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Department of Human Services

For Immediate Release

Sonoma County to hold May 4 memorial service for 44 residents whose bodies were unclaimed

SANTA ROSA, CA | April 29, 2024

The County of Sonoma will host a memorial service on May 4 to honor the lives of 44 local residents who died without family or friends willing or able to pay for the disposition of their remains.

The public is invited to participate in the 2 p.m. ceremony at Pleasant Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary, 1700 Pleasant Hill Road in Sebastopol. The memorial service is organized by the Sonoma County Human Services Department’s Office of the Public Administrator and the Sonoma County Coroner’s Office.

“Each individual who was laid to rest has a unique story, and they deserve to be remembered,” said Angela Struckmann, director of the Human Services Department. “On May 4th, we will honor the lives they led, the contributions they made, and the impact they had on the lives of those around them.”

Every year, approximately 4,300 people die in Sonoma County. Of those, the bodies of approximately 150 people go unclaimed at the coroner, local hospitals and funeral homes. Their names are sent to the Public Administrator’s Office, which attempts to find estate planning documents, family or friends to make final arrangements. If nobody is located by the County, or if the individual’s estate cannot afford the cost, the Sonoma County coroner will cremate the remains. 

Last year, the County interred the remains of 35 unclaimed individuals in the rose garden at Pleasant Hills Memorial Park. The remains of nine additional unclaimed people who served in the U.S. military were transported to the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery by the County’s Veteran’s Remains Officer and veteran volunteers.

The Human Services Department created the memorial service last year to ensure that people whose unclaimed bodies are cremated by the coroner – approximately 45 individuals a year – receive a proper funeral service. Since 2010, the program has interred the cremated remains of approximately 550 people in the rose garden at Pleasant Hills Memorial Park. Some were unhoused, or people who outlived their family or were estranged from their next-of-kin.

In addition to Human Services Director Struckmann, guest speakers will include Coroner Sgt. Detective Michael Schemmel and Veterans Remains Officer Ron Collier. The ceremony will conclude with words from several religious leaders and a moment of silence in the rose garden.

People of all faiths and those who are non-religious are welcome to attend the service at Pleasant Hills Memorial Park. Registration is not required.

Media Contact:
Ted Appel, Communications Specialist
(707) 565-3040
575 Administration Drive, Suite 104A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403