“For those unnamed, unclaimed and completely forgotten children.”
June Laxton is quoted as saying when she headed up the efforts to have
a memorial for all of the children who died at the Child Care Center.
Mrs. Laxton is a former counselor from the Child Care Center. Because
of her work there are now four granite monuments with the names of he children
who had died at the Center.
Before Mrs. Laxton’s work the headstones only had numbers instead of names. Each marker represented a child who died in the Child Center.
Children at the Child Center died of polio, smallpox, influenza(flu), scarlet fever, and diphtheria. The Child Center was in Sparta from 1887 until its closure in 1976.
For decades, no one knew who was under each tombstone, until June Laxton of Sparta discovered a handwritten chart of names. These had been saved from destruction by Milton Varsos of Madison. Mr. Varsos, was the chief psychiatrist at the center when it closed. He found in temporary storage a pile of handwritten books. He studied all eighty nine years of the records to match the numbers on the tombstones to names written in the books. All but, twenty children were identified. The books are now housed at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. The granite monument was put up on Memorial day in 1999 to help people find family members who might have been buried there.
“You gave back children their identities, their dignity and let then be children again.” said former resident Carroll Duer.
The Child Center Cemetery is now surrounded two rows of evergreen trees, a white fence and most notably the public golf course.
Beloit Daily News, Tuesday, June 1, 1999
La Crosse Tribune, February 12, 2002
June Laxton, Child Center Counselor