Donors to science celebrated in service Mourners remember those who left their remains to Maryland

June 18, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A stillborn infant, an AIDS patient, a victim of gun violence and aged grandparents all share a selfless bond in a common grave TC with the nearly 400 Marylanders who donated their bodies to science last year.

During the 22nd annual service yesterday at Springfield Hospital Center, the Anatomy Board of Maryland led about 130 mourners in a testament to those whose donations have furthered the cause of science.

"We are here to celebrate the importance of what these good people have done," said Dr. Marshall L. Rennels, chairman of the Anatomy Board. "Without research, we cannot learn and pass on what we have learned."

Donated bodies are used to teach anatomy to medical, dental and physical therapy students, and for surgical training and research.

In a proclamation read to the families, Gov. Parris N. Glendening thanked the donors for "their legacy of hope and health to future generations."

Families placed formal floral arrangements, a jar of freshly picked flowers and a single rose on the stone, which marks the grave at the Sykesville hospital where the ashes were interred.

A blaring siren from the nearby Fire Department briefly interrupted the service.

"I think that was Mom telling us everything is all right," said Carol Cavanaugh, who went to the service from Silver Spring with her daughters and grandchild.

Cavanaugh's mother donated her body to science eight years ago, and her remains are interred at a similar site in Pittsburgh. Her father died in April and left his remains to Maryland. The service dispelled any worries the family had about keeping the couple a state apart.

They held hands, passed tissues and reminisced about the man they called "Poppy."

"We are having a ceremony here and praying for him," said Ned Zimmerman, 6.

A rabbi, a priest and a minster led ecumenical prayers.

"We are mindful of the rich memories so many have brought here today," said the Rev. Clayton Briley. "May those memories linger in their hearts."

Aaron Brown, 14, speaks proudly of his grandmother, Georgia Gunthrop, whose donation "has helped scientists collect data." After the service, Aaron lingered in the shade of towering oak trees that surround the grave.

"We would spend every weekend with her," Aaron said. "But, I feel my grandmother is here now."

Jill Merrill and her 3-year-old son flew in from Fort Lupton, Colo., for the service.

"Not to come was never an option," she said, although the trip cost the pair more than $1,500. "This was a wonderful service, a wonderful closure."

Her father, Judge David Merrill, a retired state administrative law judge, decided years before his death in September to will his body to science, she said.

Many families donate the remains of deceased infants to science. When Recail Foley lost her baby in April, a counselor suggested the donation as a way to assuage her grief.

"I named him William Michael," she said. "He had a purpose. He has helped research."

Cathy Clark lost her 29-year-old son to acquired immune deficiency syndrome last year. He told her his donation would give his life meaning and help with AIDS research. The service erased any doubts she had about his decision.

"It is a comfort to see the place where he is now," Clark said. "If he had seen it before he died, he would have loved it. It is so peaceful."

Two sisters, who never had a chance to say goodbye to their 30-year-old brother, also lingered after the service. They wondered whether any stone would carry the name of Mark Gooden, who died of multiple gunshot wounds on a Baltimore street in August.

There is none other than the marker placed "with deep appreciation for those who gave unselfishly of themselves to advance medical education and research."

Pub Date: 6/18/96

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