Good News for Willard Cemetery Memorial Project

I am happy to announce that bill 840-A was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and became law on August 18, 2016. I am grateful that Colleen Kelly Spellecy, and the cemetery committee that she organized, The Willard Cemetery Memorial Project, succeeded in passing a law that will allow them to memorialize the patients buried at The Willard State Hospital Cemetery in Ovid, Seneca County, New York.

Willard Cemetery Memorial Project Volunteers & Special Guests. Back row - Perry Bradley, Gail Snyder, John Allen, Kathy Kern, Mike Huff. Front row - Barry Martz, Janet Brown, Colleen Kelly Spellecy, Darby Penney. Lena Shipley (not in photo).

Willard Cemetery Memorial Project Volunteers & Special Guests. Back row – Perry Bradley, Gail Snyder, John Allen, Kathy Kern, Mike Huff. Front row – Barry Martz, Janet Brown, Colleen Kelly Spellecy, Darby Penney. Lena Shipley (not in photo).

STATE OF NEW YORK 840-A, 2015-2016 Regular Sessions, IN SENATE (PREFILED) January 7, 2015, Introduced by Sen. ROBACH — read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities — reported favorably from said committee and committed to the Committee on Finance — committee discharged, bill amended, ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted to said committee AN ACT to amend the mental hygiene law, in relation to patients interred at state mental health hospital cemeteries THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEMBLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1.   Section 7.09 of the mental hygiene law is amended by adding a new subdivision (k) to read as follows:

(K) NOTWITHSTANDING ANY OTHER LAW, RULE OR REGULATION, ON REQUEST BY A REPRESENTATIVE OF A CEMETERY ORGANIZATION OR FUNERAL ESTABLISHMENT, THE COMMISSIONER AND DIRECTORS OF OFFICE FACILITIES SHALL RELEASE TO THE REPRESENTATIVE THE NAME, DATE OF BIRTH, OR DATE OF DEATH OF A PERSON WHO WAS A PATIENT AT THE FACILITY WHEN THE PERSON DIED, UNLESS THE PERSON OR THE PERSON’S GUARDIAN PROVIDED WRITTEN INSTRUCTIONS TO THE FACILITY NOT TO RELEASE SUCH PERSON’S NAME OR DATES OF BIRTH AND DEATH. A REPRESENTATIVE OF A CEMETERY ORGANIZATION OR A FUNERAL ESTABLISHMENT MAY USE A NAME OR DATE RELEASED UNDER THIS SUBDIVISION ONLY FOR THE PURPOSE OF INSCRIBING THE NAME OR DATE ON A GRAVE MARKER.

S 2. This act shall take effect on the one hundred twentieth day after it shall have become a law. Effective immediately, the addition, amendment and/or repeal of any rule or regulation necessary for the implementation of this act on its effective date is authorized to be made on or before such date.”
SOURCE: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/s840/amendment/a

Photo by Roger Luther at www.nysAsylum.com

Photo by Roger Luther at http://www.nysAsylum.com

Unfortunately, after reading this new law, unless I have interpreted it incorrectly, it looks nothing like the broad scoped original bill that I had proposed to Kate Munzinger, Senator Joseph Robach’s Chief of Staff, on August 22, 2011. Tim Ragazzo wrote the bill, and Senator Joseph Robach, introduced it to the New York State Senate on March 23, 2012. Even though I initiated the original bill S6805-2011-12, which you can read below, it was changed without my knowledge into something that I do not recognize. Sadly, I cannot take any credit for this new law as I had nothing to do with it. The narrow scope of this law implies that the names of tens of thousands of patients who died in New York State Hospitals/Asylums of the past, will NOT be released to the public; they will remain anonymous unless EACH former state hospital has a “CEMETERY ORGANIZATION” and even then they will be released “ONLY FOR THE PURPOSE OF INSCRIBING THE NAME OR DATE ON A GRAVE MARKER.” So much for finding out who is buried in the Kings Park State Hospital Cemetery which is now being used as a youth baseball field! I wasted more than eight years of my life writing letters, talking to representatives, writing a book, and blogging, for nothing.

