Posts Tagged ‘cremains’

Vietnam Vet leading effort in Colorado to bury unclaimed Veterans

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Vietnam vet leading effort to bury unclaimed Veterans

Posted: Friday, November 11, 2011 2:00 am | Updated: 9:40 pm, Mon Nov 7, 2011.
Vietnam vet leading effort to bury unclaimed veterans By Amy Revak HeraldStandard.com heraldstandard.com |
Three years ago, Vietnam veteran Lanny Golden heard about a national movement to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremains of veterans and he was immediately moved to action. Golden said after learning about the national Missing in America Project through an email and watching video clips that touched him emotionally, he joined the movement that same night.
Since that time, the Lemont Furnace man said he has made numerous telephone calls and lobbying efforts to claim and inter the remains of area veterans but has had little success. Golden said most area veterans organizations and funeral homes are not helping, and volunteers and cooperation are needed to make the push a success.
He said Fayette County is within driving distance of two national cemeteries — the Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil Township near Bridgeville and Grafton National Cemetery in Grafton, W.Va.
“I can’t understand why people wouldn’t want to help,” Golden said.
Since its inception, the Missing in America Project has visited 1,423 funeral homes, found 9,050 cremains, 1,277 of which were identified as veterans and 1,049 have been interred.
Golden, the first person in Pennsylvania to be active in the movement, said there may be more than 1,000 cremains in Fayette County alone.
“Fayette County is important to me. We should be first,” Golden said.
Joe T. Joseph of the War and Veterans Inc. organization is one of about a dozen volunteers who have signed on to help Golden. Joseph said he feels the push is going to be successful. The initial local goal is to get 20 cremains to inter at a national cemetery.
He said members of the group reached a consensus at their last meeting that they would seek the proper burial for all honorably discharged veterans.
While no cremains have been found and interred, Golden said he is still pushing ahead. He added that Sheriff Gary Brownfield has offered two escort cars to assist when the burials occur.
State Rep. Deberah Kula, D-North Union Township, introduced House Bill 973, which has passed the House and awaits Senate action. The bill removes all of the liability from the volunteers, funeral homes and any other storage areas that may have cremains stored.
Golden said there is a similar federal bill introduced by Rep. Pat Tiberi of Ohio, who is working toward obtaining co-sponsors.
Plans are to work on inventory, investigation and identification of cremains as soon as a couple of funeral homes cooperate. After the cremains have been identified as veterans or their dependents, they will be placed on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs list of burial and after notification of the next of kin, Golden is hoping to have burials in the spring.
The burials are at no cost to families. “Every time I want to quit, I look at the videos,” Golden said. Golden said because people have become aware that the cremains exist, not properly burying them is no longer a shame, it becomes a crime.
To help, call Golden at 724-439-4757 or e-mail him at lrgolden@atlanticbb.net
For information on the national program, visit online at www.miap.us

Texas’s First MIAP Memorial Service

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Nearly a decade after his death, veteran gets a proper burial
Karl Romanchuk’s cremated remains sat in storage until Missing in America Project intervened.


Naval Reserve Honor Guard member Nicole Rutter-Reese plays taps at Wednesday’s burial ceremony for World War II veteran Karl Romanchuk at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen.
Larry Kolvoord/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Naval Reserve Honor Guard members Alma Cavazos and Roy Lamb fold a ceremonial flag during the burial of World War II veteran Karl Romanchuk on Wednesday at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen. Romanchuk died in 2002 and left no survivors to bury him.
Larry Kolvoord/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Published: 8:48 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011

KILLEEN — The chaplain, a volunteer from the local American Legion, stood tall to give Karl Romanchuk his final salute as a cemetery worker gently placed his cremated remains inside the wall and screwed the faceplate closed.

No one at his funeral service on Wednesday knew Romanchuk. For nearly a decade, the World War II veteran’s remains had sat unclaimed in a storage unit.

“Nobody should have to wait that long,” Henry Diesi said Thursday at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, a few miles from the gates of Fort Hood. “He earned this a long time ago.”

The details of Romanchuk’s life are mostly blurred by the past. He was born in New York at the height of the Roaring ’20s. He served during World War II in the Merchant Marines, which ferried badly needed supplies to troops in Europe and the Pacific. He was 75 when he died at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Temple in 2002.

