Abandoned no longer

| 29 Sep 2011 | 09:57

    Relative sees news story - claims funerary urn and ashes, By David Hulse MILFORD - On this week of All Souls Day in the Catholic calendar, and after more than a year of abandonment, the Courier reports that Joan Kelleher’s remains have finally been returned to her family. In August, the Courier exclusively reported Barbara Richardson’s strange story of how a funerary urn appeared one day on the doorstep of her My Place Sales shop on U.S. Route 6. That was the summer of 2005. Richardson told how she found a tag sealing a bag of ashes with the name of a Connecticut crematorium and began trying to find out where these remains belonged and how they landed on her doorstep. Her search did not initially identify Kelleher, but eventually came up with the name and toll-free phone number of T.J. Kennedy, a relative who had taken possession of the ashes after Kelleher’s funeral three years earlier. Repeated phone calls and messages left for Kennedy produced no response. She thought Kennedy believed she was a crank caller. Richardson thought the ashes were gone later in the summer when she returned from a business trip. She thought they’d been claimed, until the urn later turned up under a table this past spring. Renewing the search with help from Milford funeral home director Kevin Stroyan, she finally learned the name of the deceased. She called T.J. Kennedy again and this time, using Kelleher’s name, she reached him. She learned that his business was less than a mile away. She said he had promised to come by and pick up the urn. After three weeks and no Kennedy, she searched Route 6 for his address but could not find it. Exasperated, Richardson contacted the Pike County Courier. The Courier found T.J. Kennedy at his office in Milford, but when questioned about Richardson’s story, Kennedy denied any recollection of a phone call from her. He confirmed that Kelleher was his late aunt, and he was familiar with the crematorium, but could not recall the name of the funeral home after three years. He claimed his aunt’s ashes were not misplaced, but were at home on his mantel. But Tom Rickert, of Green’s Funeral Home in Danbury said he had recently called Kennedy, who admitted the loss of the ashes, which he blamed on a friend’s prank. Rickert said he had insisted that Kennedy clear the matter up, but no one contacted Richardson until last month. Maureen Kennedy Darrell, of North Babylon, N.Y., said her niece, Gerri Morrison of Warwick, saw the story in the Courier’s sister paper, the Warwick Advertiser, and recognized Kelleher’s name. She then got in touch with family members. Morrison reclaimed Kelleher’s remains and in an Oct. 26 note to the Courier, Darrell confirmed she had received the ashes. While Darrell termed it a “sad outcome to a great lady,” she ended with her thanks for the article, “and for helping to put the ashes with her family members.”