Hurricane Displaced Remains Soon To Go Back To Final Rest

A two-year wait could be ending soon for coast families eager to see their loved ones returned to their rightful resting places. Hurricane Katrina washed out remains from some of the mausoleums at Southern Memorial Park in Biloxi. Now the cemetery is in the middle of a renovation.

Twenty years ago, John Coates helped build a mausoleum at Southern Memorial Park. Now he's back in Biloxi trying to help put the cemetery back together.

Coates said, "It's bad to have to do it. We're going to try to do everything so the families will feel comfortable with their loved ones that have been buried."

These days, crews for Ingram Construction, a company that specializes in mausoleum work, are busy replacing the exterior stone broken by Katrina. Over the past nine months, they've rebuilt the Southern Memorial's retaining wall and put in new sidewalks and columns.

"This whole process could be as sensitive as possible," said Les Warren, the cemetery's supervisor.

He says Southern Memorial makes an extra effort to involve the families.

"It's very hard... They've already lost them once and to have the storm do what it did was hard on our families. So we're trying to make it as easy as possible on them."

Officials at Southern Memorial say all the remains that were displaced by Katrina have been temporarily put into another mausoleum. But when all the restoration work is done here, they plan to re-inter the bodies and have a memorial service for the families.

"I understand that one of the other cemeteries in the other area had their memorial service just recently," said Warren. "They had gotten repairs done enough that they could do that and now we're jealous. We really want to try to get ours done so our families can put this behind them and get on with things."

The contractor says the renovation of Southern Memorial Park should take another two months. When displaced remains are returned, the cemetery owner says families will have the option of a private re-internment ceremony, in addition to a group memorial service.