Last year, an acquaintance brought the situation to the attention of the Missing in America Project, a national organization that seeks to identify the remains of forgotten and abandoned veterans and give them a proper burial.

“They deserve to be with their fellow veterans,” said Fred Salanti , the national executive director of the group. “If there is no family to claim them, they should at least be with the people who shared a foxhole with them, people who understand them.”

In the last four years, the group has buried more than 1,000 veterans and estimates there are cremated remains of many thousands more sitting on the shelves of funeral homes across the country. The group is just beginning its push into Texas; Romanchuk’s burial marked the group’s first in Central Texas.

The group works with funeral directors and crematoriums to identify veterans, a process that can involve a heavy dose of detective work. Once service members have been identified, the VA will pay for their burials — as long as they didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge — and provide honor guards.

Volunteer Chad Swedberg , a retired Air Force veteran from Austin who organized Romanchuk’s burial, said he has tried to reach out to local funeral homes but received no response. He has contacted state senators in hopes that the Texas Legislature will pass a law similar to those in several other states that make it easier for funeral homes to work with groups like the Missing in America Project to identify unclaimed veterans’ remains.

Privacy laws or requirements that remains only be provided to relatives have kept many remains on shelves, the organization says.

Salanti, a Vietnam War veteran, started the organization after witnessing a “direct delivery” burial at a federal cemetery in Oregon, in which a veteran with no family was buried without military honors. He soon learned how extensive the problem was — his group has found unclaimed remains of Civil War veterans — and today the Missing in America Project has more than 800 volunteers.

Salanti says he thinks many of the unclaimed veterans became estranged from their families because of issues related to post traumatic stress disorder. “Many veterans hide away by choice, they lose contact because of (post-traumatic stress disorder), anger issues, divorce,” he said. “They lay out and kind of lose touch.”

Romanchuk’s funeral isn’t the first time the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery has buried forgotten or abandoned veterans. Assistant director Clark Walden said the cemetery buries such veterans once or twice a week.

“It’s kind of sad to think they couldn’t find anyone (related to the veteran), but at the same time, we’re at least giving them some kind of honor and dignity,” Walden said.

On Thursday, an honor guard from the Waco Naval Reserve Unit played taps and ceremonially folded an American flag into a tight triangle.

Because no family members or friends were present, Petty Officer 1st Class Alma Cavazos presented the flag to Swedberg.

Cavazos, who has performed at hundreds of military funeral in Central Texas, said such burials are harder than the usual ones.

“They are few and far between, but they seem sadder,” she said. “There are some funerals with no flowers, and that gets to you.”

Before the ceremony ended, Swedberg stood and addressed the forgotten veteran.

“Karl Romanchuk, today and forever we honor your service; we honor your memory,” he said. “You are not forgotten.”

jschwartz@statesman.com; 912-2942

Left Behind

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Left Behind
As the number of cremations rises, so does the number of cremains that remain unclaimed at funeral homes

By JEREMY D. BONFIGLIO – H-P Features Writer
Published: Sunday, April 11, 2010 1:07 PM EDT

“This one is from 1986,” he says before gently returning it to the gray metal shelving unit in the back room of his South Haven funeral home.

“This is from 1996 … ’99 … another ’96 … ’98 … 2003,” he says, repeating the ritual.

The containers may look ordinary, but it’s what’s inside them that sets this storage area apart. Each one of these small cardboard boxes contains the cremated human remains of those who have been left behind.

Filbrandt, who owns and operates Filbrandt Family Funeral Home, holds on to the 20 or so he’s accumulated over the years, just in case a long-lost relative shows up to claim them. It does happen from time to time, he says. But for most of the dead stacked on this shelf, that day will never come.

As more and more people turn to cremation, funeral home owners, directors and crematories across Southwest Michigan and nationwide are facing the growing dilemma of what to do with unclaimed cremated remains left in their custody.

Of the more than 700,000 cremations performed in the United States each year, the Chicago-based Cremation Association of America estimates that nearly 5 percent, or 35,000, cremated human remains go unclaimed. If predictions for the continued growth of cremation are accurate, in 15 years as many as 70,000 cremated remains could go unclaimed each year.

