Douglas found nothing in her old notes to explain her decision. Again and again, bulging guardianship files show that the consequences of bad luck and bureaucratic indifference fall with disproportionate cruelty on people who lack the buffer of money. Few are more vulnerable than immigrants to this proudly international city. Ciro Ferrer, of Cuba, lies in Trench , where four dozen of bodies have Hispanic names amid an Ellis Island grab bag.
For 25 years, working in a food market in Elmhurst, Queens, Mr. Ferrer supported his wife and three children in Havana. But after the authorities found him disheveled and malnourished, wandering the streets near the Elmhurst apartment where he lived alone, he was initially described in records as 70, single and childless. He told a court-appointed evaluator about his Cuban family after receiving a dementia diagnosis in and being placed at New Surfside Nursing Home in Far Rockaway, Queens. But that never happened.
The guardian, Nicholas S. Ferrer died on Oct. In Havana, Mr. He was still alive, eight years ago, when her mother received a letter from the court evaluator saying that Mr.
Ferrer was unable to care for himself, but her efforts to reply by phone and email went unanswered. The office does not track the numbers, she said, or ask the reasons. Hell no!
Zarramen was the family clown, the lovable prankster who had known a better life. His father was a good provider, an Army veteran working two jobs as a janitor in Brooklyn, in a hospital and in a bank. But he died when the boy was 7, and the family ended up on welfare and in the drug-ravaged homeless-shelter system. Their mother, Rita Nelson, became addicted to heroin. Only then did they learn that the burial plot had room for one more. She outlived her family but had made careful provision to be laid to rest with her husband in a cemetery in Turners Falls, Mass. Within four months, she was in a trench with others.
McCrea had ended up. As in many cases, Ms.
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Jonathan Mawere, the administrator of the nursing home, Queens Boulevard Extended Care Facility, who was prompted by an inquiry from The Times to find and try to reactivate her burial plan, three years late. Unclaimed graves, unspent burial funds and uncollected life insurance abound in this fragmented system, critics say.
Even concerned survivors with money to pay for burial themselves are no guarantee against Hart Island. Take Emmett Pantin, 57, placed on a ventilator in after a severe stroke. Gerard Pantin , even when the younger brother died at 62 in July and was sent to Hart Island, his name misspelled Patin. In fact, the brothers were two of nine siblings in a family from Trinidad.
Relatives there and in the United States had been trying to find Emmett Pantin for nearly a year when they learned from a website that he had died. Immobile, voiceless, suffering bedsores and depression, he had been transferred through at least four medical institutions under the supervision of a court-appointed guardian in his last year of life, records show.
If somebody went to the hospital and went to a nursing home, how can they not know where he is? Of the more than 65, people buried on Hart Island since , at least 52, died in hospitals or nursing homes. The unclaimed dead wait in cold storage, shelved on racks in city morgues. In theory, all who are destined for that last ferry ride are first subject to selection as educational cadavers under the authority of the chief medical examiner.
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Fewer still were chosen. If you want to take a look, see if you can use some. The street homeless and other casualties of rough living are generally not wanted by medical schools. Old age, however, is no obstacle.
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Record-keeping of such loans is sloppy; documents show some bodies signed out and never signed back in. And for decades, McAllister, along with the mortuary science department at Nassau Community College, had even more casual access to the dead, conducting classes in the city morgue at Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan until Hurricane Sandy flooded the premises in Religious charities that handle burials have fruitlessly sought access to the names of people lying unclaimed.
So it was that Milton Weinstein, 67, a Brooklyn-born Reform Jew, became one of three bodies from nursing homes that Mr. In a log book at the morgue, Mr.
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He loaded the bodies on stretchers and trucked them away. It would be at least two years before they were buried.
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There are no rules on how long such corpses can be used. But hundreds could be identified anyway, through comparisons of dates and places of death. Many were separately confirmed by people with access to unredacted records. Some cadavers were traced to past lives and lost relatives. With bitterness and self-reproach, Mr.
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Widowed in s Brooklyn with a 7-year-old son and a 3-year-old adopted daughter, Mr. Weinstein remarried and clung to his second wife, Lynda, then a hospital nurse with a son of her own. Even when her descent into mental illness and abusiveness destroyed the blended family, Mr. His daughter ran away. His stepson fled the turmoil to live with his own father. To the stepson, Barry Gainsburg, now a lawyer in Florida, Mr. A diabetic, Mr. Weinstein lost his last job, driving for a car service, because of dimming sight. Destitute and ailing, he and his wife entered the nursing home together. When he died there in , they had been residents for at least three years.
But the nursing home, which did not respond to repeated inquiries about the case, sent his body to the morgue as unclaimed, and transferred his widow, over her objections, from the Bronx to a nursing home in Brooklyn. Wynston said. Eventually, after Ms. Weinstein had been shuffled through a series of nursing homes, a Brooklyn hospital contacted her son: She was undergoing surgery for lung cancer.
Nobody could tell them where he was buried. Now they realize why: He was still being used as a cadaver.
But NO ONE CARED
In Greek mythology, the ghosts of the unburied dead visit the living, demanding proper burial. Here are the favored few, exhumed by number from the trench grid, collected by a funeral home and ferried back for a different ending. Among these cases are two stories as redemptive as any faith could pray for, stories that illuminate what others have lost in the darkness that surrounds Hart Island. Monica Murray, the oldest in a large Irish Catholic family, had married at She was a good, protective mother to her two daughters, Maureen and Linda. But in , when they were 22 and 17, she abruptly emptied the family bank account and vanished.
Their mother briefly surfaced in St. Lucia, living with an abusive man and asking for money. Bitterness drove a wedge between the daughters and their maternal relatives.
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