FAIRFIELD COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A shelf once full of cremation boxes is now empty in the Fairfield County Coroner's Office.
County Coroner Chris Hill laid 14 unclaimed Fairfield County residents to rest on Tuesday in Oaklawn Cemetery in Winnsboro, a project he said he's been thinking about for a long time.
"Every time I go into my evidence room they're right there on the shelf," Hill said. "I'm going to miss them but I can come visit them now here."
Hill became county coroner in 2017 and said upon doing inventory, he realized there were 17 unclaimed cremation boxes in the department. Three of the individuals are veterans and Hill is coordinating to have them buried at Fort Jackson.
The 14 unclaimed individuals buried Tuesday range in age, with the oldest passing in 1987.
"Everybody deserves a proper burial," he said. "I would want someone to do the same for me. I don't know what kind of life they lived, I don't care, I just want to return them home to where they came from."
Tuesday's ceremony included prayer, hymns, and readings from both the old and new testament from area pastors. Jane Boyter is a long time resident of Winnsboro and said she decided to come out to the burial service to pay her respects.
"When God said love your neighbor I don't think he meant the people next door necessarily," Boyter said. "I think he meant everybody and you can hold grudges against people but you got to forgive and if you want to go where God is you have to follow him."
The 14 unclaimed people laid to rest are Frank Amaker, Rheta Berndt, Sylvester Burdette, Charles P. Burgess, Mimi Distin, Calvin Hilton, Betty Johnson, Frank Keller, Edna Matheson, Ann Murphy, Jack Nunamaker, Mary Shatte, Barbara Slayton and Willie Watts.
The county coroner's office paid for all of the headstones and grave markers unveiled at the ceremony.
"It's just the right thing to do," Hill said. "Now I can go to bed at night with a clear conscience that I did my job."