“Most people, about 90 percent, know what they want to do with their loved one after cremation,” Filbrandt says. “Another 5 percent don’t know what they are going to do so they decide to take them home until they can find a special place. The other 5 percent, for whatever reason, just don’t pick them up. That’s when we end up with these cremated remains.”

A moral dilemma

Although most funeral homes require families to pay for cremation beforehand, when these remains go unclaimed, funeral directors say, it leaves them with both a moral and legal quandary.

“In Michigan, the current law gives the next of kin the statutory right to possess cremated remains,” says Phil Douma, executive director for the Michigan Funeral Directors Association. “The feeling of funeral directors is that because of that right, they are obligated to hold on to these unclaimed cremated remains in perpetuity. And that poses a real issue.”

The lingering question: Why would someone who has taken the care to have a loved one cremated not take the final step to pick up the remains?

“Sometimes people don’t know what to do with them,” says the Rev. Emery M. Varrie, who owns Family Funeral Home in Benton Harbor. “They choose not to deal with it. Sometimes we just have to make a joke about it. We’ll come in and say, ‘Well, it looks like Tanya’s still with us.’”

Some of the same factors driving the popularity of cremations are also increasing the number of unclaimed remains, including the financial burden that comes with the loss of life. According to the Cremation Association of North America, the median cost for a traditional funeral is $7,300. The median cost for cremation is $1,650, including final disposition of the remains. But even that can be too expensive for some families. So they opt for the most basic cremation, which can cost as little as $500, and then walk away.

“I’ve been in the business for 20 years, and it is commonplace,” says Tim Brown, owner of Brown Family Funeral Home in Niles. “Sometimes people have a service and they have closure and that’s it. It’s sad. For me, one set of unclaimed remains is too much.”

In other cases, families aren’t especially close and no one wants to take responsibility for a distant relative. The elderly may have decided to retire in states far away from the communities where they lived most of their lives or they die alone, with no living relatives or friends. Some people arranging for cremation even mistakenly assume that it is an end in itself.

“From a legal standpoint we have to keep track of (the remains) so if any of their families come back we can document where they have been placed and retrieve them,” Filbrandt says, “even if we know the likelihood of that happening is slim.”

Taking responsibility

Funeral directors often spend months, even years, tracking down relatives to return unclaimed remains. After years of failed attempts, some will even buy plots for a final disposition at their own expense.

Filbrandt, who also worked for Calvin Funeral Home, even took responsibility for their unclaimed cremated remains when the company went out of business seven years ago. Since many of these remains had gone unclaimed for more than 20 years, he purchased a small grave space, placed six of the small cardboard boxes in a child-size coffin, and buried them at a local cemetery.

“I feel that everyone is entitled to a decent burial,” Filbrandt says. “We even went to the expense of putting all their names on a marker.”

Brown, meanwhile, has placed some unclaimed cremated remains at North Shore Memory Gardens in Hagar Shores.

“We have a crypt that we keep them in that is used only for that reason,” says Gladys Herder, office manager of North Shore Memory Gardens. “Sometimes they get moved around if someone comes in and wants to purchase that particular crypt, which of course isn’t as easy as opening a drawer.”

Cremation becoming more common

Until recently, storing these ashes has been little more than a nuisance for most area funeral homes. But the rapid rise in cremation’s popularity has also led to a larger number of unclaimed remains.

Before 1975, just 6 percent of families were choosing cremation over burial; now, 39 percent select cremation. In the next 15 years, that percentage is expected to approach 60 percent, according to the Cremation Association of North America.

“I know funeral directors from all across the country who are dealing with this issue,” says Ashley Cozine, a spokesperson with the Brookfield, Wis.-based National Funeral Directors Association. “And if the rate of cremation continues to grow, it’s only going to be a situation that becomes more and more prevalent.”

The increase is being driven in part by cremation’s cheaper cost and in part by the fact that fewer extended families are rooted in one specific place, which means they don’t live close enough to visit a loved one’s grave site. Cremation has also gained acceptance among various religious faiths and ethnic groups. Religions that previously frowned upon cremation are now understanding its value to families and are adjusting their doctrines to accommodate the choice.

In the past, Hispanic and black families were less likely to choose cremation, but even that is changing. Varrie, who estimates his business now does 45 percent of all black funerals in the area, has seen that firsthand.

“Growing up, I hadn’t even heard of cremation,” Varrie says. “It wasn’t something that was done in the black community, but the past couple of years now, more and more people have wanted to be cremated.”

