On Dec. 18, Nancy Shannon, 71, died of smoke inhalation when her apartment on DeGaris Mill Road caught fire.
The landlord and neighbors knew little about Shannon, so Scott County Coroner John Goble began trying to find her next of kin. The search stretched for three weeks until a brother was located in Louisiana. The brother said he had not spoken to his sister in 15 years and did not want responsibility for the body, Goble said.
At some point during the search Goble became aware Shannon’s husband, Raymond, 69, was hospitalized in the ICU unit at University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington. On Dec. 24, he died at the hospital.
It soon became clear the couple had been estranged from their immediate family, and no one was willing or able to take responsibility for their burial.
As you enter Georgetown Cemetery, if you continue to veer right, deep in the far corner of the graveyard is an area casually called Pauper’s Field. It is so called by officials, not disrespectfully, but rather to designate that area from others. Unless you are aware otherwise, however, it doesn’t look any different from other areas of the cemetery. Many graves have headstones, some have flowers and they are all well maintained.
“It’s respectful,” Goble said.
On this day, Raymond and Nancy Shannon are laid to rest in that area of Georgetown Cemetery. They will be buried in the last row of the area, as it is almost full.
Eight uniformed Georgetown Police Department officers served as pallbearers for each casket. Typically, that responsibility is shared with the Georgetown Fire Department, but on this day, the firefighters were mourning one of their own, Johnnie Jacobs.
About 10 or so friends, nieces and nephews were on hand to pay their respects and a pastor who did not know the Shannons agreed to officiate over the services.
In 2019, 37 people were buried at the county’s expense, one less than in 2018 when it was 38 people.
These are individuals who had no one to give them a proper burial, so the county stepped in, said Scott County Judge-Executive Joe Pat Covington.
“Everything is done with dignity,” he said.
In the Shannon’s case, the county provided the burial plots, but Johnson’s Funeral Home provided all other services including both hearses and caskets.
In 2019, Scott County spent $69,250 on the 37 burials or an average of $1,871.62; in 2018, the 38 burials cost $68,069.99 This includes preparing the body, the casket and the plot. The services rotate between Johnson’s Funeral Home and Tucker Yocum and Wilson Funeral Home. Last year Tucker, Yocum and Wilson handled 19 burials while Johnson’s Funeral Home managed 18. In 2018, Johnson’s Funeral Home managed 20, Tucker Yocum and Wilson managed 18. These figures were provided by the Scott County Fiscal Court via an open records request.
“Everyone deserves a proper burial with dignity and respect,” Covington said. “We are proud to be able to provide that for them.”
Mike Scogin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.