HANOVER TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Memorial Day is this weekend, and many are taking the time to remember those who have died. But each year several people are laid to rest without ever being claimed by family members or friends.

Wednesday night community members in our area came together to commemorate forgotten lives.

It’s a decades-old practice for the Luzerne County Coroner’s Office to bury unclaimed deaths. On Wednesday all of the forgotten lives they’ve laid to rest over the years were remembered during a special service.

A wreath was placed over unmarked graves at Maple Hill Cemetery in Hanover Township. It’s the section of the cemetery where unclaimed people are laid to rest by the Luzerne County Coroner’s Office.

“Unfortunately we’ve seen an increase in that trend, and we’re now averaging about 25, 30-plus per year,” said Frank Hacken, Luzerne County Coroner.

These include people who are unidentified or passed away without any known family members or friends.
To honor all the lives who are buried over the years, the coroner’s office hosted a special memorial service.

“This ceremony was here today to bring some meaning to their burial,” Hacken explained.

The solemn gathering included scripture readings and a blessing of the gravesites with holy water.

“Death is a difficult thing. It’s a sad thing, but we can turn situations like this into a celebration, a celebration of their lives,” said Deacon Donald Crane, Saints Peter, and Paul Parish, Plains Township.

Scott Hilenski came to pay his respects.

“Even though I don’t know these people and I have nothing to do with their burial, anybody can pray for the dead. So, that’s what made me want to come today. It’s a very small ceremony, but it was very beautiful, and something that has to be done and anybody can pray,” said Scott Hilenski, Pittston.

“They may have been here for years and forgotten, but they were not forgotten today,” said Deacon Crane.

The Luzerne County Coroner’s Office has buried 14 unclaimed lives since the start of this year. The memorial service is set to become an annual tradition.