WASHINGTON CITY – Out of the ashes of time, what appear to be cremated remains, along with an old photograph of a little girl, have been unearthed near a Washington City woman’s backyard; and now, the woman is looking to reunite the box and its contents with next of kin.
The box, encasing the apparent cremated ashes securely, yet delicately, was found through a unique convergence of circumstances when a neighbor’s little girls were playing in an empty lot beside Randi Deem’s home located on the 400 North block of Creek Ridge Drive in Washington.
The area had just experienced heavy torrential rains that Monday and Tuesday. Another one of Deem’s neighbors was excavating the area the following Wednesday and Thursday.
“The guy that lives next door was digging with his excavator,” Deem said, “because the back of their house, their patio, was washed away.”
It was two weeks ago, on Sept. 28, when the girls discovered the box, blissfully unaware of its contents, while playing in the vacant lot owned by Deem’s aunt for the last two years, Deem said.
“They were just climbing on the rocks and playing in the dirt,” she said, “and they found them.”
The girls immediately took the box to their dad who turned it over to Deem for safekeeping.
“The box looks just like a little tiny – maybe a jewelry case or a little handmade wooden – like a little music box or something perhaps,” Deem said, adding:
You can tell it’s handmade and there’s some detailing on the front. On the top, on the lid, there’s some flowers they’ve kind of etched into the top of the lid. It’s really quite pretty. They’ve gone to a lot of work, whoever made this little box.
Inside the delicately handmade box is what is believed to be, yet still to be confirmed, cremated remains, wrapped in a piece of plastic wrap.
At first, Deem said, she wasn’t sure what to think about what was inside the box. She said:
I’m like ‘OK, is somebody pulling a trick? These aren’t drugs or anything?’ It’s not. I opened it up. I could feel it through the Saran Wrap and every once in awhile you could feel like a bone fragment or something, and it just smells like dirt, so there’s no drugs or anything in it.
Included in the box with what appear to be cremated ashes, is a small and aged sepia photograph of a little girl. On the back of the picture, inscribed in pencil, are the words: “Arline Fisher 83.”
“It doesn’t say 1983 or 1883 – it just says 83,” Deem said.
Deem said she thinks “83” stands for 1983 because of the little girl’s hairstyle in the photo and the short-sleeved dress she is wearing.
“They didn’t wear short sleeves back then in 1883,” she said. ”And then, remember when you’d go to your grandma’s house and she’d have those photo albums where you’d pull back that sheet and it had the diagonal lines of the glue – see that?” she said, pointing to the back of the photo.
Furthermore, cellophane wrap was not invented until 1911 and modern plastic wrap not introduced until 1943.
A search on Utah Division of Archives and Records Service, on Oct. 12, does not show a Utah death record for Arline Fisher.
For the time being, Deem said she has not yet contacted authorities about the discovery.
“We cleaned up the box and I’ve just got it right here in my home for safekeeping” Deem said, “hoping we can find whoever owns it. I didn’t dare put it back over there because I thought you know, ‘if the excavation continues, it could be lost forever.’”
Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Shauna Smith said that this is something that would normally be reported to law enforcement as stolen property.
Although, according to NOLO Legal Encyclopedia, in Utah, there are no state laws controlling where a person may keep or scatter ashes.
“Ashes may be stored in a crypt, niche, grave, or container at home,” according to NOLO legal encyclopedia. “If you wish to scatter ashes, you have many options. Cremation renders ashes harmless, so there is no public health risk involved in scattering them.”
The box is currently nestled on Deem’s shelf until the owner or next of kin can be found.
Anyone with information that might help identify the appropriate recipient of this treasure, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Ed. note: Randi Deem’s name spelling has been corrected, 12:30 p.m.
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