Mystery urn returns to Nelson

An urn containing the ashes of a former Kootenay man that washed up on the Oregon coast in March has at last been interred in the Nelson cemetery.

“He’s finally come to rest,” said Iris Close of her grandfather, William G. Kennedy, who died in 1925. Last Thursday, she and husband Allan brought the ashes back to Nelson, after receiving them from a funeral director determined to track down Kennedy’s heirs.

Alex Reid, 17, discovered the battered urn while walking with a friend in Warrenton, Oregon’s Fort Stevens State Park. He took it to Tom Preston of Hughes-Ransom Mortuary in nearby Astoria, who enlisted the help of genealogists and the media to find surviving descendants.

Through some detective work — and an email to the Star — Close was located in Oliver. “[Preston] said he was so happy to find a relative. And not one, but three,” she says, for she has sisters in Victoria and Maple Ridge. All three were born and raised in Nelson, but have long since moved away.

“I know more people in the cemetery than I do on the street,” Close joked.

The former include her father, William Jr., who died in 1965, and whose grave in the Old Anglican section the urn was buried next to.

“I never met him because I was only six months old when he died,” Close said of her grandfather. “But I thought it fitting to bury him with his son.”

Kennedy Sr., a widower, came to Canada from England in 1911 with his three sons and established a nursery at Harrop. A few years later he moved to Calgary and re-married, then went to Bellingham, Wash., where he ran a hotel. He died there at 53.

The last Close knew, her grandfather’s second wife had his urn on her bedroom bureau. (After news of the its discovery broke, a man stepped forward to say he buried it at sea 30 to 35 years ago.)

Although the Closes received the urn at the end of April — Preston shipped it to the Oliver RCMP — last week was their first opportunity to bring the ashes to their final resting place.

Close’s cousin, Nelson resident John Hopwood, and his wife Caroline, were also on hand — Hopwood was key to solving the mystery.

Close marvelled at the unlikeliness of the urn being recovered, and praised both Reid, its discoverer, and Preston, the funeral home director, for helping find its rightful owner.


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