A man has been reunited with the ashes of his baby daughter more than 25 years after she died, thanks to a chance encounter and the work of a coroner's office in the Chicago metro area.
In 1987, Jerry Wolf's 2-month-old daughter, Shawna, died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in his Carpentersville, Ill. home, but the Sun-Times reports he and his then-wife were young, broke and living in Florida less than a year later. As a result, the couple was somehow never connected with their daughter's cremains.
It was by chance that Wolf's mother, who still resides in Carpentersville, saw a story about unclaimed remains with the Kane County Coroner's office and recognized her grandaughter's name among those listed.
She immediately called Wolf to tell him his daughter had been found, prompting Wolf drove from his home in Wisconsin the very next day to pick up the urn.
“I couldn’t wait. I had to have her back again with her family, Wolf told the Sun-Times.
Earlier in March, Kane County Coroner Rob Russell sought to find relatives of the 47 people whose remains were still with his office.
“Either we’ve run into dead ends, or the next of kin just doesn’t want them,” Russell told the Tribune at the time. “We can’t force them to do it. Some can’t afford to bury (the remains). Some of them just don’t want them.”
The remains ended up with the coroner from a variety of sources. In the case of Wolf's daughter, her ashes had been in a storage locker that was sold. According to the list of unclaimed remains, some ashes were with other police departments, and several were found inside a Gold Medal Flour tin at a Goodwill store in South Elgin, Ill.
Russell told the Tribune several cremains of babies came from mothers who wouldn't even acknowledge their pregnancies. The oldest identified remains belong to a woman who died in 1952.
The coroner's office will continue to store the remains if they go unclaimed. Wolf, meanwhile, said the discovery has given him closure at last.
"My life is complete.”