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Feb. 20th, 2004 | 08:29 pm

I just sent in my feedback to the news station involved with this....

I am curious to know what the "regular person" thinks or feels when they read or hear about this...

so.. please... read and comment...



Two sisters have united to uncover a secret that lies beneath St. Mary's Cemetery, in DeWitt.
"All of the babies out there you know just crying out. They're not forgotten," says Karen Ruebsamen.
"I couldn't put reason to it, why that would happen," adds her sister, Joan Ward.
To understand why the sisters are so upset, you have to go back to another time, to November 2, 1956. Syracuse reflected a different way of life then.
The headlines at the time: the Middle East was at war, Detroit was unveiling the new Plymouth, Jack Benny was the show to watch, and on the obituary page, William A. Ryder, aged 82, was about to be buried at Saint Mary's Cemetery.
Ryder was a vaudeville actor from New York City, but his roots were in Central New York. He was a life member of the Syracuse Elks Lodge 31 since 1900.
On the day before Ryder's burial, across town Eugenie Ruebsamen gave birth to a stillborn baby at Syracuse Memorial Hospital. Eugenie went on to have eight children, but the stillborn always bothered her.
"She always told us we had another sibling," says Ruebsamen.
Forty-seven years later, Eugenie's daughters decided to search for their lost but never forgotten sibling to give their mother closure.
"A final gift to my mom, a marker put on the grave dedicated to the one child that we will never know," says Ward.
Ward did the detective work to locate the grave. Old hospital and Catholic church records show "Stillborn Ruebsamen" was turned over to funeral director Frank Quinn and taken to Saint Mary's Cemetery. But Ward was in for the shock of her life. The body of her sibling was buried that day in 1956 in the grave along with William Ryder, and they discovered a second stillborn named "Insel" there.
All three had been buried in the same grave.
"Not only my mother's baby was in this grave with Mr. Ryder, another baby is buried in that grave with Mr. Ryder," Ward says.
Ruebsamen is just as upset. "These babies had souls and there's no reason why, you know, to just toss them out. God doesn't think our babies are trash."
Ward and Ruebsamen went to the spot at St. Mary's, and uncovered a spot buried in snow where underneath William Ryder is buried along with the bodies of two stillborn children.
There are thousands of graves at Saint Mary's, and Ward wonders what lies beneath.
"I would bet the farm that this whole cemetery is hiding many infants that families are not aware of," she says.
The Hart-Quinn Funeral Home is now a post for Italian-American war veterans. Frank Quinn died years ago, but people in the funeral industry who knew him have only the highest praise for the man. Some remember his commitment to the stillborn babies.
As best anyone can figure, Quinn would recover the bodies of stillborn and miscarried infants from hospitals free of charge, and would have them baptized and placed in small boxes. He would take the boxes to Saint Mary's where workers would apparently put the remains in the open graves of anyone being buried that day.
"I totally agree that Mr. Quinn's heart was in the right place," says Ward.
But were any of the families who bought plots there aware? And how long had this been going on? Are there other graves of bodies buried with the remains of stillborns?
"It was a complete surprise to me," says Reverend James Fritzen, who oversees cemeteries throughout the Syracuse Diocese.
Fritzen says the idea of putting stillborns in the graves of others would not happen today. But he can understand why it might have happened in the past.
"If the hospitals were bringing products of conception or misconception, the cemetery's mission would have been to take care of them. And how they did it and what graves they buried, I don't know...from the moment of conception, that is life, given by God. A soul is present there," Rev. Fritzen says.
Fritzen opened his records for the I-Team, at which point a date, November 1956, suddenly jumped out. There were other stillborns taken to Saint Mary's, and according to the ledger, "Baby Nardone" and "Fetus Gacioch" died November 8, 1956. The index cards found they were buried in Section 86, lot 162-A, grave number 2.
A phone call to Saint Mary's quickly revealed the bodies were buried in the grave belonging to Katherine Zoll. At Zoll's grave, her headstone indicates she died 48 years ago at the age of just 50. There's no mention of the infant bodies buried along with her.
The I-Team revealed what Ward and Ruebsamen feared; it was not an isolated incident. And with all the thousands of graves at St.Mary's, should the Church investigate, locate the stillborns and inform the families?
"If people want to, fine. But I don't want to try to encourage somebody to open up Pandora's Box in the sense. If they're at peace, I don't think there's a real need for it," says Fritzen.
Ruebsamen feels there is a need for it.
"Our babies have souls and they deserve to have a proper burial and who's to say that all of these babies out there, you know, just crying out. They're not forgotten," she says.
Last year, a new plot opened at Saint Mary's, a place where stillborn children can be buried together. The monument reads: "Let the children come to me."
When contacted, Robert Zoll, the son of Katherine Zoll, says the family did not know that the stillborns were buried with his mother and says the family did not give consent. Zoll adds, however, that he intends to "let their souls rest in peace."
Fritzen says he's not happy the story is out, saying he fears it will cause a lot of potential heartache. Diocese spokesperson Danielle Cummings asks what's the alternative? Should the stillborn and miscarried babies have been treated as medical waste?
But Ward and Ruebsamen say all they want is a marker on the grave of their sibling and they expect the church to come through for their family.

