It took a little bit of sleuthing and a few international phone calls, but a Scottish woman appears to have solved a mystery involving a bag of cremated human remains that washed ashore near her home in northern Scotland.
Morag Paterson has traced the ashes back to a family in Michigan, who has identified the remains as those of a Alfred Hopwood, a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Marines and died at age 96., The Mirror reports.
Paterson found the ashes last month on the beach near Nairn, Scotland, as she was preparing for a dip in the North Sea.
According to a May 22 story from the Detroit Free Press, they were contained in a plastic bag that had a metal tag attached to it. The tag read "Central Michigan Crematory Battle Creek MI" and had an identification number.
She had a hard time believing that the bag traveled, in the water, from Michigan all the way to the coast of Scotland.
“I would love to know how come they got in the river, through lakes, maybe over the Falls, across the Atlantic, round the Pentland Firth (north of Scotland) and down to our beach at Nairn,” Paterson wrote in an email to the Free Press, according to a May 29 article.
Joe Stasa, a Michigan funeral director, who said he had not been in contact with Paterson, told the Free Press that the Central Michigan Crematory handles human remains for funeral homes from all over Michigan and even northern Indiana. He also offered a few hypotheses as to how the ashes wound up in Scotland, saying family members could have simply tossed the bag in the ocean.
“They could have been on a cruise ship and thrown the whole box over the edge,” he said.
Paterson told the Free Press she had been in touch with Mickey Brutsche, who runs the crematorium identified on the bag, and the two worked to identify the remains.
Brutsche told the Free Press it is not that odd for him to be contacted when ashes turn up somewhere.
“It happens a couple of times a year,” he said.
Paterson told the Mirror she contacted Hopwood’s family and learned how his ashes came to be on the beach near her home town. It turns out the man was born in Nairn.
"I discovered he'd emigrated aged eight with his parents and sister, first to Canada, and then to the USA,” she said. ”He returned to Nairn to visit with his nephew and wife when he was 84 as he had a longing to see Nairn and Scotland again before he died.”
She said she thinks a family member brought his ashes back to Scotland and deposited them in an inlet, or firth, near her home.
“The plan was to deposit the ashes at a cemetery or crematorium here, but this apparently was not possible and so the bag was dropped into the Moray Firth at Nairn,” Paterson said.
She said she remains in contact with the family and together they are working out plans to possibly meet and hold a ceremony to spread Hopwood’s ashes somewhere near Nairn.