ABERDEEN, Wash. -- A Q13 News story helped a family find the remains of a loved one more than 40 years after they went missing.
We first told you about the unclaimed remains left behind at an Aberdeen mortuary after it shut down. Jo Nelson saw that story and thought she would check to see if her great uncle might be in the group. When she contacted the Grays Harbor Coroner's Office, she was surprised to hear her great uncle's remains were left behind.
It’s been more than 40 years in the making.
“This is like a miracle to us,” Nelson said.
The family had spent decades trying to find out what happened to a loved one after he went missing in the mid-1960s.
On Thursday, Nelson and her cousin Pat Faber came to the Grays Harbor Coroner’s Office to claim their great uncle, Arthur Herdman.
“He’d been missing for years, probably the mid-'60s is when we lost track of him,” added Nelson.
The family tried tracking down Artie for years, but had no luck.
“My uncle Bob had tried calling the sheriff’s office in the area and there was just no record of him."
Arthur was among the 180 urns left behind after the Whiteside Family Mortuary closed its doors and went out of business in 2015.
Coroner Lane Youmans made it his job to get the remains returned to their loved ones.
“It’s not part of the job, but I couldn’t see leaving all of these cremations in an abandoned building. It just wasn’t right,” said Youmans.
So far, 60 urns have been claimed; 35 of them are veterans or spouses of veterans that will go to Mount Tahoma National Cemetery.
However, Youmans still has another 120 urns left and he’s hoping for more family reunions like this one.
“It’s really satisfying, that the loved one has been sitting in a vault down in Whiteside all these years and at least finally they’re able to be reunited with their family members,” added Youmans.
Youmans plans to hold on the unclaimed remains for a year. Those that don’t get claimed will be moved to Fern Hill Cemetery.
A family tree shows Arthur was one of 10 kids who moved to the Washington coast in the late 1800s.
As he got older, his family says he kept to himself and lived most of his life on the beach.
“He would come to our house twice a year. My dad would go down and we would all go down to the ocean and find him. He’d be at a different place every time,” said Faber, one of Herdman’s nieces.
At 91 years of age, Arthur passed away in a nursing home in Aberdeen, but his family had no idea.
“He was to earn money by digging razor clams and selling them. At one time he had a logging business when he was younger but we don’t’ really know how he made his way through life very much,” added Faber.
Now, great uncle Artie is back home and Jo and Pat want to spread his ashes along the Washington coast, the place he loved so much.