Kentucky man bids those with no loved ones a dignified farewell

Buddy Dumeyer ensures Louisville's poor and homeless are properly mourned.
Buddy Dumeyer ensures Louisville's poor and homeless are properly mourned.
CBS News

(CBS News) LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- In Louisville, Ky., there's a civil servant who has devoted his life to death.

Buddy Dumeyer
Buddy Dumeyer CBS News

"Because I finally realized that this is where I belong, and I was called to do this," says Buddy Dumeyer, who, after retiring as a police captain, sought out and got a job with the Jefferson County coroner's office.

Specifically, he wanted the job burying Louisville's poor and homeless. For years, these people had been buried, unceremoniously, in a potter's field. You can tell by the grave markers how the county couldn't have cared less.

"There had to be a better way," Dumeyer says. "When you and I come into this world, we have a mom and dad, loving arms around us, people taking care of us. When we leave this world, when we give people back, we don't want to give them back alone."

Patrick Mohr
Patrick Mohr CBS News

To that end, Buddy now makes sure no funeral in Louisville is ever unattended. He has teamed up with three local high schools to provide volunteers, not only for carrying the casket, but for mourning the loss.

At the beginning of every service, Buddy tells the kids what he knows about the deceased. And by the end, they kids say they do care much more -- not only about the person who died, but about the living, as well.

"It's just so humbling," says Jackie Arnold, a Xavier High School student. "It makes you appreciate what you have and the family that you're blessed with."

"Every human life is worth the same," says student Patrick Mohr. "No one person should be left behind, I guess."

Lily Dalton
Lily Dalton CBS News

That's a sentiment no one appreciates more than the people who get buried here. We know that, because every once in awhile a friend or relative shows up at the service.

Lily Dalton met Art Adams at a dance last year. He was down on his luck, but she got to know him, learned about his cancer and talked about his death.

"He would love it," Lily says of Art's funeral. "He would absolutely have loved it. Because he thought nobody would be here. He was so afraid of that."

Buddy says it's a fear shared by many indigent people. Although now it's a fear unfounded.

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  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.