Emma Huling has been returned to her final resting place with a solemn send-off at Elmwood Cemetery in northeast Kansas City.
“Our little community has pulled together to do what’s right,” said Brad Speaks of Speaks Family Legacy Chapels in Independence during a brief ceremony Saturday morning in the Elmwood Chapel. Then, as a piper played “Amazing Grace,” the more than 30 people who turned out for Emma walked to the Huling family mausoleum, where her remains – in a new casket – were re-entombed.
Speaks stressed that “little Emma deserves to have us here today, even though we don’t know her, don’t know her family.”
Emma’s remains were almost lost forever. She was born in 1864 and died less than a year later. Her family moved around before settling in Kansas City, and her remains were moved as they moved. In 1909, a family mausoleum was opened, and she was entombed there alongside her parents and brother.
Several Elmwood mausoleums have been vandalized through the years, and in March someone broke into the Huling mausoleum. Whoever it was took the container with Emma’s remains – and, evidently to cover their tracks, slid a marble back into place so no one would even know to suspect anything was wrong.
To Tara Havard, a funeral director at Speaks, that part was chilling.
“They tried to make it look like she literally never existed,” she said recently.
A scrap dealer said no to the container, which was then discarded back at the cemetery. Volunteers were about to put it in a dumpster, except the dumpster was full.
That tiny happenstance – the container being left in plain sight – opened the window just enough for another to volunteer to see it and realize the police and the medical examiner should be called.
The contained held another container, and inside that the medical found the embalmed remains of a baby. Records were matched up, and Emma was identified. Speaks Family Legacy Chapels was asked to help. A new casket was donated. Havard did much of the work, researching as much as she could about Emma and even crocheting for her a blanket and tiara.
“Something like this focuses us on the impermanence of life, and we want to do something about it,” Speaks said.
The work isn’t entirely done. Police are investigating the vandalism. Havard said there’s still an effort to find out more for Emma. Her family evidently was of some wealth, but little is known of her. She is not mentioned in her father’s or brother’s biographies, and it’s not known where she was born, or where or why she died.
Also, Speaks said, Elmwood and other old cemeteries need upkeep and protection from those who would disturb the dead.
In his brief sermon, Speaks stressed the special place children had for Christ and that though the living mourn Emma and care for her remains, she is far removed from that. In a closing prayer, he said life and light do triumph over darkness.
He thanked those who turned on a sunny April day to serve as “a witness that her death was noticed.”
He added, “It’s what decent people do.”