Thursday, May 29, 2014

10 babies ascend to heaven on Staten Island, helped by a few earthly angels.

10 babies are given a dignified burial through the generosity of Public Administrator Gary Gotlin 
and the John Vincent Scalia Home for Funerals on Staten Island.
Gary Gotlin emerged from his black BMW last week at a Staten Island cemetery and approached 10 small white caskets, each topped with a flower bouquet. Mr.Gotlin assumed the administration over the remains of 10 stillborn babies from an area hospital. Together with the John Vincent Scalia Funeral Home they helped these angels with a proper burial.

Gotlin and Scalia fulfill their purpose.

“Ten stillborn babies,” he responded to an inquisitive driver who inched by, squinting at the group burial site.

The babies had died in recent months at local hospitals. Lacking other burial arrangements, they were candidates for municipal burial by the city in its potter’s field on Hart Island, just off the Bronx, where unclaimed bodies are buried. But as is his practice, Mr. Gotlin stepped in and arranged a burial for them in Resurrection Cemetery instead.

Mr. Gotlin worked together with the John Vincent Scalia Funeral Home to bury these children with dignity at Resurrection Cemetery on Staten Island, in the Garden of Angels section. This prevented the typical burial of the stillborn babies in Potter's Field on Hart Island, the City of New York Municipal burial ground. It also prevented the babies' remains from being used for medical purposes or medical science. Gotlin & Scalia gave these babies their dignity back in death.

Gotlin and Scalia find a way to bury every indigent baby.

“I just have this very strong sense that something has to be done. I won’t accept the alternatives,” Gotlin said, noting that abandoned stillborns from other parts of the city are almost exclusively buried at the potter’s field on Hart Island, the city’s municipal burial ground near the Bronx — where 700,000 stillborns are buried — used for medical science or considered medical waste. This happens in every major city in America.

“I have a policy in the office that we will bury all stillborns. We will find a way,” he asserted.

Gotlin said Scalia donated the hearse, tiny caskets and flowers. Scalia played a critical role in arranging for the ten burials. “Mr. Scalia is one of the most generous, caring people I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Gotlin said. Kevin G. Moran, part of the Scalia family also works with Gotlin and Scalia in providing these dignified burials for indigent children, as do the rest of the funeral home staff. 

John Scalia of Scalia Funeral Home places flowers on one of ten tiny caskets of stillborn babies.

Scalia has a personal connection. 

Scalia called his connection to the stillborn youth a “personal” one, recalling his brother and sister-in-law, who had a stillborn child in the 1970s.

“I decided that particular day that I would never charge for a child, and we don’t charge for children up to 12 years old,” Scalia said.

Stillborn babies deserve respect.

Stillborn babies as are all children entitled to dignity, even in death.

Mr. Gotlin is responsible for handling the estates of Staten Islanders who die without a will or next of kin. "This mandate has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with dignity," he said with a heavy heart. "The government has a responsibility to care for its citizens, both living and deceased, with the utmost respect."

He added, "Seeing some of the stillborn babies — some 20 weeks, others full-term — affected me as a parent. So under my jurisdiction, I wanted to handle their burials with compassion. Interring any decedent in Potter's Field, away from any family members, just lacks sensitivity, plain and clear."

Gotlin joined forces with John Scalia in their philanthropic mission to help the children.

To provide these services, Gotlin enlisted the help of John Scalia, owner of Scalia Funeral Home, because funerals are not inexpensive. Mr. Scalia and his staff generously donate their services and products so the babies can be buried with proper prayers and in a respectable manner. More than 100 burials of stillborn babies have been arranged.

Because these burials are not in the budget, financial support in discretionary funds by Borough President Jim Oddo and Councilwoman Debi Rose is pivotal.

Speaking on the matter, Ms. Rose said, "As a mother and grandmother, my heart goes out to these newborns and to their families. Just because their families were unable to pay for burial shouldn't relegate them to a common and unmarked grave. Their existence was important, regardless of the amount of time they were here."

"Nobody really likes to talk about it,” Judge Gigante said, "But we do. And the work being done by the Public Administrator to bury the stillborn babies with respect and dignity makes Staten Island different than the other four boroughs." 

John Scalia and Kevin Moran have been donating funerals and burials for stillborns, infants and children since the early 1970s. It's their family heritage.

A long tradition of generosity for the Scalia family.

