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Oregon Honors "Forgotten Souls"

The Oregonian / Beth Nakamura

How do we remember people whose stories have been lost or never recorded in the first place?

Our stories don't end when we die. We live on in the memories of family and friends, the stories they tell about us, and the legacies we leave behind. But how do we remember people whose stories have been forgotten, lost, or never recorded in the first place?

At the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, the state government is attempting to answer that question. OSH is creating a memorial to honor the memories of some 3,500 "forgotten souls", people who died while under the state's care and whose remains were never claimed.

The discovery some years ago that the hospital was storing unclaimed cremated remains prompted lawmakers to take action. They began the process of identifying the remains and reuniting them with the next of kin whenever possible. Hospital personnel scoured records to learn all they could about the former patients. Some were Native Americans and will be returned to their tribes; others were veterans and will receive military burials.

For those whose families could not be found, a new memorial opened July 7, 2014, on the hospital campus. Visitors can pay tribute to these "forgotten souls" who now have been laid to rest.