Culture and Trends ›

The Legacy of Unclaimed, but not Forgotten People

Getty Images / David McNew

The Legacy of Unclaimed, but not Forgotten People

Los Angeles is a confusing dichotomy. It is the sun-drenched dream factory of Hollywood legend, but the city has a darker side that is often overlooked.

Each year Los Angeles County, hundreds of people die and their bodies are left unclaimed by family or next of kin. The remains of 1,428 men, women and children went unclaimed in 2011 alone, according to the Los Angeles Times.

There are many reasons — many of the deceased were homeless; perhaps the body was never identified, the next of kin couldn't be located, or the family chose not to claim the corpse. For all of the unclaimed, the end result is the same: the city records each person's name and date of death before a special team of city workers cremate the remains.

The ashes of the unclaimed remain with the county for a few years. And then, one December, they are buried together in a mass grave at the Los Angeles County Cemetery in Boyle Heights. Sometimes only a handful of mourners attend, sometimes dozens, as these souls are laid to rest.

The annual ceremony is open to the public, so if you are in the L.A. area in December, consider paying your final respects in person to these unclaimed, but not forgotten people.