Nearly 140 unclaimed remains in Yakima County waiting to be reunited with family
YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. - "Anything from suicide, to natural deaths," said Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins.
Hawkins says since he took office almost 10 years ago, nearly 140 remains have gone unclaimed, of people dying a variety of deaths.
"It could be people that have been on hospice care or nursing homes, and family that just kinda stray away, and then at the end nobody want to come forward and take charge and take care of them," he said.
As of right now, he says there’s an unmarked grave at Tahoma Cemetery, which has 86 unclaimed remains.
And at the end of the month, after holding on to the remains for three to five years, he’s getting ready to put over 50 more in that grave.
But, what excites him, is that he’ll be pulling three of those remains out to give to family members who’ve been searching for their long lost loved ones.
Sixty-three-year-old Kerry Arnoldi tells Action News she was given up for adoption as a baby, and never knew her birth mother, Gloria Crawford.
She says she learned her mother died of cancer in hospice, and after years of searching, she’s finally going to be reunited with her remains.
"I was just elated. I couldn’t believe it. And the coroner was just so excited along with me," said Arnoldi.
Since Hawkins has started his unclaimed remains collection, he says he’s been able to bring back together at least 25 families with their loved ones.
"Maybe the numbers aren’t real high, but for every one we do, that’s a win. That means they're with their loved ones and they're at rest, and that’s what we want," said Hawkins.
And even though it's her ashes, Arnoldi says she’s happy to finally get some closure, after 63 years of wondering about her birth mother.
"All of my life, I always felt like there was a little part of my puzzle missing, and I couldn’t find it; didn’t know where it was. And I feel like I’m finally gonna let that piece of the puzzle rest," she said.
You can call the Yakima County Coroner's Office at (509) 574-1610 and click here for more information.