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Oddity of the year: The mystery urn

An urn that washed up on the Oregon coast in March was interred in the Nelson cemetery in September. - Courtesy Tom Preston
An urn that washed up on the Oregon coast in March was interred in the Nelson cemetery in September.
— image credit: Courtesy Tom Preston

Part of the Star’s look back at the top stories of 2012.

The year’s most peculiar story began in March when two teenagers discovered an urn among some rocks on the north Oregon coast, engraved “William George Kennedy 1870-1925.”

They took it to funeral home director Tom Preston in Astoria, who enlisted genealogists and media outlets to help find its rightful owner. Kennedy was quickly identified as a Bellingham hotel proprietor, and some of his second wife’s descendants were located.

But Preston was determined to find a blood relative. That led him to our area, for Kennedy and his three children emigrated to Canada in 1911 and established a nursery at Harrop. One of his sons married Jessica Hopwood — whose nephew John still lives in Nelson. He revealed William Kennedy has three living granddaughters.

One of them, Iris Close of Oliver, was surprised to learn the ashes had been found, especially since she didn’t know they were missing. Her grandfather died soon after she was born, but last she heard, his wife had the urn on her bedroom bureau in Bellingham.

Later, a Portland TV station reported a distant relative found the urn while emptying a closet and buried it at sea, about 50 miles off Astoria. He figured that was 30 to 35 years ago.

Preston, the funeral home director, mailed the ashes to Close, who in October came to Nelson with husband Allan to bury them next to her father, who died in 1965. “He’s finally come to rest,” she said. “I never met him ... but I thought it fitting to bury him with his son.”

It wasn’t the only unusual tale about ashes: Nelson’s Thompson Funeral Home disposed of 75 sets of unclaimed cremains this year, some dating back 60 years. Many were returned to their families and the rest buried in a common grave.

One found a home in the columbarium at St. Saviour’s church.

 

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