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Tennessee woman reunited with parent’s ashes

A chance discovery in a local cemetery led to some detective work by the McCreary County Coroner and the return of a cherished family heirloom to a Crossville woman.

Corner Tim Corder said a citizen found a box containing what appeared to be an urn and other funeral-related items in the T. Chitwood Cemetery last week, and contacted local law enforcement about the strange discovery.

After a deputy examined the box, Corder was contacted to investigate.

Corder, who works at the Hickman-Strunk Funeral Home, along with Deputy Coroner Alisha Page Helbert and Owner Tracey Strunk, began checking the contents of the box and urn to verify they contained human remains.

In addition to an urn, several items such as a candle were bundled in the box stuffed with newspapers. The outside of the box was labeled “Grandmaw/Papaw.”

Using clues found in the box, such as a card from a flower shop and a Cincinnati Crematorium, Helbert and Strunk began to track down the identification of the remains found in the urn. After several phone calls and sleuthing, they were able to track down the daughter of the couple, who lived in Crossville, Tennessee.

April Hafner was thrilled to hear the news of the discovery, and met with Corder in Oneida on Monday to retrieve her parents’ remains.

Hafner said her home in Sparta, Tennessee was robbed in September of last year.

“They took almost everything,” she said. Including the ashes of her parents – Ron Hale, Sr. and Edith Connie Hale.

A suspect in the break-in was eventually arrested and charged, but the stolen items were never recovered.

Fearing she would never see those cherished family remains ever again she couldn’t believe her ears when Corder contacted her to say the urn was recovered.

“Gosh, I broke out in chicken skin,” she said. “I was just amazed.”

There are two interesting side notes to this story Hasner said.

First, the ashes were recovered on June 25, 13- years to the day of her mother’s passing.

Second, the family used to take trips to Ohio, but preferred to take the back roads. Their route often went through Pine Knot.

She said the fact that the urn was found in Pine Knot, a place her family was familiar with due to their travels was amazing.

“I couldn’t believe they would be found there of all places.”

Corder said he was glad to be a part of the reunion, noting it is not often a county coroner gets to bring good news to a relative of the diseased.

“This is one of the best instances when you can help some one,” he said.

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