MACON, Ga. — The push of a button gives way to a friendly greeting. Then comes the creak of the elevator door. It's followed by silence.
Coroner Leon Jones is in the records department today. He's looking through over 160 boxes of ashes. Unfortunately, all of them are unclaimed.
Jones says some have been in storage for 18 years, as long as he's been in office. There's a whole shelf of cremated remains in the records department on 3rd Street and Riverside Drive, but those are just the ones Jones has been able to pick up. He says there are even more.
"Regardless of whether they are homeless, regardless of whether they were found dead in a car, they still are someone's loved ones," Jones said.
Those loved ones, Jones says, haven't picked them up. There are a few reasons.
"Sometimes, the family forgets they're here. Because they're not paying for them," Jones said. "The county has already paid for them. The funeral home where they were cremated has already been compensated."
Jones says this is why laying them to rest with respect is essential. Macon-Bibb County is calling for families to come to get unclaimed ashes from the coroner's office before a September 19 deadline.
The county will scatter the ashes in a memorial garden at Rose Hill Cemetery if they don't come to claim their loved ones. They also plan to put together a ceremony. Jones says it's a sigh of relief to give all these people their final resting place.
"I'm going to talk with the guy that's spearheading this," Jones said. "See if we can have a chaplain available to say a prayer when we do it. I think that would be the best thing to do."
There's no date yet for the memorial ceremony, but Jones says they'll likely need a second one for the remains he hasn't had a chance to pick up.
If you think your loved one's ashes may still be at the coroner's office, you can check this list on the Macon-Bibb County Website.
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