CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. — “This is closure for me,” Jim Roycroft said Friday afternoon at a Cheektowaga cemetery.
At Jim’s feet, a grave marker with his grandfather’s name on it. It read: “In loving memory of John Slomczewski.” He died March 10, 1954.
For years, Jim and his wife Evelyn were unable to locate the final resting place. They had few clues. There was a funeral card indicating the burial took place at St. Adalbert’s Cemetery. A cemetery index card filing system indicated he was indeed laid to rest there, but did not specify where.
Jim ran across an internet historian’s post about bodies being move at the cemetery in the 50s, but all other avenues to locate the grave ran into dead ends.
So, last year the Roycrofts contacted 2 On Your Side and asked for help.
Digging through town and court records, 2 On Your Side uncovered a story that unbelievably got almost no coverage at that time.
In 1956, the neighboring New York Central Railroad struck a deal with the Buffalo Catholic Diocese buy some of the St. Adelbert’s cemetery property. A condition of the sale was that the railroad had to exhume bodies buried on the property it bought and rebury them in the cemetery.
In all, some 933 souls were moved. Some of the remains were originally buried in the very early 1900s.
As 2 On Your Side originally reported back in October 2019, records of the reburials were incomplete. Catholic Cemeteries, which now operates the cemetery, identified an unmarked spot in Section C as the most likely place where the John Slomczewski’s remains were buried.
Just this week, the marker bearing Slomczewski’s name was installed.
Today, the Roycrofts made their first visit, to lay flowers at the site and finally pay their respects.
“I feel more at peace here today. I can say that these souls can rest in peace now. They’ve been acknowledged,” Jim Roycroft said.
“This is beautiful. So uplifting. Our daughters and grandchildren are all thrilled,” added Evelyn Roycroft.
Catholic Cemeteries also had a memorial made and installed at St. Adalbert’s honoring all the souls moved in the mass exhumation of 1956.