Location of donated bodies released; crowd gathers to honor with memorial

Will Conley

Cold wind blew from Lake Calhoun onto a crowd of people donning coats and flowers Saturday morning. Some cried and held each other as they huddled together around a new memorial.
The memorial was dedicated to those who have donated their bodies to the University for anatomical education. Five hundred people gathered at Lakewood Cemetery to honor these donors. The service marked the first time information about the donors’ location was publicized to family and friends.
Kerry Adelmann, a woman from Little Canada who has a child buried at the Lakewood site, led the effort to create and publicize the permanent memorial. It started with her own search for her son.
She began her search for her son’s body’s whereabouts in 1979, when she contacted the University by letter to request information. The reply was that there were no records kept.
“At the time, the medical profession thought the parents were better off forgetting about their children’s death,” Adelmann said. “I bought into that for as long as I could, but it gnawed at me.”
Not until nearly 20 years had passed, by way of contacting the Medical School, did she discover that the cadavers were buried in a mass, unmarked grave.
She says she wants people to be able to grieve properly for their loved ones, especially for the infants. One-third of the bodies at the mass grave were infants who died at birth or very early in life.
“The bottom line is that I felt (the dead) should be acknowledged. Now the parents have a place to go to remember and honor their loved ones, and they know where it is.”
Mary Kenyon, the technical organizer of the dedication, said, “Everything fell into place. It was meant to be. Kerry was very instrumental in pulling everyone together to make it work.”
The memorial service also served as a way to thank those who have helped the medical profession with their generous donations.
“These gifts help teach our health professionals the skills that give life,” said Dr. Greg Vercellotti, associate dean of medicine.
Teague Dombeck, a first-year medical student, played an original guitar- and vocal-piece called “Grateful,” and Greg Parranto, also a first-year medical student, spoke and played “Prayer for Peace” on guitar.
During the closing song all were invited to place flowers at the base of the memorial.
For information on support for grieving the loss of an infant, contact the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Center at (612) 473-9372.