SUN LAKES, Ariz. – A 25-year Navy veteran who retired in Arizona died over the summer, but his nephew said the United States Postal Service lost 84-year-old Richard Nelson’s ashes when they were sent to Indianapolis.
"He would be laughing at this whole thing,” said Scott Hare, Nelson’s nephew.
But Hare isn't laughing. He is scrambling to find his uncle's ashes.
"When he said, 'Take care of my remains,' this is not what he had in mind,” Hare said. "It's been [lost for] three months. How long can I keep telling people 'I don’t know?'"
The tracking number for the package shows the remains were shipped out of Gilbert Aug. 1
Hare says Falconer Funeral Home did everything right on this end.
But the package containing his uncle's ashes is still listed as "in transit" three months later.
Hare said he would have done things differently had he known this would happen.
"It would have been worth the $500 or $600 plane ticket to make sure he got back … I regret not doing that,” Hare said.
He and his family still hosted a service for the 84-year-old, better known as Nellie.
He was known as a man who visited family members in Indiana and Michigan yearly, and he never missed a military reunion.
"He loved this country and loved Arizona,” he said.
Only adding pressure on Hare, his uncle's brother is terminally ill and hopes to see his brother properly buried before passing on himself.
Meanwhile, his burial plot in Flint, Michigan has been covered until someone can find the ashes.
"You don't know the smallest thing that you may do—put a box on the wrong shelf; a label falls off—what impact that may have on people down the road,” Hare said.
His only solace is knowing his uncle had a sense of humor.
12 News reached out to the USPS which offered its "deepest condolences" and this statement:
First and foremost, the Postal Service offers our deepest condolences to the Nelson family. We are very aware of their desire to locate the missing cremains as soon as possible. We regret that, to date, the cremains haven’t been located. Let me assure you that the Postal Service does its utmost to ensure these packages are handled properly and with respect. In the very rare instance a package of this sensitive nature is found to be missing, we do a thorough search throughout the facilities the package traveled through, and staff at every level is notified of the missing package. If the package is found and there is no identification included, the cremated remains are kept indefinitely. Cases of this nature are unique, and without knowing the full situation it’s difficult to speak to specifics. There are guidelines as to how to package and ship cremated remains on our website and funeral providers should also have protocols in place to ship cremated remains.