John Vincent Scalia Home for Funerals in Eltingville which bears the family name and funeral directors  John Scalia and Kevin Moran have been donating funerals and burials for stillborns, infants and children since the early 1970s. It's their family heritage.

In many cases, the stillborn’s parent is a teen-age, single mother who waives her rights at the hospital. She usually is impoverished with no family support and that’s why he ends up with the official task of providing a proper burial. He plans to work more closely with organizations that support parents of stillborns to assist in providing proper burials for them.

“I feel an enormous responsibility to respect stillborns and provide for their remains with the utmost of dignity,” Gotlin said. “Allowing any decedent to be taken to Potter’s Field or buried away from family members lacks sensitivity and compassion. As public administrator, I speak for stillborns and other people who can’t speak for themselves.”

All babies deserve a dignified funeral.

Stillbirths happen when babies die after 20 weeks; they usually happen in-utero, although some occur during the birth. They occur in one out of 160 pregnancies, or 25,000 U.S. families annually. They're more commonplace than sudden infant death syndrome; about 10 times more.

These children range from children of the homeless to newborns left in the trash to babies born to indigent parents who cannot afford a funeral. Mr. Gotlin states proudly that in his 15-year tenure, no Staten Islander under his jurisdiction has been buried in a mass grave on Hart Island, where inmates bury the dead in long trenches.

Gary Gotlin, Public Administrator of Richmond County, stands over the caskets of ten stillborn babies at Resurrection Cemetery, Staten Island. His office has taken unprecedented jurisdiction over the children to give them proper and respectful burials.

Gotlin started this policy in 1999.

He began the policy soon after taking the job in 1999, he said. While visiting a hospital morgue on the island, he inquired about several odd boxes that looked like little suitcases.

“They told me they were unclaimed stillborn babies bound for Hart Island, and I said, ‘Why can’t I just take jurisdiction over them?’” he recalled. “I wasn’t happy with them going into a pine coffin with a number on it, thrown into a mass grave.”

He began making connections with local hospitals and nursing homes and the borough’s city-run morgue, so that he would be notified if unclaimed bodies might be headed for public burial.

His budget does not include funds for burials, so he must persuade cemeteries and funeral directors like Scalia to provide caskets and burials for little or no fee. He asks religious leaders to perform services and solicits donations for flowers and other amenities. There is the woodworker, for example, who donates handmade crucifixes to be put inside the caskets for Catholic burials.

“People don’t want to deal with death and dying, and I can understand that — you think I want to die?” he said. But he has been able to forge good connections. “Staten Island is like a small town and it’s got a lot of heart,” he said.

Robert J. Gigante, the current surrogate judge for Staten Island, said ensuring a dignified burial was “part of Gary’s DNA.”

“He firmly believes in it, so he takes his job a step further than he has to, and he secures the resources,” Judge Gigante said.

10 little babies being buried with dignity.

Last week Mr. Gotlin and staff from the Scalia Funeral Home stood over the 10 little caskets, each bearing the death date and a name — the mother’s last name, preceded by “Baby Boy” or “Baby Girl.”

Having been relinquished by their parents to the hospital, they were brought in a hearse by the Scalia Funeral Home, which helps Mr. Gotlin with burials, to the cemetery’s Garden of Angels section, for unknown and abandoned children.

Mr. Gotlin bowed his head over the caskets and said, “The most important thing to me is that they’re buried with dignity.” We at agree. 

We would like to publicly thank Gary Gotlin, John Scalia, Kevin G. Moran, the staff at the John Vincent Scalia Home for Funerals and everyone who opens their hearts to provide dignified homegoings for these babies and children. These men and women are our earthly angels.

For more information on how you can help with funds for indigent children’s funerals contact:

  • On Staten Island, NY                                                                                                               

Public Administrator - Gary D. Gotlin
130 Stuyvesant Pl., 4th Floor, Staten Island, NY, 10301
(718) 876-7228

  • To offer funeral or burial products for the indigent on Staten Island.

John Vincent Scalia Home for Funerals Inc.
28 Eltingville Boulevard
Staten Island, NY 10312
Phone: (718) 356-6363

Funeral Directors:John Scalia or Kevin G. Moran

  • To assist indigent children nationwide with funerals & burials, or to volunteer. (nationwide)

  • To collect donations for any person needing funds nationwide for a funeral/burial. (nationwide)

or contact me at

We all need to help these babies and children have dignified funerals and burials.
There are so many ways to help. Thank you.

Nancy Burban 2014 

Funeral fund


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