No Longer Nameless, Neil Harris Jr. Will Be Remembered in a Memorial Service With His Family Next Month

Neil Harris Jr., the Long Island man who lived the last years of his life in Riverside Park, will have a new memorial service on Nov. 4 after a local journalist discovered his real name and told his family.

Harris was known to many locals as Stephen. He spent his days on benches in the park, including one at 75th Street. When he died last year, the city could not identify him, and he was buried on Hart Island, the city potter’s field. Locals held a memorial service for the man and dedicated a bench in Riverside Park to him.

Journalist Jessica Brockington, however, discovered his identity in a missing person’s database, and painstakingly retraced his life. She connected with Harris’ mother Susan Hurlburt, who had been searching for her son for years. We wrote about that effort here.

The family told Jessica they were deeply grateful for her work and the community’s support, and they even reached out in our comments section. They will be present for a new memorial service. It will be held on November 4 at 3 p.m. at The Christian Community Church at 309 West 74th Street.

Thanks to Gretchen for the photo.

NEWS | 4 comments | permalink
    1. Kayson212 says:

      Thanks for this update, WSR. I appreciate the cumulative sense of community provided by your stories.

    2. Pcnyc says:

      That’s Marathon Sunday! So sad to miss this, with already working the running event.
      I saw Neil on my walks by the water frequently. I’m glad he has been correctly identified and will be finally recognized and remembered by all who knew him. RIP, Neil.

    3. John G Flynn says:

      Would his remains be transferred from potters field?
      May we all pause & offer a moment of remembrance
      For His Soul

      • B.B. says:

        Disinterment and relocation of those buried on Hart Island is possible.

        ” After confirming that a loved one is buried on Hart Island, the family may request a disinterment and reburial elsewhere, such as in a private cemetery.

        Although DOC does not charge for locating and disinterring a body, you must first contact a licensed funeral director, who will charge a fee for its services.

        The funeral director will help you obtain a Disinterment Permit from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Office of Vital Records. Once you have the permit, the funeral director must mail the following documents to the Department of Correction:

        1. A copy of the death certificate

        2. The original Disinterment Permit and

        3. A formal request for disinterment on letterhead from a licensed funeral home.

        The address to mail these three documents is:

        Warden, Support Services Division

        NYC Department of Correction

        13-07 Hazen Street

        East Elmhurst, NY 11370

        The Department of Correction will schedule the disinterment and coordinate with the funeral home for transfer of the remains.

        http://www.nyc.gov/html/doc/downloads/pdf/hart-island/hart-island-faqs.pdf

        https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/05/15/nyregion/new-york-mass-graves-hart-island.html

        If the family wishes the remains to be moved, and cost is the main issue, perhaps a GoFundMe page could be started.