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Ashes to ashes . . . Whitestone Funerals manager Janeen Paull holds "forgotten Mary", who will be laid to rest next month. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

After 36 years waiting at an Oamaru funeral home, “Forgotten Mary” will soon be laid to rest.

Mary Begg’s ashes are among 16 unclaimed at Whitestone Funerals and the Oamaru funeral home would like them to be collected before they bury them in July.

Whitestone Funerals manager Janeen Paull said when Mrs Begg died in 1983, her husband requested that her ashes be held and mixed with his own upon his death.

However, he later remarried and, 36 years on, Mrs Begg’s ashes still remain at Whitestone Funerals.

“It’s really sad. We call her Forgotten Mary, because her family forgot about her,” Miss Paull said.

“When her husband died, his new wife’s family might not have even known about her.”

Some of the remaining ashes have been lying at the funeral home since 1970, rather than placed on a mantelpiece or scattered in a special place according to custom.

“We would really like to put these people to rest,” Miss Paull said.

Ashes were often left unclaimed immediately following a cremation, she said.

“Sometimes people assume that another relative has picked them up.

“Sometimes they can’t make decisions about what they want to do with the ashes, and sometimes the families can’t agree.

“We follow all these up and with a bit of prompting, help people decide what they would like done.”

When the ashes are left, Whitestone Funerals staff work their way through the person’s contacts to find someone to come and pick them up.

“It doesn’t happen very often here in Oamaru, but other funeral homes have lots of these ashes left behind.”

Miss Paull said the funeral home was making one final attempt to make contact with the relatives of the 16 deceased.

“We have phoned lawyers, medical centres, gone through the electoral roll – we just can’t find any relations to come pick them up.”

If the ashes remain unclaimed by July, they will be buried in the memorial gardens beside the funeral home.

Miss Paul said each person would have a plaque in the memorial gardens and staff would hold a special service for them.

“When the funeral is over, our job doesn’t just stop.”