The Lazarus Field Memorial Service Project is a ceremony to bury individuals in our community who have died without means to provide for their own burial.
“It is our community’s outpouring of respect and community spirit to provide the unclaimed deceased a dignified resting place,” said Okaloosa County Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel.
According to the county, Florida Statutes require that each county ensure the proper final disposition of indigent and unclaimed deceased persons in the respective counties. Each year Okaloosa County receives an average of 30 individuals who die without family support or financial means to cover the cost of interment.
Over the years, Okaloosa County provided cremation services for approximately 450 sets of cremains. The cost for paperwork preparation, cremation and burial of these individuals is $1,795.00.
In 2016, a coordinated effort was developed to purchase seven burial plots at Beal Memorial Cemetery in Fort Walton Beach. The County initially agreed to pay $7,530.00.
Area churches took up a collection to help cover the cost, which resulted in a contribution of $5,000.00 to the cost of the plots. Additionally, the clergy were able to contribute $1,481.00 to purchase and place two benches, one at either end of the field.
“Okaloosa County has found a compassionate and dignified way to bury these invisible members of our society,” continued Ketchel. “The Lazarus Field Memorial ceremony has become a much-celebrated event in the life of our county as a dignified way to memorialize those we have lost, many of whom are senior citizens who have outlived their relatives, infants and children whose parents and families are without financial means, and those members of our community who have become estranged from their families due to mental illness.”
Each set of cremains is held in a box bearing the individual’s name
Prior to the ceremony, the boxes are placed inside velvet bags for display. Those attending the outdoor ceremony can pay their final respects before the ceremony begins.
A printed program is provided which includes the order of worship, music to be shared, and a list of the individuals to be interred. The service includes ringing the cemetery bells, offering prayers, reading scripture, singing hymns and music, a message of faith and hope, and the recitation of each person’s name. The name and date of death of each interred individual is entered in The Book of Remembrance. This book is stored on site for use by relatives and friends of the deceased.