by John Herrington
WMV Web News Cleveland
Story filed August 27, 1997

From 1935-1942, he was Cleveland's "top cop."

Eliot Ness died in 1957.

He was cremated. His ashes have been with family members since then. After the deaths of his third wife, Elizabeth, and their adopted son, Bobby, other relatives said they weren't certain what to do with those ashes.

Now, 40 years later, the cremains of Eliot Ness will be put to rest.

His ashes, along with those of Elizabeth and Bobby, will be dispersed at Lake View Cemetery's Wade Lake, Sept. 10, in a private ceremony that will be "befitting (for) this man who had such a lasting impact on Cleveland."

There will be muffled drums and bagpipes, color guards and honor guards, and a monument to Ness will be unveiled: an inscribed granite boulder " be placed on a public pathway near the lake that will stand in perpetuity to honor this great law enforcement officer," according to the continuing description from the Cleveland Police Historical Society.

(That memorial is a gift of the long-time Cleveland monument company, "Johns-Carabelli-Mayfair Memorials.") Ness family survivors have given permission to the Police Historical Society and Museum and Lake View for the ceremony.

It took three months of correspondence for Society Vice President Rebecca McFarland to convince Ness family members that it would be a dignified and respectful observance.

Ness could have no better memorial voice: Rebecca McFarland became interested in Ness several years ago, studied the man and what he had done, and for the past seven years has given public lectures on Eliot Ness.

When she read Paul Heimel's recent book, "Eliot Ness: The Real Story," she discovered that Ness' ashes were still with a relative in an unopened box.

She and Heimel set about arranging for a proper ceremony. But, even after convincing family members that it would, indeed, be a proper ceremony, another problem cropped up: the family wanted the ashes spread over water.

Trustees of Lake View Cemetery agreed that this one time and McFarland says this is a one-time-only grant from the trustees), dispersal of ashes on the water of Wade Lake will be permitted.

Why so much fuss in Cleveland over a man who so many identify with Chicago and Al Capone and "The Untouchables?"

Heimel and McFarland and many other serious researchers agree that Eliot Ness did as much, if not more, for Cleveland as he did in the anti-booze-war with Capone in Chicago.

In his book, the only real non-fiction work on Ness, Heimel details how Ness cleaned up Cleveland law enforcement.

In one interview, Heimel said, "He cleaned up corruption in the police department, took on organized crime and the youth gangs, which were totally out of control; he even straightened out the city's traffic problems. He addressed all these problems and basically solved most of them."

Heimel lives is Coudersport, Pennsylvania. That is where Ness lived in the last years of his life. Heimel will be here for the Ness Memorial and to talk about Ness and his book on radio (WTAM), television ("The Morning Exchange" Channel 5, Sept. 9, along with Rebecca McFarland) and in personal appearances at bookstores and discussion groups at Great Lakes Brewing Company (which features an "Eliot Ness Vienna Lager" and a bar which Ness reportedly frequented).

("Eliot Ness: The Real Story" is available from several Cleveland area bookstores, at the Great Lakes Brewing Co. gift shop, at the Police Historical Museum or directly from Knox Books, 407 Mill St., Coudersport, PA 16915. Cover price is $12.95. Shipping is $2.00.)

Heimel will not be the only noted guest.

Former Plain Dealer reporter and historian George Condon plans to attend the Great Lakes Brewing Co. discussion Sept. 3; Al Sutton, who succeeded Ness as Cleveland safety director may be there; Dr. James Badal, Cuyahoga Community College professor and authority on the Kingsbury Run murders (one of Ness' unsolved crime investigations) also will speak.

Author Steve Nickel, who wrote "Torso," a book based on the Kingsbury Run murders) plans to attend the memorial, as does prolific mystery writer Max Allan Collins. It was Collins' book, "The Dark City" that McFarland says started her on her search for information about Eliot Ness.

Now, McFarland has taken that interest to perhaps a satisfying conclusion with the memorial to the man she and so many others say did so much for Cleveland.

"Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life...."


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