03-The Asylum Officials-Wayne E. Morrison, Sr. 1978

03-The Asylum Officials-Wayne E. Morrison, Sr. 1978

Here is Original Bill: 6805-2011

STATE OF NEW YORK 6805 IN SENATE, March 23, 2012, Introduced by Sen. ROBACH — read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities AN ACT to amend the mental hygiene law, in relation to patients interred at state mental health hospital cemeteries THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEMBLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1. The mental hygiene law is amended by adding a new section 33.27 to read as follows:

S 33.27 RELEASE OF CERTAIN PATIENTS’ NAMES AND DATES OF BIRTH AND DEATH.

(A) TO MARK HEADSTONES OR OTHERWISE MEMORIALIZE PATIENTS INTERRED AT STATE MENTAL HEALTH HOSPITAL CEMETERIES, THE DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HYGIENE SHALL MAKE AVAILABLE THE NAME, DATE OF BIRTH AND DATE OF DEATH OF PATIENTS BURIED IN STATE MENTAL HEALTH HOSPITAL CEMETERIES FIFTY YEARS AFTER THE DEATH OF A PATIENT.

(B) FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION, THE TERM “STATE MENTAL HEALTH HOSPITALS” SHALL MEAN ANY STATE-FUNDED INSTITUTION TO CARE FOR AND HELP TREAT THE MENTALLY ILL OR DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED IN NEW YORK STATE. SUCH TERM SHALL INCLUDE, BUT NOT BE LIMITED TO FORMER ASYLUMS FOR THE INSANE, SUCH AS THE NEW YORK STATE LUNATIC ASYLUM, UTICA STATE HOSPITAL, WILLARD ASYLUM FOR THE INSANE, WILLARD STATE HOSPITAL, NEW YORK STATE INEBRIATE ASYLUM, BINGHAMTON ASYLUM FOR THE CHRONIC INSANE, BINGHAMTON STATE HOSPITAL, BUFFALO STATE ASYLUM FOR THE INSANE, NEW YORK STATE ASYLUM FOR THE INSANE, BUFFALO STATE HOSPITAL, NEW YORK STATE ASYLUM FOR IDIOTS AND THE ASYLUM FOR IDIOTS IN ALBANY.

S 2. This act shall take effect on the one hundred twentieth day after it shall have become a law. Effective immediately, the addition, amendment and/or repeal of any rule or regulation necessary for the implementation of this act on its effective date is authorized to be made on or before such date.EXPLANATION–Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD13640-01-1” SOURCE: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2011/s6805/amendment/original

Utica Crib 2

Utica Crib 2

Here is Original Bill: 840-2015

STATE OF NEW YORK 840 IN SENATE 2015-2016 Regular Sessions, IN SENATE (PREFILED), January 7, 2015, Introduced by Sen. ROBACH — read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities AN ACT to amend the mental hygiene law, in relation to patients interred at state mental health hospital cemeteries THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEMBLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1. The mental hygiene law is amended by adding a new section 33.27 to read as follows:

S 33.27 RELEASE OF CERTAIN PATIENTS’ NAMES AND DATES OF BIRTH AND DEATH.

(A) TO MARK HEADSTONES OR OTHERWISE MEMORIALIZE PATIENTS INTERRED AT STATE MENTAL HEALTH HOSPITAL CEMETERIES, THE DEPARTMENT SHALL MAKE AVAILABLE THE NAME, DATE OF BIRTH AND DATE OF DEATH OF PATIENTS BURIED IN STATE MENTAL HEALTH HOSPITAL CEMETERIES FIFTY YEARS AFTER THE DEATH OF A PATIENT.

(B) FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION, THE TERM “STATE MENTAL HEALTH HOSPITALS” SHALL MEAN ANY STATE-FUNDED INSTITUTION TO CARE FOR AND HELP TREAT THE MENTALLY ILL OR DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED IN NEW YORK STATE. SUCH TERM SHALL INCLUDE, BUT NOT BE LIMITED TO FORMER ASYLUMS FOR THE INSANE, SUCH AS THE NEW YORK STATE LUNATIC ASYLUM, UTICA STATE HOSPITAL, WILLARD ASYLUM FOR THE INSANE, WILLARD STATE HOSPITAL, NEW YORK STATE INEBRIATE ASYLUM, BINGHAMTON ASYLUM FOR THE CHRONIC INSANE, BINGHAMTON STATE HOSPITAL, BUFFALO STATE ASYLUM FOR THE INSANE, NEW YORK STATE ASYLUM FOR THE INSANE, BUFFALO STATE HOSPITAL, NEW YORK STATE ASYLUM FOR IDIOTS AND THE ASYLUM FOR IDIOTS IN ALBANY.

