Richland County County Coroner’s Office helps bring closure to families through dignified burials

RICHLAND CO., SC (WOLO) The Richland County Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 700 people. Those buried there are either unidentified or unclaimed, or in some cases, families needed help laying their loved one to rest.

The Richland County Coroner’s Office holds a service at the cemetery 3 or 4 times a year where a dignified burial is provided, with help from volunteers like Pastor Tim Phillips from Riverland Hills Baptist Church.

Coroner Gary Watts started the program when he came into office more than two decades ago.

“We handle people from those that are living under a bridge to those that are living in 10 million dollar mansions, but all of them have people that care about them, all of them have the right- as far as I’m concerned to be treated with respect and dignity at a time of death, and a proper burial service of some type was important to me, ” Watts said.

Dr. Bill Stevens is a forensic anthropologist at the Coroner’s Office. He often goes through months of searching, using genealogy and outreach through the media, to identify a body and find the next of kin. He says he never forgets the impact of each case.

He worked with Amber Gee when she lost her parents, Earle Monteith Cane and Nancy Irene Mantovani. Amber says she will never forget the kindness she was shown during that difficult time.

She said, “regardless of how they died, they were taken care of, and I felt like they were not judged or thought of as trash. They were people to the coroner’s office, because they were definitely people to me.”

The cemetery is owned by the County, and Coroner Watts says County leaders have stepped up to provide funding for the land.

He also says the community played a huge role in recent upgrades to the cemetery. Local groups such as the Basilica of Saint Peter Church are planting more trees and bushes, and members of a local boy scout group will be building a gazebo so loved ones have a place to sit when they come for a visit.

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