New guidelines

While only a handful of states have laws addressing disposition of unclaimed cremated remains, Michigan funeral directors are hoping that new legislation will at least provide them with some protection from liability.

Last year, the state Legislature enacted two statutes – Public Act 148 and Public Act 149 – that will go into effect on July 1.

The Missing in America Project propelled the first statute that will help identify and properly bury the unclaimed cremated remains of Michigan veterans. Under current Michigan law, state funeral professionals are prohibited from arranging a proper disposition for a veteran’s cremated remains without permission from the next of kin. This legislation will allow funeral homes to share information about their unclaimed ashes with veterans groups who can then check the names of those eligible for interment in a veterans cemetery.

The second statute deals with the wider problem of unclaimed remains, allowing funeral homes to bury the cremated remains at a cemetery or place them in a crypt or a columbarium 30 days after sending written notification to their next of kin at their last known address. Both statutes consider remains to be unclaimed after six months.

Cozine says that it makes sense for states to look at legislation but that many directors may still choose to store them at the funeral home instead of paying to have these remains buried.

“Most funeral homes don’t own their own cemeteries, so while legally they may be able to provide final disposition of these remains there is still a cost involved,” Cozine says. “That’s why we are seeing many funeral homes adopting policies, including leaving a deposit so if these cremated remains are not picked up they at least can use that money to place them at a cemetery.”

In addition to deposits, some funeral directors are requiring that arrangements for disposition be decided and identified in writing before cremation can begin. Brown says he is considering a $35 per day charge for the storage of cremated remains after 30 days. Varrie also believes an additional charge may be necessary.

“I don’t know what the answer is,” Varrie says.” Maybe we do need to charge people for storage, but we haven’t even begun to address that yet.”

Cozine says he fears that some of the new laws popping up across the country, including Michigan’s new statutes, still may not be enough to protect funeral directors from the liability of dealing with unclaimed remains.

“There’s a liability issue that still lingers, even if they can bury them,” Cozine says. “They still must know where those remains are if a relative does come back to claim them. They have to make sure they maintain their records. Then there’s the worst case scenario. What if you have a fire or a flood? The records may be gone but you are still liable for those unclaimed remains. Just look at New Orleans as an example.”

John Ross, director of the Cremation Association of North America, believes the legislation will help solve some of the legal concerns but the emotional burden on funeral directors remains.

“I think most funeral directors know of their legal recourse, but people in the funeral service business are very compassionate,” Ross says. “They have this thought in the back of their mind that ‘What if a family member comes forward?’ That’s why so many of them will continue to hold onto these remains regardless of the law.”

So the ashes linger, held in storage. Funeral directors make phone calls to next of kin. They send registered letters, seeking permission for scattering or burial. But letters go unopened, and voice mails unreturned.

“No matter what we do,” Filbrandt says, “some people just don’t feel like they are responsible once their loved one has been cremated. When this happens, we are left holding the bag, but I feel – no, I know – it is the right thing to do.”

jbonfiglio@TheH-P.com

Unclaimed Cremains

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

By Anonymous
THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER
Posted Feb 09, 2010 @ 11:30 PM
Last update Feb 10, 2010 @ 08:37 AM
They are the forgotten. They are no longer the people that someone loved. Instead, they have become a chore that someone always meant to do, but never got around to. More important things got in the way.

There are many reasons why so many funeral homes have rooms where they store urns containing ashes that nobody ever claimed.

There are six or seven urns at the Hurley Funeral Home in Havana. In fact, most of the Hurley funeral homes in central Illinois have some. Staab Funeral Home in Springfield has three or four, and Vancil-Murphy Funeral Home in Springfield another seven.

It’s pretty much the same everywhere, and it is sad. Some of the remains have been stored for decades, waiting for someone to claim them and put them in a better place. Repeated phone calls from the funeral home to the family, if it can still be found, do no good.

“We try to notify people as soon as the ashes are ready to be picked up,” says Mike Hurley. “Sometimes they’ll say that, emotionally, they aren’t ready. They ask to pick them up later, and you never see them again.”

Downstairs at Staab’s on South Fifth Street, eight canisters are in containers, marked and stored on a shelf in a room full of empty caskets. In two cases, the family has directed the ashes to be kept until the person’s spouse dies. But three or four will never be picked up — including the one found next to a coffee pot at the Midas Muffler on South Ninth Street some 30 years ago.

