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Community honors those buried at Hastings Regional Center
Thousands of patients are buried in unmarked graves with no listed names at the Hastings Regional Center cemetery. Friday those lives were remembered and honored.
The Hastings Regional Center was built in the 1800s as a hospital to hold people with mental illnesses. The cemetery is on the southwest grounds of the Regional Center. And while their graves are dispersed and unmarked, Friday their lives are remembered forever.
One by one the names were read.
1,432 people are buried in the cemetery. Their graves are unmarked and names are unknown to many, until now.
"It's a depersonalizing thing, just a mass grave site with names that didn't correspond or anything," said Judy Hultine.
Judy Hultine worked here for 30 years and recounts the history of the hospital.
"At that time there was so much stigma that people essentially would bring them and forget about them. In fact, a relative on one of our sides of the family was out here and the family didn't know," Hultine said.
Marj Colburn worked at the Hastings Regional Center for over 40 years.
"When I first started out here the facility was a state psychiatric hospital," said Colburn.
Many patients were deemed mentally ill and unfit for society and were simply sent away.
"Sometimes epilepsy was a reason to be admitted, uncontrollable melancholia. A lot of things that in our current day and age wouldn't have people in a hospital," said Colburn.
There are over a thousand graves lined across the cemetery, some legible, some worn off. Each of them lists the person's medical record number.
"The stone number is actually their medical record number so we could go back to medical records look up the number and come up with the individual's name," Colburn said.
A new garden built to recognize that the graves at this cemetery represent people who deserve to be remembered.
"We now have a place for family and friends to come to kind of honor their loved ones who are buried here," said Tammy Fiala, Consumer Specialist for Region 3 Behavioral Health Services.
Today marks a turning point and an event that shines a light on the stigma of mental illness.
"I think this is one step further in accepting psychiatric illnesses, mental health issues and giving us a wake up call in terms of what is available now," said Hultine.
"The most important thing is it brings respect to the people that lived and died here," Fiala said.
Marge says the memorial is an area for the public and relatives of those lost to sit and reflect. The new garden includes a bench, monument, and flowers and bushes.
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