Burr Oak Cemetery Needs Repairs, Angry Families Say

Bernie Tafoya
July 09, 2019 - 4:52 pm

(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Families were remembering their loved ones Tuesday and calling for badly needed improvements at Burr Oak Cemetery, which was hit with a grave re-selling scandal a decade ago. 

"It is not fit for the dead to be buried here, especially my mother,” Zeola Hill said.

She was among those calling on cemetery owners to deal with flooding issues and crater-like potholes in roads throughout the African-American cemetery in Alsip. 

Edward Boone, of Friends of Burr Oak Cemetery, said recent attempts to address the problems have failed.

"They’ve been trying to Band-Aid it by placing gravel rocks on the roads, but each time there’s heavy rain, it sinks and right back to the same problem."

Boone said he and the others want to work with the cemetery's owners to make things better.

Edward Boone (WBBM Newsradio)

For his part, cemetery manager and part-owner Kevin Carter acknowledged the complaints. He said the cemetery is important to the black community because of its cultural heritage. It's also important to him, personally, he said.

“I have family members here," he said. 

Carter said he hopes road and flooding issues can be dealt with by the end of the year. 
Shapearl Wells, who has nine family members buried at Burr Oak, expressed frustration at the pace of the improvements.

“What Burr Oak doesn’t realize is that this is adding more pain to the families."

Families say Burr Oak Cemetery has had problems with flooding. (WBBM Newsradio)

People went to prison for digging up graves and re-selling them at the cemetery, in a scandal that drew wide attention. Kevin Carter’s father, long-time cemetery owner Willie E. Carter, bought the cemetery in 2016. Willie Carter died nearly a year ago, and his son says the estate is still tied up in probate court. 

Burr Oak opened in 1927 to serve the black community. Among those buried there, according to the cemetery, are Emmett Till, the 14-year old whose murder helped spark the civil rights movement; blues singers Dinah Washington and Willie Dixon and boxing champion Ezzard Charles.