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Names of unclaimed cremains found in abandoned funeral home released

By Brianna Owczarzak

SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -- The cremated remains of more than one dozen people were left behind inside a now abandoned funeral home.

Local officials are on a mission to get them back to their loved ones.

"Pretty emotional. It really is," said Terry Collier, final grade inspector for the city of Saginaw.

The cremated remains of 13 people were never claimed and abandoned inside a shuttered funeral home in Saginaw.

"They were in a plastic bag, the ashes were. And they're sealed with the name and date of the cremation and death," Collier said.

He said the cremains were on a shelf in the garage of Elsie Black Funeral Home. The business closed about 10 years ago after the owner died.

The remains were only discovered last month when the city went inside to survey the building for demolition.

"I got a hold of the funeral director from Snow Funeral Home to walk through it with me. And sure enough there was 13 cremated remains left at the site," Collier said.

Some of the cremains date back to the 1980s.

One of the 13 has been returned to their family.

Collier said it was quite the experience.

"Holy smokes. It was right in our council chamber. It was very emotional. It was a young lady and it was her dad. And the gentleman's wife. They had not way of knowing how to find those ashes whatsoever. So it was very, very emotional," Collier said.

If the remaining ashes end up going unclaimed, Collier said the city will do right by the deceased.

"A coroner's office every once in awhile will get a grant from the state to actually have multiple cremains, even from other funeral homes, that are unclaimed. They'll put multiple ones in one grave," Collier said.

Collier said the remains of Gwendolynn Wicker will be returned on Friday to next of kin.

He also said while this does sound a bit strange, it's really not that unusual. Many funeral homes have ashes left behind from family members who never picked them up.

If you believe the ashes may belong to a loved one, contact the Saginaw County Sheriff's Office.

The following is a list of names of those unclaimed:

Doris D. Gill (Hawkins) James McConnell Jacquline C. Jones (Holmes) Terrilyn A. Plegm (infant) Sallie Helford (Hoggs, McClain) Melvin Bass

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