The congregants sat before the cheap casket in worn, workingman clothes.
The pastor saying the last words kept forgetting the dead man's name.
I'm sad to say, more than 20 years later even I, the reporter sitting in the back of the chapel, now struggle to remember the fellow's name.
His life alternated between jail cells and street corners.
And at the service he was receiving more respect in death than he had in life.
He was buried by the state.
Funerals for the destitute are sad affairs.
It's usually a cheap casket, a rented pastor and burial in a potter's field.
Anyone who is a regular reader of this column knows that I believe government should be limited in scope.
But burying the penniless has been a government function since Biblical times -- long predating the modern welfare state.
Now even this basic function is failing in Illinois. The state's funeral and burial program was appropriated $9.58 million for the current fiscal year and yet funeral homes directors complain of waiting as long as a year for the state to pay them for their services.
Increasingly, funeral homes and cemeteries are just saying no when asked to handle an indigent person's funeral arrangements.
They operate businesses, after all. Their employees won't wait a year to get paid. Their suppliers won't wait a year to receive a check.
But somehow the state seems to think it is just fine to make businesses wait.
Of course it's not just funeral homes and cemeteries that are getting this sort of shabby treatment from our government, it's also doctors, dentists and pharmacists. Those are just a few of the professions where you'll find individuals choosing not offer services to Medicaid patients because the state pays them a fraction of their actual costs and reimburses them months late to boot.
Often those relegated to the Medicaid rolls are left searching for a provider -- any provider -- willing to offer their family care.
More people may have Medicaid cards. But fewer people are choosing to treat those carrying them.
Please keep in mind this is happening at a time when state revenues are at their peak.
Never before in the state's 195-year history has it taken in more money. And yet the Land of Lincoln is spiraling toward insolvency.
Our leaders have consistently made poor decisions.
Problems with pensions have been kicked down the road for decades. When difficulties needed to be addressed, they were avoided.
Politicians made vows, knowing full well they wouldn't be in office when those promises came due.
We needed leadership; instead we got the same old politics.
Now, under new accounting rules, state pensions are underfunded to the tune of more than $200 billion.
When circumstances called for belt tightening, our lawmakers chose to expand government instead.
The state now has $9 billion in unpaid bills.
But earlier this month, the Illinois House voted to approve a host of questionable appropriations.
"They voted to spend $115,000 for an Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame in Danville and $30,000 or $40,000 for bicycle racks and even more for a mining monument in southern Illinois -- at time we can't even pay our bills," said state Rep. Tom Morrison, R-Palatine. "People think that isn't much money -- but it all adds up. And we shouldn't be spending money on new programs like this, when we can't even pay our bills."
Core functions of government -- incarcerating criminals, educating children, maintaining roads -- have suffered because of such political indecision. Government can't be all things. "No" is a healthy word for lawmakers to learn because the more spending balloons in some areas, the less there is to spend in more important areas.
After all, we live in a state that struggles just to bury its dead. Don't we deserve better? Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today is Friday, Aug. 22, the 234th day of 2014. There are 131 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: The ferry boat, Rock Island, having been put in good order at the boat yard is now making her regular trips, much to the gratification of those who have to cross the river. 1889 -- 125 years ago: W.J. Gamble, for many years superintendent of the Moline & Rock Island railway, leased the Fourth Avenue Hotel and renovated and refurnished it throughout. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Pending the building of new public schools or additions to the present ones to provide adequate room for all the children, the board of education decided that pupils younger than 6 years old would not be accepted in Rock Island schools. 1939 -- 75 years ago: The fifth annual New Windsor Fair and Horse show, which has been delayed for two days because of unfavorable weather, got off to a new start last night. The parade was held this morning. 1964 -- 50 years ago: The Rock Island County Fair and Rodeo will celebrate its silver anniversary this year. The fair opens Tuesday and will run through Saturday and offers entertainment and activity for young and old. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Earl Hanson School, Rock Island, joins the Program to Assist Latch Key Student, which aids working parents. PALS is a before and after school program for grades 1-6 in certain Rock Island public and private schools.