Unclaimed cremated remains accumulate at Allouez cemetery in Green Bay
Tucked away in a second-floor utility room of a Green Bay-area cemetery is a haphazard stack of small, unremarkable cardboard boxes and a few coffee can-sized tins. Inside the containers are the cremated ashes of 70 people who have been forgotten or abandoned.
"It's not an identification thing; we know who they are," Brown County Medical Examiner Al Klimek said. "They have no legal next of kin that we are able to recognize or that will step forward and claim the remains. "It's not necessarily that we don't know who they belong to, it's just that the family steps away."
Allouez Catholic Cemetery and Chapel Mausoleum provides the indefinite storage space as a form of community stewardship. The cemetery charges a $50 storage fee if someone steps forward to claim a set of remains, some of which date back to the 1940s. The ashes were stored in a crypt in the mausoleum's chapel for many years, but the crypt was recently sold, evicting the remains to a temporary home in a storage area. Cemetery staff plans to move the remains to an outdoor crypt soon. . . .
A person's ashes end up in the collection at Allouez for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes, there's not enough information available to track down next of kin. "There are other situations where we simply exhaust all of our resources to try and find legal next of kin and there is no one," Klimek said. "It's hard to believe in this day and age that there's no one out there." Some in the group were indigent when they died and they were cremated at county expense.
Others are simply unwanted. "In essence, we do have those families that say 'I didn't like the person when they were alive and I'm not going to take care of him now that he's dead' and they step away," Klimek said. "That results — in essence — in unclaimed remains." Money and miscommunication play a role as does a reluctance to hold onto a loved one's ashes as a memorial. . . .
This is not an issue unique to Green Bay. "It's a situation funeral homes are dealing with across the country," said Scott Peterson, executive director of the Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association. . . . Green Bay Gazette