P.J. Staab thought that call was a joke, but it wasn’t. The manager at Midas called him because a Staab sticker was on the bottom of the urn.

According to Illinois law, funeral homes need to keep abandoned ashes for only 60 days. Then it is legal to dispose of them, if done properlyBut no funeral home director I talked to will get rid of anyone’s ashes in 60 days.

“I stick to forever,” says Brian Murphy at Vancil-Murphy. “Our deepest fear is that one day someone will come and say, ‘Hey, you took care of my great-great grandfather, and I have come to take possession of his remains.’”

Even if a funeral home director wanted to give the abandoned ashes a proper burial, it would not be easy to find a cemetery that allows that to be done for free, if at all.

“We have no place to take them,” says Brian, “unless we want to pay for a burial plot.”

Of the seven abandoned urns at Vancil-Murphy, Brian says, “They are here with us and probably will be for generations.”

Not all of the abandoned ashes are in funeral homes. A couple years ago, I saw an urn on a shelf in the evidence room at the New Berlin Police Department.

Her name was Goldie. Her ashes had been found in the trunk of an abandoned car and the salvage yard called the police. That was about 10 years ago.

With the help of the internet, I was able to locate Goldie’s family. Her daughter said she didn’t even know her mother’s remains were at the police station. She thought her brother had them. After I told her where they were, she assured me that she would go to New Berlin and retrieve her mother.

Goldie is still on the shelf at the police department.

The same summer the ashes were found at the Midas shop, which was about 1980, P.J. Staab got a call from a friend who found an urn of ashes with the Staab sticker on it in his mother’s garage. Attempts to find that family failed. The urn remains on the shelf with the others.

“Sometimes it has been 10 years since the funeral,” says P.J. “and the family can’t be found.”

It could be a case of revenge as in, “Dad was a miserable so-and-so, let him stay at the funeral home. We don’t want him.” It has happened.

It could be a misunderstanding. Someone thought someone else was responsible for picking up the ashes.

It could be the ashes of a homeless person who cut ties with their family long ago.

It could be a lot of things. It doesn’t make it any less sad.

All these lonely people, where do they all come from?

Everybody has a story. The problem is that some of them are boring. If yours is not, contact Dave Bakke at 788-1541 or dave.bakke@sj-r.com. His column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. To read more, visit www.sj-r.com/bakke.

Copyright 2010 The State Journal-Register. Some rights reserved

Remains identified for burial in central KY -MIAP

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Remains identified for burial in central Ky. veterans cemetery
Posted: Feb 08, 2010 8:16 PM PST
Louisville area volunteers with the Missing in America project have matched the remains of 32 veterans and nine spouses with military records. Their work will allow the 41 people to be buried or entombed in the central Kentucky veterans cemetery in Radcliff in mid-June.

The volunteers’ work started with the 2008 discovery of about 200 sets of cremated remains found vandalized in the now-closed Eastern Cemetery in Louisville’s Phoenix Hill neighborhood.

Some of the ashes and bone fragments had been scattered or removed.

Missing in America volunteers took custody of 41 remains from University of Louisville on February 8, 2010. Louisville Memorial Gardens will hold them temporarily until a formal ceremony at Radcliff.

If you recognize any of these names or have questions, contact Dale LeMond of Missing in America at 502-376-1755 for more information.

Here are the names, branch of service and era of service for those people. Spellings and other information are as provided by Missing in America volunteers and Louisville Memorial Gardens.

*indicates wife (spouse) of the service member listed immediately above.

