Bill and Nancy Remkus are the third generation of the Remkus family to own the Hinsdale Animal Cemetery located on 64th Street and Bentley Avenue in Willowbrook, Illinois. In 1950 George Remkus and his father-in-law William Dykema purchased the Cemetery from George’s friend John Stankowicz. In 1930 Stankowicz became the cemetery’s second owner which was established in 1926 on seven acres in what was then Clarendon Hills.
The Cemetery is now twelve acres and offers private burials in a wooden box or pet casket, private or memorial cremations, granite monuments and headstones, and other memorials. Two visitation rooms are available for owners who want to say a final good-bye before the cremation. Some headstones are simple, others elaborate, and some have touching inscriptions. About 30 people have their cremated remains buried with their pets’ at the Cemetery. Watch the informational YouTube video to learn more about the Cemetery’s history and services.
One of the Cemetery’s most memorable monuments is the iron statue John Stankowicz built for his dog Arap, a shepherd retriever mix. Arap died when his warning bark alerted the Stankowicz family of the encroaching Communist militia. Stankowicz and his family escaped from the militia and immigrated to the United States. The inscription on Arap’s memorial reads “He gave up his life that a human might live. Greater love hath not man.”
Perhaps, the most touching story is that of Karla I and her owner Bernice Clifton. Ms. Clifton lost her vision in her ‘20s in 1938 and could no longer work as a successful window designer. When Bernice learned of the Seeing Eye program at Morristown, New Jersey, she applied to the program. Only after meeting the program’s strict admission standards, and earning the $150 required for the dog, did she receive Karla her Seeing Eye dog. When Bernice and Karla returned to Oak Park, they became well known and Bernice began her career as a lecturer. In 1951, Bernice’s lawyer Jerome Simon made their story known internationally in his book Sight Unseen: How Bernice Clifton Discovered the Value of a Handicap. Over three thousand people attended Karla I’s funeral service held at the Cemetery. At the service Bernice said: “My life was not changed through blindness. It was just a continuation with Karla as my eyes. She did more for me than any human could. She kept me from being a blind person.”
Trix, the last surviving dog of the 16 that served overseas with Coast Guard in World War II is also buried in the Cemetery. A war hero, Trix, cleared out enemy snipers while on beach patrol and guard duty on Guam, Okinawa, and the Philippines. Toni Colone, an Airedale, died in 1926 a veteran of World War I. Tippy, a show dog, is also buried in the Cemetery.
Although the majority of pets buried in the Cemetery are dogs, the Cemetery also has cats, birds, horses, turtles, rabbits, and a monkey. View the Hinsdale Animal Cemetery set on Flickr for more photos and stories.