Santa Clara County officials will hold a prayer service Saturday to remember and honor those buried at a cemetery discovered during construction at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, county officials said.
A judge gave county officials permission in May to remove about 100 bodies from the forgotten so-called potter’s field and the service is meant to bring comfort to family members who believe their loved ones were buried at the site, the release stated.
The ceremony will take place on Saturday at 2 p.m., on the second floor of the two-story parking garage, overlooking the burial site. The garage in San Jose is located at the corner of Ginger Lane and Middle Drive.
Former Los Gatos mayor and councilmember Mike Wasserman, who serves on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors representing District 1, will be in attendance.
“Our hope is that the remembrance service will provide some comfort for the relatives of the individuals who were buried in the potter’s field approximately 100 years ago,” Wasserman said in a statement.
Others attending the service will include the Rev. Larry Wildemuth, Chaplain SCVMC; Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, Diocese of San Jose; Venerable John Chon, SCVMC Buddhist Spiritual Care Provider; Ouahiba Ahriz, SCVMC Muslim Spiritual Care; and Ram Sharra, Hindu community. Music will include bagpipes and a harp.
“The remembrance prayer service is an opportunity to gather together, take time to reflect on life, and respectfully prepare the ground spiritually and physically so their remains may be moved with honor and care,” said Rev. Wildemuth, chaplain of spiritual care services at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in a statement.
The service, being held before work starts on removing the coffins and remains, is in the path of construction, but officials will ensure that the remains are removed in a "dignified and respectful manner, and dealt with in accordance with the law and current County practices for handling the indigent deceased."
An additional 1,345 coffins in the graveyard will be untouched.
Another service will be held after completion of construction at the hospital.
The pine boxes, which where discovered in a February excavation of the hospital site, date to between 1875 and 1935.
A 1932 map indicates the cemetery, but a map from 1958 doesn’t show it and a map from 1966 indicates an employee parking lot in its place.
Based on 1932 map, there may be as many as 1,445 pine boxes on the site where 15 were dug up.
Records of County hospital deaths from 1925 to 1940 are unclear, there are no markers, and the coffins have not been disturbed so is not known who may be buried in the cemetery.
The County wishes to help family members who may be related to those buried in the cemetery claim the remains and arrange for a private burial.
Contact the County by Aug. 1 if you think you may have a relative in the cemetery to claim the remains. Send an email to Remains@ceo.sccgov.org or leave a phone message at 408-299-5192 with your contact information, the name of the deceased’s relative and relationship, approximate age at death, gender, race, date of birth, date of death, and any other information.