Memorial service held for the 300 people whose cremated remains found at funeral home

Posted at 6:24 PM, Nov 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-02 21:48:32-04

When Darlene Hardison's father and uncle passed away, bringing their cremated remains home was just too much to bear. 

"I wanted to, but just couldn't," said Hardison. "To me, that felt morbid, you know, having their bodies in the house."

Hardison never returned to Cantrell Funeral Home on Mack Avenue in Detroit to bring their cremains home. 

But when she was recently contacted by representatives of Verheyden Funeral Home, it was like her prayers that something be done with the cremains of her father and uncle were answered.

"Our ultimate goal is to continue to get every one of these cremated remains to a family," said Brian Joseph of Verheyden Funeral Homes where they have taken on the work to identify the cremains in hopes of contacting loved ones who, for a number of reasons, never received or just did not pick up the cremains.

Penny Williams said communication with her mother broke down around the time her grandmother died five years ago. 

Williams said she went to Cantrell to see about retrieving her grandmother's ashes, but that they repeatedly told her they didn't have them.

Williams and her husband recently learned that her cremains had been at Cantrell the whole time. 

On Friday, Verheyden and Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Detroit organized an All Souls' Day memorial service for those whose ashes were found at the Cantrell Funeral Home - forced to close in April amid allegations from state inspectors that included improper storage of bodies.

"It may not have been the way we thought it was going to happen, but he gave us closure," said Hardison who is now at peace that the ashes of her father and uncle will remain at Mt. Olivet. 

"If family members do come back, we have the means to retrieve those for the family so they can do other memorialization if they choose to," said Michael Chilcote, General Manager of the Mt. Elliott Cemetery Association which includes Mt. Olivet. 

Over 20 of the cremains found at Cantrell belong to veterans, and some of them were given to relatives.

After Friday's service, a blue casket that contained the ashes of the remaining veterans was draped in the American flag and transported to the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly.

Verheyden Funeral Homes and the Mt. Elliott Cemetery Association are not charging anyone for their services as their goal is to either return the cremains to loved ones or permanently secure them in a crypt.