KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- On Saturday an infant girl was buried once again with her family.
Emma Huling died at the tender age of 10-months-old in 1865. For the next 155 years, she was with her family until vandals ripped her out of the mausoleum earlier this spring. Leaving her and her cast iron casket unceremoniously dumped by a shrub about 50 yards from her family.
Thanks to the generosity of the community, Emma returned to her family.
“We’re here to bury Emma,” Brad Speaks said to a chapel of about 40 people Saturday.
Behind Speaks rested a small white casket. It was new. The person inside of it is both young and very, very old.
Emma Huling was 10 months old, with light hair and two bottom teeth. She was buried in a cast iron casket with a Victorian viewing window wearing a baptism gown and handmade booties.
There is no record of her birth or notes on her short life. Tara Havard who planned the funeral said you could definitely tell that she was loved and cared for her entire existence.
For the next 155 years, Emma Huling was with her family. She was interred into the Huling family mausoleum and rested there peacefully until earlier this spring, when vandals ripped her out of the stone building in the heart of Elmwood Cemetery.
Those vandals tried to break open the box that surrounded her casket. When they couldn’t, they dropped her, that box, and her iron casket unceremoniously by a shrub about 50 yards away from her family.
Volunteers cleaning the cemetery found the broken casing and initially mistook her for trash. It took a knowing eye and a medical examiner to uncover the truth.
“I saw tears, I saw people moved,” Speaks said. Despite that none of us know Emma, none of us knew her family. To have Emma disturbed from her place of rest after all that time really called for a community to come together and take care of it together."
And they did.
Melissa Fallig is an investigator with the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s office. She was the investigator who came out to the scene. She was also one of Emma's pallbearers.
"I wanted to see this story from start to finish. I came out here today to pay my respects to Emma,” Fallig said. "And to make sure she got to her final resting place properly.”
It took 20 minutes for the community to give Emma a proper return, a gift of love and respect that no vandal could ever steal.
“There was one or two people responsible for the dark things,” Jon Weilert said, the President of the Elmwood Cemetery Board. “But there were dozens of people who were willing to participate in making it right.”
Emma Huling is one of 32,000 people buried in the 43 acres of Elmwood Cemetery. Some of those inside Elmwood are among Kansas City's most prominent family names.
"This was the cemetery in the early 1900’s," Havard said, the funeral director from Speaks Chapels. "There are a lot of people who are important to Kansas City in this cemetery here; you walk through here, you see the names of roads on these mausoleums. So if you had any sort of stature, this was the cemetery you came to. That’s what there Mausoluem Row here and if you look through here, you see Jacob Loose, the Armour family, tons of people out here."
"These people are here to be remembered, to be honored," Weilert continued, "and we’ll do what we can to maintain that." Elmwood has struggled against vandals for years. It is run solely by donations and volunteers. As Havard said, "They don’t get paid to sit out here every day."
To find out more about Elmwood Cemetery click here