Abandoned ashes deserve a dignified resting place too

Memorial service for seven unclaimed remains being held Aug. 19 in Woodlawn Cemetery
August 18, 2023

Story Location:
Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery
26808 Dupont Boulevard
Millsboro, DE 19966
United States

I don’t always thumb through the Gazette looking for column ideas, but sometimes I do, and last Friday’s paper featured a notice from the Watson Funeral Home in Millsboro that caught my attention as soon as I saw it. It was an announcement for a memorial service in the chapel of Woodlawn Cemetery outside Millsboro for several sets of unclaimed or abandoned cremated remains that have been in the funeral home’s care for an extended period of time.

I had never seen a notice of this nature before, so I reached out to the funeral home. Owner Bob Herrington said he would be willing to talk to me about the service. I went to the funeral home the next day. Pastor Jim Van Der Wall, who will be conducting the service, joined us.

The two men said the reason for having the ceremony is simple: “We believe in the dignity of mankind,” said Herrington.

Van Der Wall, a retired Methodist pastor, added, “Somebody knew and loved these people. Their mothers loved them when they were born.”

Herrington said there are a number of reasons for cremated remains being abandoned: a person died and didn’t have anyone else, poverty, or family members went through the cremation process and simply didn’t come back.

Sometimes urns with cremated remains are found, said Van Der Wall.

This will be the second time the funeral home has conducted one of these ceremonies. The first time was six or seven years ago. At that time, there were nearly 20 remains. One of those, said Herrington, dated back to 1964.

This time around, there are seven, said Herrington. However, he thinks one of them is a veteran and will try to get that individual interred with veterans.

The funeral home purchased a crypt at the cemetery to hold the urns. Herrington said the crypt is large enough to fit a full-size coffin, which means there’s plenty of space for new remains, plus more in the future. The remains are packaged in a plastic urn, inside a cardboard urn, inside a burgundy bag. Each gets a rose.

The service won’t take much longer than 15 minutes and will be suitable for all religious backgrounds, said Van Der Wall. During the service, the names will be read and a bell rung for each person, he said.

Members of the public are invited to attend, said Herrington. Anyone with the right to disposition of any of the remains may claim them before or after the ceremony, but there are charges for opening the crypt afterward, he said.

The service will be held at noon in the chapel of the cemetery, 26808 Dupont Blvd., Millsboro.

No bobbling for bike-riding Biden

A couple of months ago, in advance of President Joe Biden spending Father’s Day weekend at his North Shores home, I published a story letting readers know that he would be in town. Included in that story was a reference to a spill the president took dismounting his bike after a ride the same weekend the previous year.

Let’s just say, not everyone thought the sentence was funny. However, for better or worse, the one place in the entire world that Biden likes to ride his bike is here in lil’ ole Delaware – specifically on the Gordons Pond Trail near his home.

I’m happy to report that Biden has taken a number of bike rides this summer and not once has there been a problem. Through the power of observation – photos before the fall versus photos taken this summer – the situation seems to have been rectified by removing the foot straps from his pedals. Good on him and his team for making the change – those straps have the ability to make even the most agile person look clumsy.

Joke of the Week

It’s nearing the end of August, which means local teachers and students will be heading back to school soon. That’s it. That’s the joke of the week. Joke’s on them. Just kidding. As always, send jokes to

Q: On the first day of school, what did the teacher say her three favorite words were?

A: June, July and August.


  • Chris Flood has lived in or visited family in Delaware his whole life. He grew up in Maine, but a block of scrapple was always in the freezer of his parents’ house during his childhood. Contact him at

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