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Duchnowski: Finding the unexpected by DeKalb shopping centers

Heather Darsie shops at Michael’s a lot.

The 2011 Northern Illinois University law school graduate shops there enough to notice the graveyard south of the store at 2341 Sycamore Road.

That would be the DeKalb County Cemetery, which has been the final resting place for about 200 of DeKalb County’s indigent residents dating back to 1871.

Some are veterans. Some are unnamed. Some were once residents of the county nursing home, which used to be where Michael’s was built.

“Either way, they wound up in there one way or another,” Darsie said. “I wanted them to be remembered during the holidays, too.”

Darsie thought of her maternal grandmother, who is buried in a pauper’s grave in New York state. She suggested to DeKalb Rotary Club members that they do something special there around Christmas.

On Dec. 22, Rotary Club members, their family and a representative from Olson Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Sycamore, placed roses on the graves and said a couple of prayers.

Participants included DeKalb Rotary Club president Tim Hughes, his daughters, Gene Deisz, Sharon Tourville, Mike Coghlan and John Horn, to name a few.

Darsie took a friend there on Christmas Eve, and noticed one of the roses had been moved to a fresh burial site.

“It was just really touching to know it means a lot to people,” she said.

She hopes the club will repeat Flowers for the Forgotten each year.

Meanwhile, Coroner Dennis Miller and County Administrator Gary Hanson are wrapping up improvements to the cemetery that began a decade or so ago. Upgrades include signage at the entrance, a flagpole and new headstones.

Miller, whose office oversees the cemetery and approves burials there, has a list of the names, birthdates and death dates of those buried there in his office. He just ordered the last headstones needed to complete the improvements.

“The county needs to be commended for what they’re doing,” Miller said. “A lot of counties don’t have cemeteries.”

• • •

Mystery ships: I’ve frequented Lowe’s Home Improvement, 2050 Sycamore Road, and Walmart, 2300 Sycamore Road, for weeks without noticing the model battleships frozen in the retention ponds.

Someone mentioned them to me Sunday, and now I’m dying to know how they got there. Public art? A Scouting project that went above and beyond? A supersized game of Battleship interrupted by winter weather?

Peering at them from shore, the ships appear to be painted wood embellished with nails and perhaps toilet paper rolls. Management at Lowe’s didn’t know anything about them, so I’m hoping a reader will.

If you have a tale to tell, drop me an email or give me a call.

• Jillian Duchnowski is the news editor at the Daily Chronicle. Reach her at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, email or follow her on Twitter @JillianDuch.

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