1. Pvt. William L. Adams Jr., Army, WWII

2. Sgt. Ralph J. Auriemma, Army, WWII

3. Betty French Auriemma*

4. TSgt. Edgar M. Campbell, Army, WWII

5. Pvt. William Cohn, Army, WWI

6. Selma G. Cohn*

7. SSgt. James W. Crabb, Army, WWII

8. Pvt. Ollie A. Dean a/k/a/ Cyril Anthony Olliges, Army, Post-Korea

9. Cpl. Elmer C. Deters, Army, WWII

10. Sgt. Dewey G. Detwiller, Army, WWI (or perhaps Detwiler)

11. Grace A. Detwiller* (or perhaps Detwiler)

12. Tech 5 James C. Donovan, Army, WWII

13. Pvt. William Dorsey, Army, WWII

14. SSgt. Newel T. Fiske, Army, WWII

15. Pvt. William C. French, Army, WWII

16. Pvt. Harold W. Gauldin, Marine Corps, WWI

17. Billie N. Gauldin*

18. Maj. Walter F. Harrell, Army, WWII

19. Mary F. Harrell*

20. Pvt. Hubert H. Hevey Jr., Army WWII

21. Pvt. James L. Hill, Army, Korea

22. QM3 Calvert J. Hinton, Navy, WWII

23. SP3 David E. Johnson, Army, Korea

24. TSgt. George F. Kiewert Jr., Army, WWII

25. Tech 5 Kenneth M. Kimbel, Army, WWII

26. Evelyn A. Kimbel*

27. Pvt. Theodore A. Kuersteiner, Army, WWI

28. Marguerite A. Kuersteiner*

29. SSgt. Benard H. Lutz, Army, WWII

30. PFC James A. McEwan, Army, WWI

31. Sgt. 1st Class Andrew F. McGlasson, Army, WWI

32. Sgt. Thomas W. Nelms, Army, WWI

33. Catheine S. Nelms*

34. Lt. John L. Newman, Navy, WWII

35. 1st Lt. Aurthur K. Ouerbacker, Army, WWI

36. Cpl. Leo S. Rosa, Army, WWII

37. Tech 4 Charles W. Taylor, Army, WWII

38. SSgt. Ronald J. Tharp, Air Force, Korea

39. Pvt. Clifford Trout, Army, WWII

40. PFC Allan J. Vaughan, Army, WWII

41. Mary M. Vaughan*

MIAP New National Officers

Monday, February 8th, 2010

NEW NATIONAL OFFICERS
Please join the MIAP BOD in welcoming four new National Officers. These positions have been created to assist Linda Smith and the MIAP BOD in making the Missing in America Project more effective throughout the US. The more effective we are, the more we will be able to get our Veterans interred as they should be. Full job descriptions may be found on the MIAP blog.

SALLY BELANGER
NATIONAL LIASON TO FUNERAL HOMES

Sally started her professional career in the Operating Room at Providence Hospital, Washington, D.C. Fortunately for me, one of the local physicians decided I would be better suited to his private practice, an OB/GYN practice, where she spent approximately ten years. Finally, after much soul searching, Sally decided it was time to do what she really wanted and needed to do and that was to return to school and obtain her license as a funeral service practitioner.

Once licensed as a funeral service practitioner, Sally was employed by Lee Funeral Home in Clinton, Maryland. This was good place to be for many years, but inasmuch as “my other half” was employed by the same firm on Capitol Hill, it soon became apparent that if we were to “make it,” she would have to either move on to another funeral home or utilize her skills in another fashion. Fortunately for Sally, some of the past presidents of the Maryland State Funeral Directors Association thought she would serve the association well as their executive director. And so, she made the change. Sally served them well as she was there for just short of 25 years when her husband’s illness helped her to better understand where her priorities really were.

During Sally’s stint with the Maryland State Funeral Directors Association, the Delaware State Funeral Directors Association questioned whether she could help them out. The folks in Maryland decided what she did in her spare time was up to her. So, Sally worked with both organizations simultaneously. It was good for her because when her husband was tied up at the funeral home, she could always occupy my time.

Sally’s husband died seven years ago and her kitties are her children. Sally moved to Maine as this is where they had hoped to retire. Since most of her extended family are still in the metro DC/Maryland area, Sally has plenty of time to devote to those things she really believes in. And yes, Sally is a workaholic.

Sally stated “as I noted when I we first started communicating via email, I’ve given a lot of thought to the position of national liaison to funeral directors for the Missing in America Project as it is not one to be taken lightly.”

