Matthew Shepard will finally be laid to rest on October 26 at Washington National Cathedral. The announcement comes a day before the 20th anniversary of the University of Wyoming student’s brutal murder in Laramie, Wyoming, and coincides with National Coming Out Day. Shepard’s death started a national conversation and paved way for federal laws protecting the LGBTQ community. His final burial spot will be in the crypt columbarium, a space shared by Helen Keller and Bishop Thomas Claggett, the first Episcopal bishop consecrated in the US.
Why did it take so long to choose a resting place?
Although Shepard was cremated, his family never buried him out of fear that the site would be a target for hateful vandalism and desecration. The columbarium is visible but off-limits to the public, which assures protection. Cathedral spokesperson Kevin Eckstrom anticipates that there will be a plaque outside for visitors, similar to the one marking Keller’s resting place.
How did his parents choose the National Cathedral?
“Part of the original design for the cathedral more than a century ago was to honor the lives of famous Americans and it was actually seen as a potential final resting place for notable and important Americans,” Eckstrom says. “To have Matthew in that number makes us as a cathedral really proud, but also really humbled. One of the things his family was looking for was a place where he could be safe and finally be at rest and we’re thrilled to be able to provide that to his family.”
Can the public pay their respects?
There will be a public celebration of Shepard’s life on October 26 at 10 AM. Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church and a close friend of the Shepard family, will preside. Attendees can also expect a number of still-unconfirmed speakers. Shepard’s interment will take place after the service, in a private ceremony. Those looking for more information can visit the cathedral’s page about Matthew Shepard.