Fundraiser Aims to Give James Eldridge Dignity in Death

Bob Vitale
James Eldridge

Green Lawn Cemetery has raised more than $1,600 toward a final resting place for James Eldridge, the murdered Columbus writer and radio host whose story was featured in the November issue of Columbus Monthly.

It will take $2,500 to cover the cost of a new urn for Eldridge’s cremated remains, burial and a permanent stone marker for the grave, says Green Lawn trustee Randy Rogers. Rogers started seeking donations through the cemetery’s Facebook page on Dec. 26; as of Sunday evening, 31 people have donated $1,640.

The interment urn of James Eldridge

Eldridge’s ashes have been housed in a 12-by-5-foot-foot closet in the basement of Green Lawn’s Huntington Chapel. He was killed on March 15, 1978, in his sixth-floor apartment at the Southern Hotel, hours after he hosted a St. Patrick’s Day edition of his popular WMNI radio show, “Columbus Feedback,” live from the hotel’s Tiffany Lounge.

The 56-year-old was murdered by a man he had paid for sex. Although his sexuality was an open secret in Columbus political and media circles, the details of his demise muted public response to his death at a time and in a town that were much different than today. 

Although Eldridge’s obituary mentioned a funeral planned in his hometown of Indianapolis, his remains went to Green Lawn and remained unclaimed. “I’m thrilled that Mr. Eldridge is finally getting the respect he deserves,” said Jennie Keplar, a Hilltop resident who heard his story presented as a ghost tale during a Halloween-themed tour of Green Lawn in 2019.

“It’s long overdue,” Keplar said. “My hope is that his soul has finally found peace, and that he knows we care.”

As a nonprofit operation with the upkeep costs you’d expect for a 170-year-old cemetery, Green Lawn can’t afford to find permanent resting places for everyone whose remains have gone unclaimed. More than 500 sets of cremated remains are housed in the closet designated as “permanent storage.”

But Rogers said that once in a while, someone’s story gets told and moves people to help provide the dignity Green Lawn’s forgotten residents didn’t get after their deaths. A few years ago, Rogers said, donors helped pay for the burial of a 105-year-old woman who outlived her husband, a World War I veteran, by 60 years.