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Former cemetery site offers glimpse into past

(Photo: Bob McClay/KTAR)

PHOENIX -- Construction is under way on a new Maricopa County Sheriff's Office headquarters at a Phoenix site that once was a cemetery.

The county is building a $92-million, five-story sheriff's headquarters at Sixth Avenue and Jefferson Street. Maricopa County spokeswoman Cari Gerchick said workers preparing the site had a surprise in April -- they uncovered part of an old graveyard with 15 burial pits.

"Of those 15 burial pits that indicated that coffins had been in them, we actually found the partial remains of 10 coffins," said Gerchick. "We found partial skeletal remains of eight people, including five adults and three children. We found no full skeletons."

Also found in the cemetery was a woman's hair clip that dates to the 1800s and a handle from a casket.

Gerchick said it's not known what kind of metal the handle was make of, but archaeologists believe the handle indicates that the casket was expensive, and that whoever was buried in it had been wealthy.

"The remains of the coffins, the remains of the bones, and the few personal artifacts were turned over to our archaeological firm so that they can do the proper studies and work with the Arizona State Museum to determine the eventual resting place of the bones," said Gerchick.

Archaeologists should finish their examinations in about five months.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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