This February 15, 2015 article on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website talks about the frustration face by many genealogists who try to trace the lives of family members who have been dead for may years, but spent time in a state hospital or other mental health treatment facility.
This Petition was started by people who want to see a man who spent a huge portion of his life digging grave for patients who died at Willard State Hospital. Lawrence Mocha never received pay for any of the graves he dug. The folks who started the petition want to place a plaque at the Willard State Hospital cemetery to honor the life of Lawrence for his service to the state hospital. so far , the state of New York has refused to allow this citing “confidentiality” despite the fact that information the people want to include on the plaque came from public sources such as the census and social security records. The folks have been struggling to get this plaque placed for sometime now and are asking that anyone who supports the idea of not only Lawrence Mocha being offered the dignity of being recognized as having value, but also the recognition of the many many others who are buried in nameless grave in state hospital cemeteries not just at Willard State Hospital but elsewhere as well.
The book titled “The Lives They Left Behind” includes the story about Lawrence Mocha’s work as a grave digger for Willard State Hospital, and also has stories about the lives of other patients who were at Willard State Hospital as well. Th book is well worth the time it takes to read it, and reads fast.
- Book Diva Review: The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic (bookdiva.wordpress.com)
- Compelling Photos Document the Contents of Abandoned Suitcases from a 125-Year-Old Psychiatric Center (petapixel.com)
- Take A Look Inside the Suitcases of the Clinically Insane (fastcocreate.com)
This July 17, 2014 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article talks about what is happening to the cemeteries that were once part of now closed state hospitals where the remains of patients who lived and died at the hospital were laid to rest.
- As state mental institutions close, the final resting places for many patients are forgotten (post-gazette.com)
- Oregon mental hospital to honor ‘forgotten souls’ (usnews.com)
- Missing dead: 1,500 from old Oregon State Hospital cemetery in Salem can’t be found (oregonlive.com)
- 3.5K Dead and Forgotten Mental Patients Now Honored (newser.com)