The six-inch box that holds cremated ashes is unlabelled without any identifiers, names or dates. Cheryl Miller owner of the Clam Shell Second Hand Store in Prince Rupert hopes someone will recognize it and remembers dropping it off at the store. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Wooden urn creating curiosity

Ashes in an urn in a Prince Rupert thrift store are unlabelled and unidentified

An unidentified urn with ashes has been creating curiosity in a Prince Rupert thrift store after it was found in a variety of items, possibly donated in February or March 2020. The six-inch box has generated a few inquiries, but the store owner doesn’t know what to do with it.

The unnamed, unlabelled, blonde-oak coloured wooden urn, containing what looks like cremated remains, showed up definitely after Christmas but before COVID-19 lock down, Cheryl Miller owner of the Clam Shell Second Hand Store told The Northern View on Sept. 10.

Given that many items are donated after hours and just left in the front doorway, or just dropped at the front counter, there is no way of tracking who the donation came from or when it came in, she said.

Miller would like to find the family that the ashes inside the box belong to. She has recently posted photos of the urn on social media which have generated inquiries from as far away as Edmonton. Various avenues are currently being explored to find the family or who perhaps mistakenly donated the ashes not knowing what they were.

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Miller said due to the small size of the box and quantity of ashes, the urn could contain remains of a pet, but it is uncertain.

Miller has been contacted by Natalie Rila, an Edmonton woman who is looking for her 24-year-old brother’s ashes. She said the ashes were in the possession of her mother, who was a resident at the previously named Raffles Inn until it closed in 2019. When Rila’s mother moved out, her belongings were left behind. The property was sold and the new owners cleared out all leftover items. Rila has never seen the container her brother’s ashes were in and does not have a description of it. To add to the mystery for Rila, her mom passed away in Aug. 2020 and never provided information on what the urn or container looked like.

The Raffles property was purchased by Five Eight Investments Ltd. Kevin Blackman a director of the company told The Northern View on Sept. 11, that he knew Rila’s mother, Rosalie Blackman (no relation) and that she came back to collect some property before the left-over items were taken to the landfill. Blackman said he never had a description of the container the ashes were in, but they have ‘painstakingly’ searched the property for anything that resembled an urn or could contain ashes. He said, sadly they found nothing.

MacKay Funeral Home in Terrace is the only crematorium west of Vanderhoof. Debbie Simpson manager of the funeral home has worked there for more than 30 years. She said she has not seen that type urn or container before, and it is not a stock model. The wooden box is not a standard size urn for adult human ashes, she said. The plastic bag the ashes are in is also not a standard-issue bag that crematoriums use.

“When we package ashes, they are labelled with the name on the bag and a metal identifying disk that has come with the body from the hospital. The disk is attached to the bag with a zap strap. The bag is then closed with the disk number and label on there.”

If someone brought ashes in to be separated for sharing with family members, the same labelling system and type of bag would be used, she said. Simpson said all their smaller keepsake urns are enamel and hold only a spoonful of ashes.

READ MORE: The Last Post: The search for the man in the cardboard box

The funeral home receives a lot of inquiries about pet cremations, which by law they are not permitted to perform, Simpson said. They direct pet owners to the Terrace pet crematorium.

Ann Rouw animal control attendant at the City of Terrace said the pet crematorium has only one type of urn and it is black enamel; however, some people do take the ashes away and place them in their own keepsake boxes. Rouw said they also use a much thicker plastic bag, tied with a zip tie. It too is labelled for identification and records.

Miller, owner of the second-hand store where the box is currently located said she is hoping someone may recognize the box to claim the ashes, in the meantime Rila continues to search for her brother’s ashes.

“I feel someone needs to be at rest,” Miller said.

K-J Millar | Journalist 
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