Infant buried in the 19th century laid to rest again after vandals disrupt grave

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City residents re-buried an infant Saturday so she could rejoin her family in her final resting place after it was vandalized.

Emma Huling died in 1865 when she was just 10 months old. She had light hair and two bottom teeth. Emma was buried in an iron casket with a Victorian viewing window in a baptism gown and handmade booties.

She was at rest with her family for the next 155 years until vandals ripped her out of the mausoleum earlier this spring. Her body and casket were unceremoniously dumped by a shrub about 50 yards away from the mausoleum.

Volunteers cleaning the cemetery found the broken casing and initially mistook her for trash. It took a knowing eye and a medical examiner to uncover the truth.

Thanks to the generosity of the community, Emma returned to her family in a brand new white casket.

Though there is no record of Emma's birth or notes on her short life, Tara Havard, the funeral director from Speaks Chapels, said it was obvious she was loved. Now, she's being shown love again by a group of people who never knew her or her family.

“I saw tears, I saw people moved,” Brad Speaks said. "Despite that none of us know Emma, none of us knew her family. To have Emma disturbed from her place of rest after all that time really called for a community to come together and take care of it together."

And they did.

Melissa Fallig is an investigator with the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s office. She was also one of Emma's pallbearers.

"I wanted to see this story from start to finish. I came out here today to pay my respects to Emma,” Fallig said. "And to make sure she got to her final resting place properly.”

It took 20 minutes for the community to give Emma a proper return.

“There was one or two people responsible for the dark things,” Jon Weilert, president of the Elmwood Cemetery Board, said. “But there were dozens of people who were willing to participate in making it right.”

Emma Huling is one of 32,000 people buried in the 43 acres of Elmwood Cemetery. Some of those inside Elmwood are among Kansas City's most prominent family names.

"These people are here to be remembered, to be honored, and we’ll do what we can to maintain that," Weilert said.

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