A Quest to Find 3 Children Buried More than 100 Years Ago
During the last edition of The Last Word, we learned about an old Polish cemetery on Erie's Merline Avenue. We learned it was neglected between the 1940s and the 1970s. City crews leveled it in 1972 and took the gravestones to a dump.
Years later, researchers were able to confirm the names of 34 people buried at the site. Those names were placed on a monument erected in 2001. One of the researchers, Tom Doyle, believes others are buried at the cemetery but he could not find any documentation to prove it. He feels terrible about it.
"It's not fair to them. You can't bury somebody and just forget about them. It doesn't work that way. Not with me,” he said.
Antoinette Pizzi and her brother Joe Chludzinski have been on a quest. They want to know if three of their relatives are buried at the Old Polish Cemetery. Their dad's 6-year old brother and his 5-year old sister died in 1918 during the Spanish Flu pandemic. His baby brother died the following year. Antoinette and Joe want to fulfill their late father's wishes and find where his siblings are buried.
"He said, ‘You should look and see if you can find them because I would like to put a gravestone on them,” says Antoinette.
"He was a very caring individual,” recalls Joe. “He would have wanted them to have a proper stone in place and to be honored.”
Antoinette and Joe have only the children’s death certificates. The paperwork says the three are buried at the ‘Old Polish Cemetery.’ Could it be that they are among those buried on Merline Avenue and not memorialized on the monument?
"We need to get a resolution to this because it was my dad's wish,” says Antoinette.
With the gravestones gone, there's really no definitive proof that the children are buried on Merline Avenue. But, there are other Polish cemeteries in the area. Could they be there? Erie News Now went to see Korac Timon at Trinity Cemetery on West Lake Road. We asked if there's any paperwork on the Chludzinski children.
"We discovered the three children were buried in the Old St. Stan's Cemetery, which is actually within our Trinity Cemetery that we took over in the late 80s, early 90s, from the church,” he said.
Korac and a colleague went a step further. They took an extensive walk through the St. Stan's section to hopefully find the children’s' gravestones. There were none.
"We know they're here,” he said. “We just don't know specifically where."
The Chludzinski family hopes to soon fulfill their father's wish and place a gravestone at Trinity Cemetery.