A Nelson funeral home is searching for next-of-kin for about 75 sets of ashes, some dating back more than 60 years.
An ad in Friday’s Star was a step toward dealing with the unclaimed cremains, according to Thompson Funeral Services director Robert Sylvester.
“We’ve tried over the years on different occasions to contact the families,” he says, “but if they don’t live in town or the family contact is no longer around, it’s hard to get hold of them, especially if we don’t know any other relatives.”
Sylvester says in many cases ashes aren’t picked up due to miscommunication — family members each think another has taken them.
The convenience of cremation also means there isn’t as much urgency to inter the ashes in the cemetery, as there is with a traditional funeral, he adds.
“People tend to forget. They think they’ll have a service six months down the road but it may not take place for whatever reason.”
Cremains still unclaimed after May 31 will be interred in a common grave in the city cemetery. The earliest set is from 1951, the most recent from 2001.
Friday’s ad has already produced results: several people have come forward to claim their relatives’ remains.
“Usually they felt somebody else in the family had picked them up,” Sylvester says. “They were unaware they were still here.”
A couple of factors — liability and lack of physical space — are driving the funeral home’s decision to dispose of the the ashes, which are stored in a locked closet.
Although it’s unusual, it is not unprecedented. A Trail funeral home went through a similar process ten years ago, and others have done the same. Such dispositions are governed by legislation.
Sylvester says their overriding concern is to treat the remains with “dignity and respect.”
“After 50 years or so, I think it’s time to do something,” he says.
The full list of remains is below.