African American Cemeteries Forum
Washington Park Cemetery
I am writing to inform you about the history of Washington Park Cemetery. In 1968 a man named Mr. Brown was the owner of the cemetery. He gave it to his secretary, Virginia Younger, in 1987. She started burying individuals on top of people in existing graves. I have two relatives that were buried there in 1970. One in section 3 and the other in section 4. Approximately 3 years later both sections were full. Seventeen years later, there were new graves in these sections. She committed suicide in 1991 after an investigation was conducted regarding the illegal burials and other matters. The City of Berkeley or St. Louis County was the owner until 1995. In 1995 a man name Mr. Cooper (or Kuper-not sure of the spelling) bought the cemetery for $3,000. This was supposedly the amount of taxes that was owed on the property. Cooper supposedly received $100,000 each year from Ameren UE because they have power lines, transformers, etc. on the property. There are several accounts as to what date these payments were made to Mr. Cooper. One account is that Ameren paid Cooper $100,000 for each year up until 2035. Another account was that Ameren paid Cooper until 2020. Yet another account was that Ameren paid Cooper until 2012. At any rate, Cooper received a large sum of money from Ameren and what happened to that money? Also, the Lambert Airport Expansion/Metro Link Projects also paid Cooper millions of dollars. It would make sense that Cooper should have only had to maintain the cemetery grounds for about six months out of every year. Cooper only maintained the sections of the cemetery that faced Natural Bridge Rd. & immediately facing Brown Rd. The other sections were neglected.
Families who purchased graves at Washington Park Cemetery should have been given a deed to the grave. This deed should state whether Washington Park Cemetery is a perpetual care cemetery. If families can produce a deed stating that it is a perpetual care cemetery, then there is a great chance that state regulatory agencies can assist with clean-up, maintenance ect. of the cemetery. There was supposed to have been an endownment care fund established by the cemetery.
Mr. Cooper gave the cemetery to Mr. Kevin Bailey in 2009. Relatives who want to have their loved ones relocated to another cemetery have to pay a huge fee of approximately $7,000. $500 of this would have to be paid to Mr. Bailey.
There are a lot of unanswered questions regarding the true financial status of Washington Park Cemetery. Also, if the cemetery is considered a historical property or landmark then I wonder why the state or government couldn't assist the owner with clean-up, restoration efforts, obtaining burial records that can be on one database (instead of having to visit several places or call several telephone numbers in order to obtain burial information), and other issues.
We as a people need to join together and try to get something done regarding Washington Park. Maybe we need to go to our newspapers, television stations, and Black radio stations so that we can inform the public and finally put this matter to rest.