“First, I know I have the time. For since 2003, I have served as the executive director for the Maine Funeral Directors Association. It is a relatively small association. There just aren’t that many funeral directors in Maine, certainly a good 800 or so less than when I served as exec for the Maryland Funeral Directors Association some seven years ago. I also sit on the Policy Board of the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA). Additionally, I am a member of the Council of Funeral Association Executives, an association of executives of funeral service associations across the nation. This organization routinely meets three times a year and has the ability to be in constant communication via e-mail and conference calls. Additionally, most of us travel to DC each year in March or April to lobby for issues affecting funeral service and the client families funeral directors are called upon to serve, thereby offering one additional face-to-face meeting. Finally, I sit on the Wreaths Across America (WAA) Board. Wreaths Across America is another of those projects that involvement is infectious and is simply the right thing to do.”

“Finally, you should know that I was able to encourage the members of the Maine Funeral Directors Association to become involved with a Missing America project. I’m happy to report that in 2009, we were able to identify a candidate for interment in our program. He was finally laid to rest last April with dignity and respect. For one who had been sheltered at a local funeral home, there were almost 100 people who showed up for his services. Some served with him in the Navy; others worked with him over the years, and finally, some didn’t know him, but decided to participate as they would hope someone would do as much for their loved ones. I’m happy to report that we are currently in the midst of our 2010 program.”

WILLIAM LAUGHLAN
NATIONAL PUBLIC INFORMATION COORDINATOR

Bill was born in Scotland in 1950 and his family immigrated to the US in 1964. He went to school in Los Angeles, graduated from Venice High School. Bill was not a citizen when he tried to join the US Air Force. A Congressman from his district got him in. Bill joined the Air Force in 1969 and was trained as a Security Policeman. He received his citizenship while serving at Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota in 1969. Bill volunteered to go to Vietnam and served as a Heavy Weapons Specialist on a M113 at Phu Cat Air Base till 1971. He served in the Air Force for 7 1/2 years, was discharged and became a Deputy Sheriff in Riverside County California. Bill stayed in Law Enforcement till he was injured on duty in 1984. Since that time, Bill has done many things and been many places and now he lives in Iowa and works for GoDaddy.com. He serves as the Iowa State Coordinator for the MIAP and states that it is truly an honor to do so. He says he can think of nothing else that would give him more comfort knowing that he has helped his forgotten Brother and Sister Veterans.
Bill’s primary function is to develop, implement and maintain an effective public information program on both state and Nationwide basis; serve as the Organizations primary media liaison; develop positive press releases to the media; provides support to the Board of Directors in development of newspaper columns. Work includes professional application of research and writing skills, selecting news media, preparing and releasing material and preparing various periodic reports.

JOSEPH SMITH
NATIONAL EVENTS COORDINATOR
Joe Smith was born and raised in Missouri. He enlisted in the U S Navy in 1968, and served aboard the USS Forrestal until 1970, when he was transferred to ComNavAirLant, at NAS Norfolk until his discharge in 1972. Joe met and married his lifetime companion Linda during this time. He is the father of Heather and Joseph. He is a member of the Masonic fraternity in Missouri. He is also a founding member of the Freemasons Riding Club, serving as a member of the Grand Chapter as Events Coordinator. As a member of the Patriot Guard Riders since 2006 he has served as RC, Sen.RC and Ass’t State Capt. Joe is employed by the Adjutant General of Missouri(National Guard)as Security Supervisor at the air facility in Jefferson City, Mo. Joe’s hobbies include riding his Harley and fishing.
The NEC’s main function is to coordinate MIAP National and occasionally local events so as not to have conflicts in dates. This includes all fundraisers and to monitor events appropriateness of goals of the MIAP.
The NEC will keep a calendar of events and assist any member with arranging their events and disseminating this information to all appropriate MIAP personnel. The calendar will be sent for inclusion in the newsletter and copied to MIAP financial officer.

John Caldarelli
National Political Representative

John L. Caldarelli (WSO CSSD) is a certified safety and security director, certified by the World Safety Organization. He is also a retired New York City Firefighter and OSHA manager. John is a Korean era veteran who was assigned to the IS Calvary Division. During John’s tenure with the Federal Government he has investigated numerous Fire catastrophes throughout the Continental United States and its common Wealth’s. John was assigned to Ground Zero for the duration manning an OSHA Emergency Command Center. John is a graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
The NPR’s aim is to educate, enhance, and support the individual states in their quest for legislation that will achieve the Mission of MIAP.
The NPR will strive to work with the individual states to solve specific problems that hinder the mission of the MIAP.
The NPR will support the efforts of the individual state in regards to pursuing legitimate avenues of undertaking to fulfill the Mission of MIAP.
The NPR will render legitimate advice proven effective in past relationships pursuant to the Mission of MIAP.

