Fifty eight individuals lost their lives in this tragic accident. They were fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters who hailed from twelve different states. They left behind them grieving spouses, parents, children, and siblings. This accident claimed one entire family, two parents traveling with one small child each, three married couples and many woman and men, both married and single, who were traveling by themselves.
Two individuals with reservations that night decided at the last minute to cancel their reservations. One woman decided to drive west rather than fly and one man was standby passenger who was allowed on board, but had to give up his seat when the ticket holder arrived late. They were the fortunate ones
While nearly six decades has passed since this accident, none of the victims have been forgotten. Many spouses, children, and grandchildren are alive today who remember them lovingly and still seek answers to why and how this accident happened. Over ten years during her research efforts, MSRA Board Member, Valerie van Heest, has located 50 of the 58 families who lost a loved one in the accident.
While researching the accident in 2007 to try to determine what happened to the human remains recovered from the lake, van heest located a mass grave at the Riverview Cemetery in St. Joseph, Michigan. A notation in the sexton’s register indicated that unidentified body parts from the flight had been buried there, but the plot was never marked and the families never notified. She worked with the Filbrandt Family Funeral Home in South Haven, which donated a black granite monument with the names of all 58 victims, and hosted a memorial service. Flight 2501 families came from across the country on Saturday September 20, 2008, for a memorial service.
Even though most of the families of victims of the crash held their own services in towns across the country in 1950, the service in 2008 was the first time victims had a memorial at their true resting place. ‘I’m so glad. It was really hard to come but I thought; it’s just one day in my life that I really don’t want to miss,’ said Elizabeth Schulze, who came to the service from California. Her uncle died in the crash.
“I was 16 when it happened and I can remember when my mother told us what had happened; I thought well maybe he didn’t get on the plane, maybe he’s safe somewhere; but of course that wasn’t true,” Elizabeth Schulze, who lost her uncle, said.
“’We don’t know what remains are buried there, but for that reason I assume my mother’s are. So for the first time she’s not lost. but it still doesn’t offer the answer why the accident happened,’ said Bill Kaufmann of Oakland, California, whose mother died in the crash when he was six years old.
The NUMA/MSRA search team feels a responsibility to these families. This project has become more than just a challenge to locate a lost aircraft, it has become a journey of rediscovering the lives of the people who were lost in this crash, and remembering that for their families this accident was a life-shattering experience.
Since its placement, the Flight 2501 memorial has been visited by thousands who have paid their respects to the victims. Consider a visit at the Riverview Cemetery 2925 Niles Road, St. Joseph, Michigan.