Coroner's Office Inters Unclaimed Veterans

Occasionally there are individuals who pass away in Chester County where the next of kin cannot be located or the next of kin declines responsibility for the individual. In these situations, the Coroner’s Office takes possession of the deceased individual and arranges for a cremation. 

In order to determine if any of these individuals are veterans, and therefore eligible for a military funeral with honors, the Coroner’s Office contacts the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Hospital in Coatesville, PA, the Veterans Services Office in Tennessee, the US Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Scheduling Office in Missouri, and Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Newtown, PA to determine eligibility. Once we determine a veteran is eligible for a military funeral with honors, we work with the military honors groups to arrange for a ceremony. This year our intern, Justine Newman, worked on this project and found there were seven veterans who were eligible for interment at Washington Crossing National Cemetery: three in the US Marines, two in the US Navy, and two in the US Army (one of whom was a colonel).
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Forgotten Souls Laid to Rest

On Thursday, November 8, 2018 under blue skies and an autumn breeze, the Chester County Coroner's Office interred, at Philadelphia Memorial Park in Frazer, the cremains of 52 individuals who did not have any next-of-kin or whose next-of-kin would not or could not take responsibility for them.

The Rev. Robert Garrett led the assembled group in a non-denominational ceremony. Coroner Christina VandePol, M.D. spoke at the ceremony saying she wanted to honor the lives of the individuals who have been left in the care of the Coroner's office. Music was provided by Carter, Hill & Hobson, a blue-grass combo and by West Chester University music professor Mark Rimpel. Flowers were provided by Philadelphia Memorial Park and by Peter Urscheler, Mayor of Phoenixville.

The names of the 52 individuals were read in turn by Coroner Christina VandePol, Deputy Coroner Maryanne Higbee, Office Manager Patty Emmons and Phoenixville Mayor Peter Urscheler. The ceremony was attended by several Chester County elected officials, staff from the Coroner's office and staff from Chester County Henrietta Hankin Library.