As I wrote a few weeks back, poet Richard Leck, whom I had the good fortune to meet at this year’s Small Press Fair in New York City, passed away on December 19th.
Unfortunately, Richard had no next of kin and had become estranged from the rest of his family. Because of this, Richard’s friends Karen Lillis and Frances Winn have not been able to claim his personal effects and arrange for a proper burial. This means Richard’s body has been sitting in the city morgue since December 19th and is likely to be buried at Potter’s Field, the notorious city-run cemetery for the forgotten. Karen has been working especially hard to try and convince someone to claim Richard’s body so he will not wind up at Potter’s Field, most notably the Veterans Administration. Even though Richard did serve in the Army, the Veterans Administration refused to claim him and flatly denied paying for a burial. By law, all veterans are entitled to a military burial, but there a exceptions and technicalities that often require a judgment call by the Veterans Administration.
It seemed that Richard was destined for Potter’s Field until The Village Voice became involved after being contacted by Karen. Voice writer Graham Rayman jumped on the case, writing this article, and contacting the Medical Examiner’s office, who agreed to hold Richard’s body for an additional two weeks in order to give Karen and Frances more time to obtain approval for his release.
Things kept snowballing from there. Someone showed the Voice article to the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’Affairs, who have agreed to look into the case and see if Richard is eligible to be buried in a national veterans cemetery with the city picking up the bill.
Needless to say, this is a big IF. So if you are a New Yorker, and would like to help, please write to the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs and ask them to arrange a proper burial for Richard. You can do so using this online form. Let them know you had read The Village Voice story about Richard and would like him to receive a proper military burial. Hopefully, with enough messages from local citizens, Richard won’t become a resident of Potter’s Field.