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Last of state hospital cemetery markers will be dedicated Oct. 2

The journey to remember has almost been completed at the former Hastings State Hospital cemetery in Hastings. More than 700 graves, with markers, have been dedicated.

The remaining 146 markers will be dedicated in a public ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 2 at the cemetery.

The journey to remember the more than 13,000 people buried in state institutions' cemeteries in Minnesota continues, but at the former Hastings State Hospital cemetery, the end of the journey nears.

The cemetery, located on state property at the southeast city limits, overlooks an area rich in environmental history, complete with native grass and bushes. A housing development "backs up" to the area.

Many living in the area are still not aware of what is there--901 people buried, again, many with no family members still alive. They were patients at the hospital and many had no family. When they died, the marker for their grave was a number - no name. It was a different time in the state's history, fortunately.

Remembering with Dignity, the coalition of disability rights organization, working to honor people who lived and died in Minnesota's state institutions, most recently enlisted volunteers who counted the markers and retrieved old markers from the cemetery and nearby area.

Since 1994, Remembering with Dignity has been marking graves in institution cemeteries. Minnesota had more than 13,000 graves marked by only a numbered cement block, or no marker at all. The numbered grave markers have been a reminder of a system that separated people from the community and denied many of their basic human rights and dignity.

More than 5,000 graves now have markers in at state cemeteries in Anoka, Faribault, Willmar, Cambridge, Owatonna, St. Peter, Moose Lake, Rochester and now, the 901 in Hastings. To help do its work, Remembering with Dignity obtained some funds from the Legislature in 2004 to begin the work of placing markers

More than 500 markers were placed at graves in Hastings in 2007. Another 175 were dedicated in a public ceremony last October.

This Oct. 2 ceremony will mark the end of the journey here, but the journey, and the effort to gain additional funding from the state will continue.

The Minnesota Veterans Home is now located on the grounds of the former state hospital, and the Veteran's Home maintenance department has kept the field mowed.

Access to the cemetery is by Tuttle Drive to Thomas Drive. Turn left and parked where the street ends. The cemetery is located behind the houses.