The 25 people may have gone unclaimed over the past two decades, but Skagit County Coroner Hayley Thompson wanted to be sure they were not forgotten.
They were among the 50 unclaimed decedents held in urns and stored in the coroner’s office when Thompson took over in 2016.
The newly elected coroner knew right away that an administrative building is no resting place for the dead.
For more than a year, Thompson and her staff worked to locate the families of about half of those people who sat untouched for years, some since the early 2000s. Sometimes, relatives they contacted didn’t know their family members had died.
The remaining 25 were laid to rest this week during a committal service on a crisp fall day at the Mount Vernon Cemetery.
“I don’t think of these people as cases,” Thompson told KNKX Public Radio. “I think of them as actual people.”
Thompson worked with Connie Le Sourd, owner of the cemetery and Kern Funeral Home, to coordinate Wednesday’s ceremony — the first of its kind in Skagit County. Le Sourd says she heard her father’s voice in the back of her head when she got Thompson’s call: when he ran the business, her dad told her “always help the coroner.”
“Of course I said yes,” Le Sourd said of the partnership.
David Lukov presided over the ceremony, during which he read all 25 names and blessed the shared crypt. The people honored died between the years 2000 and 2019.
“We don’t know much about these people, but we know there’s a story,” Lukov told the small crowd of county officials in attendance. “There’s some wonderful stories here.”
Lukov stressed that while family or friends may have left these people behind, the community gathered at the mausoleum to show they care.
“I really believe that what we’re doing today is reminding each of us that every single life is worth remembering,” he said during the service.
Then came the names, one by one:
Karen Sue Maynard. 1948-2015.
William Harold King. 1956-2002.
Brian John Brooks. 1957-2006.
Leo William Davis. 1934-2014.
After 25 hushed moments of reflection, Lukov said a prayer before cemetery workers sealed the crypt.
“We know so little of each life contained in the urns,” Lukov said in his blessing, “but we know these individuals were loved, and loved others.”
Thompson says she hopes to continue the tradition as long as she’s running the coroner’s office. Because everyone deserves a resting place.
“No matter what kind of life they lived or chose to live, they are all the same,” she said. “They should all be treated with respect and dignity.”