A day of grief in a city of pain

A native of south side Chicago, Spencer Leak Sr. has watched as his hometown and the neighborhoods where he grew up have been ripped apart by homicides in recent years, the results of an explosion of gun violence police have struggled to contain.

Last year, according to the Chicago Tribune, 781 people were killed—a massive jump over 2015 when there were 492 recorded homicides. The pace of violence hasn’t slowed this year. Since Jan. 1, more than 1,000 people have been shot and at least 230 killed.

Leak has more insight into Chicago’s violence than most. As patriarch of Leak and Sons Funeral Home, he’s been burying most of the dead. Last year, his funeral home handled the funerals for between 250 and 300 murder victims, and so far this year, he’s handled around two to three services a week for those killed by homicide.

It is heart-wrenching work for Leak, who at 80, works 12 hours a day seven days a week, handling the routine deaths of mothers and fathers and grandparents as well as the mostly young casualties of violence. On a recent Saturday, Chicago photographer Jon Lowenstein, who has been documenting the toll of violence on his adopted hometown, spent a morning with Leak as he attended ten funerals that he and his staff organized.

Read the related story by Holly Bailey/Yahoo News. >>>

Photography by Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News.

_____

See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Tumblr.

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr stands in front of Leak and Sons, one of the oldest funeral homes on Chicago’s south side and one that is burying many victims of Chicago’s gun violence. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr. consults with his staff before beginning day of funeral visitation and planning. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr. meets with a family ahead of a funeral at Leak and Sons. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr. consults a long schedule of funerals on a recent Saturday, including some for homicide victims. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr consults a schedule of dozens of funerals he planned to drop by on a recent Saturday. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Amid threats of violence at funerals for homicide victims, Leak works closely with Chicago Police on security. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

At 80, Spencer Leak Sr maintains a rigorous schedule as the patriarch of Leak and Sons, working more than 12 hours a day, seven days a week. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

An employee holds a door for Spencer Leak Sr as he heads to his fourth funeral of the day on a recent Saturday. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr climbs into his car ahead of a busy morning of funeral visitations. He tries to make an appearance at every memorial he and his staff plan. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr consults a schedule while en route to a funeral on Chicago’s south side. Though most services are held on Saturdays, he has started to schedule services on Sundays to meet demand from families seeking to bury loved ones killed in Chicago’s uptick of violence. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

En route to a funeral, Spencer Leak Sr. greets residents at a memorial for shooting victims on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr consoles a family at a funeral he helped organize at the New Life Center Church COGIC on Chicago’s South Side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr exits a funeral, his fourth of the day, at the New Life Center COGIC on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr greets a woman outside a funeral at at the New Life Center Church COGIC on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak greets a mourner outside a funeral at the New Life Center Church COGIC on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr hugs a woman at a funeral he helped organize at South Park Baptist Church on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak walks to say hello to the pastor ahead of a funeral at South Park Baptist Church on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr adjusts his hat, as he exits his fifth funeral of the day at South Park Bapitst Church on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr enters at funeral at the Union Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr greets a family member of the deceased at a funeral at the Union Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr greets relatives of the deceased at a funeral at the Union Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr exits a funeral, his sixth of the day, at Union Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr speaks to an attendee at a funeral, his sixth of the day, at Union Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr greets attendees at a funeral he helped organize on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak greets membres of a family at a funeral he helped organize on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak greets membres of a family at a funeral he helped organize on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr en route to his eighth funeral of the day on a recent Saturday on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr climbs the steps of St Andrew Temple Church, which his father founded, for a funeral. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak Sr speaks to one of his employees at a funeral at New Bethleham Church on Chicago’s south side. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

A day of grief in a city of pain

Spencer Leak exits a funeral at New Bethleham Church on Chicago’s south side. Not noon, it was his ninth ceremony of hte day. (Photo: Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News)

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes