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Hastings State Hospital cemetery will be rededicated

Hastings State Hospital cemetery will be rededicated

Remembering with Dignity, a coalition of disability rights organizations and working to honor people who lived and died in Minnesota’s state institutions, will hold a ceremony from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, at the former Hastings State Hospital cemetery. It will commemorate the dedication of the more than 900 grave stones three years ago. The ceremony is open to the public.

“This cemetery is completed,” said community organizer Halle O’Falvey. “But we don’t want to forget them.”

The effort to remember the more than 13,000 people buried in state institutions’ cemeteries in Minnesota continues today, assured O’Falvey. About half that number have been remembered with permanent markers in the state’s cemeteries.

That work continues, she said, with work to ask for more funds from the Minnesota State Legislature to complete restoration on another 3,725 graves in other cemeteries (through the end of 2014). That restoration is expected cost $1 million.

Since 1994 Remembering with Dignity has been marking graves in institution cemeteries in the state. 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.

To help do its work, Remembering with Dignity obtained some initial funds from the Legislature in 2004. More than 500 markers were placed at graves in Hastings in 2007. Another 175 were dedicated in a public ceremony in October, 2009.

The cemetery, located on state property at the southeast city limits, overlooks an area rich in environmental history, complete with native grass and bushes. Many living in the area are still not aware of what is there—901 people buried, again, many with no family members still alive.

The cemetery has no direct access to it. Entrance is by walking behind nearby houses, or by vehicle on a path behind the Three Rivers Park on 31st Street. That path is usually gated, but will be open the afternoon of Oct. 11.

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 ce