Future Linked with Past Tiny Cemeteries Remain as O'Hare Surrounds Them
Fusco, Chris, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Chris Fusco Daily Herald Staff Writer
In July 1849, the people of St.aeJohannes Evangelical and Reformed Church laid Mrs. Catherine Wille to rest on a rural 5-acres in northeast DuPage County. She was the first of some 1,500 people to be buried on church grounds.
One hundred fifty years later, it's nearly impossible for Wille and those around her to rest in peace. The same goes at a smaller Methodist cemetery, Resthaven, a quarter mile to the south.
Among the world's busiest airports, O'Hare International has replaced the farmland that used to surround the cemeteries. With the airport has come a mix of people who go to the cemeteries - those who are paying respects to their ancestors and others who enjoy being so close to departing aircraft that they can feel vibrations from the engines.
The cemeteries tell the story of a landscape changed by technology and progress. They remain a quirky secret - one so tightly kept that even Chicago Aviation Department officials don't know much about them. No signs at the intersection of Irving Park Road and Division Street point visitors to cemetery grounds.
Hidden by trees and encased in barbed-wire fences, the cemeteries also have drawn vandals who have knocked over headstones and torn up parts of the grass and flowers.
St. Johannes gets more attention than Resthaven because it is within a few hundred feet of O'Hare runway 9Right-27Left, and its history is better known. On July 25, the 200 members of the church, now named St. John's United Church of Christ in Bensenville, will head to the cemetery for a rededication ceremony. The church a few weeks ago placed a granite monument there commemorating its 150th anniversary.
"It's going to be interesting to see how we'll have a church service out there," church office manager Karen Ahlgrim of Itasca said. "The jets come over kind of close."
The frequency of flights could create an interesting subplot as time marches on. With leaders in several communities around O'Hare saying expansion of the airport is inevitable, Streamwood resident Bill Dohe worries the aviation department will attempt to move the cemetery to make way for new runways.
A stout cemetery buff who addresses others with an affectionate "buckaroo," Dohe knows where five generations of his ancestors are buried. He doesn't want to see any of them moved.
Though city officials deny expansion plans, Dohe isn't convinced.
"How would you feel about your great-grandparents being dug up and moved? …