Two sets of forgotten cremated remains finally to be buried

Sunday, January 14, 2007

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- After spending years boxed up and forgotten in a Buchanan County office, two sets of cremated human remains are finally headed for burial.

County Administrator Bill McMurray, who found the remains in a closet and a file cabinet last week while organizing his new office, said one set of cremains is being picked up by a relative, and an area school has volunteered to pay to help bury the other.

Elected to office in November, he said he found the remains while wading through a number of storage rooms tied to the administrator's job as guardian, conservator, personal representative and representative payee for certain citizens, such as minors, the mentally incompetent and those with disabilities.

News of McMurray's discovery made headlines across the country.

He said he got a phone call from a woman in Texas who thought one of the sets of remains belonged to her mother, with whom she had lost contact. The woman provided the correct Social Security number and other identification and plans next week to come to St. Joseph and pick up the remains.

McMurray said the other set were that of a Polish-American Catholic woman who apparently had no living relatives and no friends. That caught the interest of Darin Pollard, who teaches at St. Francis Xavier School and attends the same church as McMurray.

"As a Catholic, we always bury our dead," Pollard said, later adding, "I thought, perhaps we can do something about it."

Pollard talked with the school's student council, a group of fourth- through eighth-grade students, who decided to donate several hundred dollars they had collected in a recent fund-raiser to pay for a headstone or plaque for the burial.

"It's a very sweet thing," McMurray said. "It's not what kids normally do, but they heard about the situation and they wanted to help."

A local monument company offered to sell a marker at discount and a cemetery said it will bury the remains for free.

McMurray said he's still working his way through the backlog of stored items, which could contain more boxed up cremains.

"Gosh, I hope I don't have to deal with this again," he said. "But if I do, I'd like to see these people get a decent burial."

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