Remembering the forgotten [Louisville Magazine]



During a phone interview, Suiter described her father as “the life of theparty.” She did not have a memory of him being in her childhood home but did recall that he was estranged from his five sons. Judson was a country musician, she said, who “taught himself to play every instrument known to man” and performed at venues in town that have since been torn down. “He wasn’t a drunk, but his life was in the bars because that’s where he played the music,” Suiter said. Her father could never hold down a job and had a “medical file literally about as thick as the phone books they’re putting out now.” Before his heart finally gave out, his girlfriend — who was too distraught to go to the cemetery — had been taking care of him. “At 5:50 a.m. he started hollering. She got his feet on the floor, grabbed both of his arms and tried to pull him up. She said, ‘James, you’ve gotta help!’” Suiter said. “When she went to pull him up again, he collapsed. And that was the end of it.”


“He had been acting funny for three days. One time he yelled, ‘Get me up, get me up, I’m drowning!’ He hollered, ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ His father’s been dead for, gosh, 40 years,” Suiter added. “Looking back on it, all of it made sense that he was going.”

Her husband left a message with the Mayor’s Office explaining howDumeyer “brought dignity and respect to an otherwise horrible situation.”Suiter said, “These young men meant — I don’t even know how to put it in words what it meant to me. For my father, it wasn’t just me and my two sons and my husband standing there. That floored me.”


Kresse, 48, was a youth minister at Church of the Epiphany in 2005 when coroner Holmes, a member there, asked if he’d lead a project at River Valley. “The caskets themselves are very inexpensive, and so at some point, the weight of the earth caves in the casket, pulls down the dirt,”Kresse said. “At another time, you have to go through to fill in more dirt.” The thing that struck Kresse were the homemade grave markers, some of which displayed misspellings. One cross for a former auto mechanic was actually a gold-painted tire iron with a dirty baseball cap hanging on it. Beyond the fence, earthmovers hauled coal ash heaps. “It was this very human cemetery,” Kresse said. “I really felt that this place was holy ground, even though to look at it with your eyes you might not feel that way at all.” At that time, during ceremonies for the destitute, somebody from the coroner’s office or Owen Funeral Home would say a few graveside words. “None of them were just dumped into the ground,” Hardin said.


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