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Comments {10}

}l{ Angel }l{

(no subject)

from: italianangel78
date: Feb. 20th, 2004 05:42 pm (UTC)
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OMG. That's terrible. I think each baby should have been given their own plot....not just tossed in with anyone who conveniently died and was buried at the same time! That's not right for ANYONE'S family!

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Don

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from: shoshiki
date: Feb. 20th, 2004 05:59 pm (UTC)
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The funeral director's heart was in the right place.. but the cemetery should have treated the babies differently...

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Erica

(no subject)

from: marrasyn
date: Feb. 20th, 2004 05:43 pm (UTC)
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Hmmm, interesting story. I mean, obviously, I understand the trauma experienced by the Ruebsamen family. However, I would agree that there is no need to expose other families, who already have closure, to this sort of thing. Afterall, the soul no longer resides in the bodies of the infants... so no harm would come of letting things remain. You would only upset the families of the babies AND the families of the people in the graves with them.
I imagine that the Frank Quinn guy thought he was providing a good service. I mean, at least they were treated with some respect instead of medical waste.

I dunno... thought-provoking though.

How did you feel?

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Don

(no subject)

from: shoshiki
date: Feb. 20th, 2004 05:50 pm (UTC)
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you ask and you shall receive:

My e-mail feedback:

Jim,
I have watched in interest to see just how St. Mary's in Dewitt would answer your questions and was quite dismayed when it seemed that they went around the question.
I myself am a funeral director here in Syracuse. In today's society, many funeral directors, when called on by a family to handle cases like a stillborn or infant, do so with minimal, if any, charges brought on by the funeral home.
It seems that Mr. Quinn was doing much the same, however, back in those days there were not as many laws as there are now. The same would not be able to happen now.
I would be very interested to see what the NYS board of cemeteries has to say about these findings.

While you are at St. Mary's, you may want to ask them about their policy of "double charging" for the burial of an infant or cremains now. This policy went into effect in the last year.
If one wants to bury a stillborn/infant.. or cremains on top of a loved one who is already buried. The cemetery charges the family 1/2 of the current cost for a brand new grave along with the full opening and closing fee. They have gone as far as to require a funeral director to tell them if there are cremains inside of a casket with a body (i.e.. a man is buried with his wife's cremains or vice versa) so that they can charge the family more.

Back to the original question though....

I believe that the cemetery should conduct a full investigation into how many infants are buried with others and notify all families involved as soon as possible. They should also provide a free disinterment of the remains if one is requested because this should have never happened in the first place.

--Don Lough

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Erica

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from: marrasyn
date: Feb. 20th, 2004 06:17 pm (UTC)
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Well said...

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Renate Ussery

(no subject)

from: thenadalady
date: Feb. 20th, 2004 05:44 pm (UTC)
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having lost a newborn in my family, I feel kinda torn. What would have happened to these babies if he hadnt done it? would they have been thrown away like garbage? I mean, it wasnt a "proper" burial.. but it WAS a burial.

I do however think that they should be exhumed and placed in their own section with proper markers.

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Don

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from: shoshiki
date: Feb. 20th, 2004 06:00 pm (UTC)
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See my "fast feedback" that I sent in regarding it above....

your parents wanted to originally go to St. mary's... I kinda talked thm out of it cause of the cost of the place... I swear they keep raising costs in order to pay more people off......

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irisira03

(no subject)

from: irisira03
date: Feb. 21st, 2004 04:50 am (UTC)
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It's an interesting story. I don't think what was done was "horrible" per-say. It was better than the bodies being tossed like garbage, which is probably what would have happened.

Still, I agree that there should be some sort of investigation now, to put people's minds to rest if nothing else.

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Don

(no subject)

from: shoshiki
date: Feb. 21st, 2004 07:11 am (UTC)
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if the fetuses were under 16 weeks... they would have been treated as med waste..

otherwise, there was a death cert filed and a FD had to be contacted....

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The whiner formerly known as Bachelorette911

(no subject)

from: suicidekitty911
date: Feb. 21st, 2004 11:27 am (UTC)
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Hmmm...I don't know about that. Creepy.
I think if I were to find out now that a fetus had been buried with someone I knew, like my brother or whatever, I would find it creepy but I'd get over it. I couldn't stand the thought of my bro being dug up to get the fetus out, and would rather it all just be left alone. But I think if I was the mother of one of those babies, I'd want it dug up and put in a plot of it's own. I can see how it would be a difficult decision to make, on everyone's part.
Keep us updated on this story, though...I'm interested to see how it all turns out.

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