Ashes to ashes, gathering dust
When Ben McCreedy and Graeme Procter took over The Lychway Funeral Directors in Palmerston North they inherited an unusual problem: the unclaimed ashes of 270 people dating back more than 80 years.
When the pair moved into the Princess St business a year ago, they encountered a room that was home to the unclaimed remains, the oldest of which is dated November 1930. Some are in plastic urns or wooden boxes; older ashes are stored in porcelain urns, personalised tins, or plastic bags wrapped in brown paper.
The funeral home, formerly owned by Thomas Griggs and Son, was started in 1874.
Mr McCreedy said some families would still be thinking about how to bury their loved ones; others might not be able to come to terms with the death.
"There are those families that have forgotten [about collecting ashes]," he said.
"Other families may have been waiting for the right time when the family is together again to bury or scatter the ashes. However, this time has never eventuated. Burying or scattering the ashes is the last thing to do with a loved one. Some people just cannot do it."
Mr McCreedy wanted to reunite the ashes with their families, especially those from decades ago.
"It is sad that people may have been forgotten, but some people just can't make a decision. We can't make a decision for them and we're never going to just do something with the ashes. It's up to the families. We just want to remind families that these people are still here, waiting to be collected."
He said ashes were kept at the funeral home until they were claimed, unless it was requested by the family that the company scatter or bury them.
"These remains are all ages, and all ethnicities. There are babies here too. Someone must want to know where they are."
Anyone with a relative's remains still at The Lychway Funeral Directors can contact the office on 063578143.