Erin Grove Cemetery dedicates Angel Garden

By: Maria Allard | Roseville-Eastpointe Eastsider | Published June 6, 2024

 An angel sculpture is displayed in the Angel Garden at the Erin Grove Cemetery in Roseville.

An angel sculpture is displayed in the Angel Garden at the Erin Grove Cemetery in Roseville.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


ROSEVILLE — There is a section at Erin Grove Cemetery where about 100 infants were buried in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

For many of them, their names weren’t known, and they were laid to rest without a funeral or headstone. Many of the babies were stillborn or died just a few days or weeks after birth.

About a year ago, cemetery historians David Kern and Beverly Bishop decided they wanted to give the babies a proper resting place. They conducted research to determine the identities of the babies. Through their diligence, Kern and Bishop were able to identify the babies at the cemetery, which is located at 31850 Little Mack Ave.

Each newborn now has a marker at his or her grave with the newborn’s name, gender, date of birth and date of death. Each marker reads “ANGEL GARDEN” and “Suffer the little children unto me sayeth the Lord.”

On the late morning of May 18, a group of local residents gathered with Kern and Bishop at the cemetery for its Angel Garden dedication. Kern officiated the ceremony that included prayers.

“I just wanted to make sure their identities are known. Back then, if the baby wasn’t baptized, they didn’t bury it in a Catholic cemetery or a religious cemetery,” Kern said. “It was brought to a public cemetery. The funeral home came up, dug a hole and put the baby in. They were probably just buried in something small, maybe a box or something. There was no stone, no clergy, no dedication. I felt they needed to be known. They were people.”

Kern and Bishop relied on handwritten notes, funeral home records, cemetery index cards, obituaries and death certificates to name the infants. The deceased were from Macomb County and some were born to soldiers temporarily stationed at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township.

“After being ‘lost’ for decades, the infants are dignified with an individual marker to preserve human dignity and the history of the families interred here,” Bishop said. “Improvements in medicine now saves many infants that previously died or were stillborn.”

It’s unclear why proper burials weren’t done decades ago.

“It’s a mystery to me,” Kern said, thinking cost might have been an issue. “Back then, a lot of families couldn’t afford it. Throughout the cemetery, there are babies that are with families. You know they were taken care of because of a funeral. These had none. We found some of them through funeral records, because the funeral homes had to bury them.”

In addition to the 100 newborns honored in the Angel Garden, Kern said there are more infants in a nearby section that he and Bishop are working to identify.

“It’s wonderful that they’re doing this,” said St. Clair Shores resident Marianne Zmuda, who attended the ceremony.

The pair want families of the babies to know about the Angel Garden so they can visit and place gravestones at the site of their loved ones.

A few family members have since done that. Gerald Fitch, of Marine City, and his brothers bought one for their baby sister, Kathleen Dawn Fitch, who was born Aug. 14, 1960, and died one month later. Fitch attended last month’s dedication with his wife, Kerry Fitch, where he placed a red rose at his sister’s grave.

“I’m just glad to show my appreciation to the cemetery and the caretakers,” he said.

Kern resides in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. He did research on the Angel Garden project from out of state. He has close ties to Erin Grove Cemetery. His great-grandfather was one of the original trustees of the cemetery.

“I used to come out as a boy and I would help out cleaning up the place,” Kern said.

For more information on the Angel Garden at Erin Grove Cemetery, visit Monetary donations for the nonprofit cemetery are always welcome.