way because that's the only way we know how."
Rizzo said the response for volunteer funeral directors has been overwhelming, and all of the volunteers are committed to seeing this process through to the end.
"We really appreciate everyone who has given their time to make this possible," Rizzo said. "I am really amazed at the diverse group of funeral directors we had there. This is a great thing we are doing."
Teamsters Local 727 represents more than 450 funeral industry members in the Chicago area.