“No one should die alone and no one should be buried alone,” Sidney Johnson said, as rain and cold temperatures made a sad morning all the more dreary at East Maplewood Cemetery.
Johnson was attending the funeral of Christopher Cook, a homeless man who died on April 17. Despite having his name, date of birth and Social Security number, authorities were unable to find anyone to claim his body.
Johnson, who lives near the cemetery, said he read about the funeral and felt compelled to go.
“I have three sons in their 50s,” he said. “If this was one of my sons, I would want someone to go.”
Cook, 52, died of hypothermia on April 17 in Pulaski Park on 38th Street.
The Anderson Police Department helped with the search for any known acquaintance of Cook’s, but was unable to find any leads. Several members of the department turned out for the graveside funeral.
APD chaplain Gary McCaslin performed the ceremony.
“We don’t know much about Chris,” McCaslin said. “But God knew everything about him. We hope and pray that he is in heaven, free from addiction and no longer alone.”
McCaslin said this was an opportunity for those in attendance to count their blessings and to be thankful for the people they have in their lives.
Annie White also decided to come to the funeral even though she didn’t know Cook. White said it was sad Cook had no one who knew him and no one to attend the funeral. She came because she felt it was the right thing to do.
Because state law prohibits cremating a body without permission, Cook was buried in Maplewood with Robert D. Loose Funeral Homes & Crematory handling the arrangements. The Anderson Township Trustee Board handled the expenses.
Madison County Coroner Marian Dunnichay said it’s very rare in this digital age to identify a deceased person and not be able to find someone to claim the body. As long as she’s been the coroner she’s never experienced it.
Cook was taken to a hospital on the night of April 16 to sober up but refused treatment. Dunnichay said Cook didn’t list anyone as an emergency contact.
Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB, or call 640-4847.