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Oregon State Hospital Honors Thousands in Cremains Memorial

OPB | July 7, 2014 12:45 p.m. | Updated: July 7, 2014 1:51 p.m.

Danielle Peterson / Statesman Journal

Oregon State Hospital opened a memorial today that is thought to be the first of its kind in the country. It honors thousands of former patients whose ashes had been on the grounds for decades. Senate President Peter Courtney strongly advocated for the memorial — he visited the hospital in 2004 and saw thousands of unclaimed urns in a shed. He told the Statesman Journal:

“It was the only time in my life that I felt completely hopeless, speechless.”

Following that visit, he and then-Speaker of the House, Karen Minnis, initiated the Oregon State Hospital Replacement Project t0 make sure these cremains were not lost to history.

At the center of this massive organizational effort is Sharon Tucker, research project manager for the Oregon State Hospital Replacement Project. She’s spent the last three years combing through archives to correct discrepancies and cross-reference names with those that appeared on the urns. As a result, some of the remains have been returned to family members.

The memorial was designed by Annie Han and Daniel Mihaylo of Lead Pencil Studios in Seattle. In addition to the memorial, space has been designated at the hospital for the Oregon State Hospital Museum, meant to help educate the public about the risky procedures and operations that were a part of hospital’s history. In 2007, the Oregon Legislature approved a $458 million plan to replace the Oregon State Hospital with facilities in Salem and Junction City, both offering modern psychiatric treatments.

We’ll talk to Sharon Tucker and Annie Han about their work in the creation of the Oregon State Hospital Replacement Project and the Oregon State Hospital Memorial.

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Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust

James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation

Dawn and Al Vermeulen

Ray and Marilyn Johnson