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March, memorial honors 164
December 24, 2012

Last Thursday, Minnesota’s homeless community held its 28th annual Homeless Memorial March and Service.  We gathered to remember far too many homeless, formerly homeless, and homeless advocates who died in Minnesota this past year. 

This year’s list was the highest it’s ever been:  164 names.

As with each memorial, this year’s began with couple hundred people walking silently from the Hennepin County Government Center to Nicollet Mall and down to 28th Avenue – a 2.25 mile procession to Simpson United Methodist Church. 

Most of the marchers carried an individualized wooden sign.  On each, the name, age, and city of death for one of those our community cared about.

Along the procession, families who had just finished watching the Holidazzle parade wondered why the happy lights and sound were replaced by a silent and somber processional.  Sometimes a participant would whisper to the onlookers what was going on.

After about an hour’s walk, the marchers entered the Simpson Church, where hundreds others had already gathered waiting for the service to begin.  Walking down the center aisle, those carrying a sign placed theirs upright and up front for everyone to see.

Once everyone was seated, the service began.

We recited a Jewish prayer with a fitting refrain:  “We remember them”

Not too long into the service, a string quartet began playing softly as two of my friends, Jesse and Deb, read through the list of names. 

“Beverly, 43, St. Paul”

“Ed, 45, Mille Lacs”

“Dorothy, 79, New Ulm”

“Katherine, 34, Minneapolis”

A candle was lit with each.

Deb changed the next line.  “Baby girl, Duluth,” became “Rose, 42 days, Duluth.”  (She had just found out who the baby girl was.) 

This sting of that line was lessened only because this year I didn’t personally know anyone who passed away. 

Several minutes later, the reading of names was complete.  John Petroskas from Catholic Charities rose to begin the eulogies.  I find this to be most beautiful part of the memorial. 

This year, John remembered four friends.  Deb talked about a few she knew.  A couple homeless guys eulogized Marshall, a guy who taught others how to play guitar.

Story after story, we heard how the names on a list were much, much more.  They were people.  They were loved.  They were part of a community.  They will be missed.

 - Michael Dahl