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.
Photography by Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Yahoo News.