After a century, unmarked graves of infants dedicated at Woodlawn Cemetery

Argus Leader

By Garrett Ammesmaki, June 22, 2018
2011 Inductee Gary Conradi
2011 Inductee Gary Conradi

A bagpipe bleated out “The Bells of Dublane” as almost 50 people walked through Woodlawn Cemetery.

They were there to remember the departed, all of whom were infants and most that died over a century ago.

The Tuesday afternoon service of remembrance was the culmination of a project started two years ago to mark the graves of 30 orphaned babies who passed between 1906 and 1930, but were unable to afford a marker.

“These babies, infants, were alive and they existed, but there’s no visible record of them being here. Our feeling was, we should correct that,” said Gary Conradi, a member of the board of directors for Woodlawn Cemetery.

Conradi spearheaded a fundraiser for the $10,000 needed for the markers. It was a success, receiving $16,000 in donations. Some primary contributors were the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Sheldon F. Reese Foundation. There are 30 or more spots yet to be marked, but Conradi said the remaining funds will be used toward rectifying that.

The event comes during the 125th anniversary of the South Dakota Children’s Home Society, where most of the babies lived during their short lives.

“It’s just so special to be a part of this, to learn about this, and really reconnect with a part of our history that we didn’t even know about,” said Rick Weber, Children’s Home Society Development Director.

The Children Home’s Society was South Dakota’s primary orphanage for decades, meaning many of the babies came from cities across the state — spanning from Chamberlain to Watertown.

“Life is precious,” Conradi said, “and I think it needs to be recognized reverently and respectfully.”

The Roosevelt High School chorus performed for the event, which included a mediation and dedication from Reverend Heidi Binstock of Westside Lutheran Church.

For Conradi, the project hits close to home. He had two brothers who died during infancy, both were buried not far from the new markers.

“My parents felt the need for a marker, and as I was growing up we would come here and plant flowers on memorial day,” he said. “My parents are now deceased, so I’ve continued that.”

Read more about Gary’s legacy of achievements here.

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