By Roberto Fernandez, III
On July 22, 2020, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District Four Secretary Gerry O’Reilly reached out to members of the Woodlawn Cemetery Cultural Resources Committee to update them on recent activities done near Woodlawn Cemetery. On April 13, 2020 repair work had to be done to a light conduit near Woodlawn Cemetery. The letter stated, “because of the history of unmarked burials in the area, FDOT arranged to have a qualified archaeologist monitor the repair project.” While the work was being done, “…the archaeologist identified human remains…” The letter describes that the archaeologist followed the correct procedure notifying the medical examiner and the state archaeologists. Both the state archaeologists and the medical examiner “declined to pursue any formal investigation based on the known history of the site and recommended that the remains be interred at Woodlawn Cemetery.”
In June 2020, ground penetrating radar was used to identify a location within Woodlawn Cemetery to re-bury the remains at Woodlawn Cemetery. This was done to make sure that the remains would not disturb the remains of others buried within Woodlawn Cemetery. The letter explains how “The next step is to have a licensed Funeral Director perform the burial as required by law. FDOT has committed to providing these services and placing a sign or marker to honor the many unidentified people who were originally buried in what was the Pauper’s Cemetery.
Three attempts were made to obtain additional information about the human remains found near North Woodlawn Cemetery from City of Fort Lauderdale public information officer Chaz Adams. However, the calls were not returned.