Touchstone memorial recognizing people buried on Hart Island coming to public cemetery

The memorial brings a sense of closure for families who have loved ones buried on the island.

News 12 Staff

May 28, 2023, 10:01 PM

Updated 384 days ago


A touchstone memorial that will recognize the people who are buried on Hart Island will be coming to the city's public cemetery in the Bronx.
The memorial brings a sense of closure for families who have loved ones buried on the island.
"For thirty years, I tried looking for her," says Elaine Joseph about her daughter Tomika. "I had a baby that was born, and then died at Mount Siani in 1978."
It was not until 2009 that Joseph learned where her one-week-old daughter's final resting place was.
"I have never heard of it before. Being a native New Yorker, never heard of Hart Island," Joseph says.
Tomika and more than 1 million New Yorkers are buried on Hart Island.
"In March of 2014, it was the first time I got to walk... I was the first person in this country to get to walk to the gravesite that we guesstimated my daughter would have been buried at," Joseph says.
The desolate unmarked graveyard with no tombstones served as a cemetery for those who died unclaimed or from epidemic and pandemic diseases. But for the families, their loved ones will finally get the memorial they deserve.
The Abbey Peace Foundation gifted the city a seven-foot touchstone that will soon find its new home on Hart Island.
It was an emotional day for Hart Island Touchstone Coalition Coordinator Elsie Soto when she got her first look of the touchstone.
"It's very healing for me, and I hope it brings a lot of healing to other people as well," Soto says.
The memorial will serve as a memory to her father who died of AIDS complications in 1993.
"We faced a lot of discrimination because of the fact that he died of HIV/AIDS-related illness. Being that we faced that type of discrimination, we had no choice but to bury him on Hart Island," Soto says.
Soto led the Hart Island Touchstone Coalition efforts for over a year to make the memorial a possibility.
In March, the city approved to have the stone placed on the island.
"At the end of the day, these are New Yorkers, and we don't forget our New Yorkers," Soto adds.

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