S 2. This act shall take effect on the one hundred twentieth day after it shall have become a law. Effective immediately, the addition, amendment and/or repeal of any rule or regulation necessary for the implementation of this act on its effective date is authorized to be made on or before such date.

EXPLANATION–Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD03851-01-5”
SOURCE: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/s840/amendment/a

The list of these former New York State Hospitals includes but is not limited to: Binghamton, Buffalo, Central Islip, CreedmoorDannemora, EdgewoodGowanda, Hudson River, Kings Park, Long Island, Manhattan, Marcy, Matteawan, Middletown, Mohansic, Pilgrim, Rochester, St. Lawrence, SyracuseUtica, and Willard

The Feeble-Minded (Intellectual Disabilities) and Epileptic Custodial Institutions of New York includes but is not limited to: Craig Colony for Epileptics, Letchworth Village for Epileptics & Intellectually Disabled, Newark State School for Intellectually Disabled Women, Rome State School for Intellectually Disabled Adults & Children, and Syracuse State School for Intellectually Disabled Children. There may be more.

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14 thoughts on “Good News for Willard Cemetery Memorial Project

  1. What a grea victory!

    On Saturday, August 27, 2016, The Inmates of Willard 1870 to 1900 / A Genealogy Resource wrote:

    > lsstuhler posted: “I am happy to announce that bill 840-A was signed by > Governor Andrew Cuomo, and became law on August 18, 2016. I am grateful > that Colleen Kelly Spellecy, and the cemetery committee that she organized, > The Willard Cemetery Memorial Project, succeeded in pa” >

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  2. Ok, we gave been around long enough to see the truth and then again, the flim flam.which is this? Where are we and what to do from here? if what is needed is a Willard Cemetery Committee n order to get the precious information of our family and loved ones…..let it be so.
    I for one am willing to serve on the Committee, if it can get us the respect and justice our kin deserve and for our peace of mind.

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    • The names of deceased patients that were laid to rest in the Willard Cemetery will be memorialized in granite, I’m sure, which is wonderful! But the names of deceased patients from all the other New York State Hospitals will not be released unless there is a Cemetery Committee for each individual cemetery. Like I stated, I may have misinterpreted the law.

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      • It appears to be a very important step and we can expect that it will not be the last. A word of gratitude for the tireless labors by those who were persistant and believed.

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        • Dear Donald, It was an important step but it left out the public. The names will only be given to Cemetery Organizations. The only one I know of is The Willard Cemetery Project. I will leave it to you to continue the fight. I’m done banging my head against the wall. Giving more than eight years of my life is enough. As far as the NYSOMH is concerned, this is the end!

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  3. Great news! Perhaps the bill will eventually filter down to include the County Poor Houses ie, Cayuga County House between Auburn & Sennett.

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  4. You didn’t fail or waste your time at all. What you have done is clearly vocalized the battle lines and spread the word so that hundreds of people are ticked off regarding the issue and trying to do something about it. Half the NY Senate and their administrative staff members have received letters concerning the matter and now know about the fight to release those names and records. You have done a magnificent job of rallying the troops. This fight is certainly not a sprint, but an exhaustive and meaningful slog. You wedged your foot through the door and opened it a good bit. It’s just an issue we need to keep applying pressure on. No effective movement in history was ever born in a day. If we have to form cemetery organizations for each facility that’s what we’ll do, and in the mean time, we will keep writing letters and asking our family members and friends to write and call NY representatives and the Board of Health and Hygiene. Thank you for all you and the Memorial Project Volunteers and the senate members who made this leg of the journey possible. It may not be all that you wanted, but it is actually a sizable crack in the wall.

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  5. Lin, I really agree with Ani. You were so far out in front on this, and I would encourage you not to give up. We will keep pushing, but it is understandable how discouraged you are. I, for one am really grateful for all your work. None of this would have happened without you. Jon

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    • Thanks so much, Jon! It is so kind of you to say so and I really appreciate your support! At least a representative from Senator Robach’s office said that he will work with me to make it right. I hope so. Thanks again, Jon!

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  6. In my thinking, it is always the proper time to express gratitude to those who work for peace and justice. This work has been a labor for justuce and dignity, more than geneaolgy or curiosity. Thank you Lin. Stay the efforts, you have been the right one for this.

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