Clea Koff: The Bone Woman

When Clea Koff was a child, she wanted to be a secretary, with dreams of organizing things. In 1996, now a Forensic Anthropologist, Koff started organizing mass burials. She was the youngest member of the first United Nations team to unearth a mass grave in Rwanda and by 2000, she had finished six more missions in Rwanda and Yugoslavia. Koff majored in anthropology and then went to the University of Arizona to begin graduate work in forensic anthropology. Her work in Rwanda focused on returning the remains of victims of the civil war to their families. Some may wonder how one is able to do such difficult work. Koff’s friends say it is in fact her sensitive nature that drives her to do so. Koff says she is able to emotionally distance herself from the bodies and see the larger purpose. After a while, it got harder for her to look at the bodies as cases, and, after an injury, didn’t go on another mission. In between missions, Koff had been speaking at different events and later went on to write books after strangers mentioned she should do so. In 2005, she began establishing the Missing Persons Identification Resource in California to help reunite the bodies of missing persons with their families.

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