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Lewis and Clark County indigent burial service provides dignified, respectful memorial

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Posted at 5:25 PM, May 11, 2023

HELENA — Thursday morning in the Helena Valley, dozens of people gathered for a ceremony to make sure no one in the community is forgotten.

The Lewis and Clark County Coroner’s Division held a memorial service at the county cemetery, in honor of 18 people whose remains have gone unclaimed.

“To me, the meaning of this ceremony is community and giving respect,” said Lewis and Clark County Sheriff-Coroner Leo Dutton. “Some people that come here feel like they have given love, they've given respect.”

The coroner’s division works to connect with family or friends of those who have passed away. For those who still remained unclaimed, this burial service was a way to ensure they’re remembered.

Lewis and Clark County Indigent Burial Service
The Lewis and Clark County Coroner's Division held a burial service May 11, 2023, for 18 people whose remains have gone unclaimed.

On Thursday, the Magpie Drummers and Singers performed honor songs. Chaplain Chris Thompson read out the names of those being remembered. The sheriff’s honor guard displayed and ceremonially folded a flag. Finally, those in attendance laid flowers at the burial site.

About 75 people were there for the ceremony. They included Chadene Atkins, a former social worker who heard about the service at the last minute, but felt it was important to take part.

“Everybody deserves to be honored, and the fact that this community would do such a thing just speaks highly of who we are and what's important and meaningful,” she said.

Dutton echoed that sentiment, saying the event showed the best of this community.

“What I saw was compassion, courage, dedication to mankind – it may sound rather cliche, but these people put those words in action today,” he said. “They showed up, they gave their time and they gave their respect. And you don't get that into a lot of places.”

Lewis and Clark County Indigent Burial Service
The Lewis and Clark County Coroner's Division held a burial service May 11, 2023, for 18 people whose remains have gone unclaimed.

The 18 people remembered during Thursday’s service were:

· Loreen Reynolds
· James Haagen
· Joanne Honea
· Leonard Collins
· Larry Nelson
· Thomas Stryjewski
· Henry Morgan
· Francis Johnson
· David Otis
· Susan Johnson
· Roger Crandell
· David Fontenot
· Diann McFarland
· Vicky Knox
· Judy Hubbard
· David Ellison
· Marcos Angelleti
· Ellerd Tomte

The coroner’s division first held this type of service in 2018. They now hold them every other year.