PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — Teddi Setzer is working for the dead.
The Wayne State University anthropology lecturer is teaching a class that's doing preservation work at the historic Oak Hill Cemetery this semester.
"I saw it as kind of an opportunity to help the city and continue the work," Setzer told The Oakland Press ( http://bit.ly/Z5GKRt ).
Last fall, she recovered remains from the Pontiac cemetery's Southard family mausoleum, which Setzer said has been disturbed at least three times over the years.
"The remains were so commingled, we had to separate them out and sort it so we could put the individuals back where they belong," said the physical anthropologist, who lives in Troy.
The mausoleum at the historic cemetery contained the remains of at least five people, including those of John B. Southard, who died during the Civil War. Hundreds of Civil War veterans are buried at Oak Hill Cemetery, including about 25 who died in combat.
The cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
Setzer's class is evaluating the condition of Oak Hill Cemetery and checking to see whether cemetery records match the information found on graves.
"Basically, what you have in this section are the founders of Pontiac," Setzer said of the cemetery's oldest area. "If you examine their thoughts and ideas — you can see what they wanted the City of Pontiac to be."
Setzer said that student Keith Zimmerman is studying a section of the cemetery that's believed to contain the remains of people who were patients at Pontiac's now-demolished Clinton Valley Center mental hospital.
"Some headstones have actual names and some just numbers," Setzer said. "(Keith) is trying to understand how that relates to how we've viewed mental health across time."
Zimmerman said he took the class "because I was always interested in cemeteries and always felt a mutual respect for how we bury our dead."
The 22-year-old Woodhaven resident said he plans to pursue a doctorate in anthropology.
Student Gagan Dhillon, 20, stood recently in front of an obelisk in the cemetery.
The Novi resident said she's studying the infants that are buried at Oak Hill Cemetery for her final project for Setzer's class, which is entitled "Cemetery Analysis in Metro Detroit."
A section of the cemetery with a cluster of 10 to 15 infant burials is nicknamed "Babyland," Dhillon said, and she's studying why some infants at the cemetery were buried with their families and why some were not.
Dhillon pointed out the monument for Beulah James, the daughter of E.L. and L.A. Dunning. She died on April 11, 1877 at the age of 5 years, 1 month and 11 days old.
Setzer, who holds a doctorate in applied anthropology from the University of South Florida, is presenting papers on her work at Oak Hill Cemetery at the Society for American Archaeology and American Association of Physical Anthropologists conferences, both of which are in April.
"By letting a cemetery fall into a state of disrepair, you're essentially letting the identity of a community be destroyed," she said. "We're the ones who give (those who are buried) a voice — the anthropologists and archaeologists."
Information from: The Oakland Press, http://www.theoaklandpress.com
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