Forgotten dead, in Storage

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Forgotten dead, in storage
An estimated 1% of cremated remains go unclaimed for years. But a long-lost relative just might show up.

Dozens of unclaimed human remains are stored in boxes and urns at the Cremation Society of Illinois. Funeral home policies vary on what to do with such remains: Some scatter them, others inter them, and many just let them be. (Chris Walker / Chicago Tribune / January 12, 2010)

By William Hageman
January 24, 2010
Reporting from Chicago – It’s a small room that could be in any Midwestern basement: paneled walls, concrete floor, low ceiling, fluorescent lights, gray metal shelves lining two walls.

But what’s on the shelves sets this room apart: more than 100 small cardboard boxes of cremated human remains.

Each box — the oldest dates to the late 1960s — has a person’s name written on the outside and cremation paperwork inside. These people lived, died, were cremated — and then left behind by their families.

People in the funeral industry estimate that 1% of cremated remains go unclaimed.

David Fisher, an independent Chicago-area funeral director and embalmer, says the average funeral home might have four or five sets of ashes sitting around.

Jerry Sullivan, president of the Cremation Society of Illinois as well as the International Cremation Federation, believes the number may be lower.

“I would say that every funeral home in the state of Illinois probably has one or two sets of cremated remains that people just never came back for,” Sullivan says.

Funeral homes’ policies differ on such abandoned remains: Some scatter them, some bury them, and some just hang onto them for — well, if not for eternity, at least in perpetuity.

“I’ve been in the [funeral] business since 1970,” Sullivan says. “My parents had a funeral home from 1952. So I’ve got some of theirs. I have some from businesses we’ve bought or inherited. . . .

“I remember we bought a funeral home, and there was a file cabinet there. We assumed it was files. Then we opened it and there were 10 or 15 sets of cremated remains. We still have them.”

Sullivan stores the remains in this climate-controlled room in one of the Cremation Society’s facilities in a Chicago suburb. Some of the remains belong to friends or acquaintances. On one shelf resides a machine shop owner he knew. Side by side on another shelf are two brothers. And he’s on a first-name basis with Mary and Roy.

“Oddly enough, to me, it feels like they’re relatives,” he says. “I feel they’re in better care with me than with somebody else.”

Illinois law is fuzzy regarding a deadline for the disposition of remains. Many funeral home directors play it safe and hold on to them out of concern that a relative might come for them later.

But how does a family member get left behind and forgotten?

Before prepaid funerals, some families couldn’t pay the bill and were reluctant to drop by the funeral home. Sometimes families aren’t especially close and no one wants to take responsibility for a distant relative. Or maybe the survivors didn’t know what to do with remains, so they did nothing.

“I think, probably, the most common reason was they just didn’t want them,” says Fisher. “They didn’t have any idea what they wanted to do, so they just left them at the funeral home.”

And the funeral director is left with the ashes.

“Usually it’s about a 60- to 90-day time when we start to encourage a family more aggressively to come on in, meet with us again,” said David Klein of Dignity Memorial, a Houston-based company that operates hundreds of funeral homes and cemeteries nationwide. “Or if there’s just no contact we’ll continue to hold them over the next two or three months as well, till a point when we feel comfortable enough — it could be nine months or a year — that we can say, OK, we’ve done our duty.”

Dignity sends the remains to a central place — a mausoleum at one of its cemeteries.

“Some funeral homes will pay to have them buried,” Fisher says. “Some scatter them, or have a scattering service over Lake Michigan.”

Says Sullivan: “I know some put them in a mausoleum niche or have a burial. It just seems impersonal to me.” So he holds on to the boxes, no matter how long it takes until someone claims them.

“Our record is nine years,” he said.

But records are made to be broken. Less than an hour after saying that, in late December, Sullivan received a call from a man seeking the ashes of his sister, who died in 1991. A family dispute with the woman’s ex-husband was the reason for the delay. The ex-husband had recently died, and the brother began pursuing his sister’s whereabouts.

Sullivan knew right where the remains were.

“He wants them buried with their mother and father,” he said later. “He wanted to purchase an urn and have us take her to the cemetery and bury her for him.”

bhageman@tribune.com
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