The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 11, 2012

Whereabouts of family ashes a mystery

Ashtabula woman afraid remains were thrown out

By SHELLEY TERRY - sterry@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

ASHTABULA — Peggy Keyes Burns, holding an American flag and her father-in-law’s military discharge papers, stood outside what is left of her house at 5746 Main Ave. on Wednesday.

For two years, she has tried to retrieve her father-in-law’s ashes and flag from the vacant house, to no avail.

“It looks like a Halloween house — have you ever seen a house in Ashtabula look like that?” said Keyes, 62, of Ashtabula. “It makes me cry.”

Larry and Peggy Burns lived in the house several years ago.

“It really needed fixed up,” she said. “It got worse and worse ... my husband was handicapped and couldn’t do the work.”

Larry Burns’ father, Daniel Burns Jr., bought the house for his son.

Peggy Burns said she was quite fond of her father-in-law, who was a World War II Army veteran, honorably discharged in 1943. When he died and was cremated at Ducro Funeral Services, they kept his ashes in a box in the front livingroom.

“I respected him,” she said. “I can’t rest in peace until I get those ashes.”

Now she’s afraid the ashes were thrown out. Her husband is in Oklahoma, taking care of his mother, and she is in Ashtabula living over on Fern Avenue.

Larry Burns could not be reached for comment.

City officials said they gave the Burns every opportunity to get their belongings.

Luciana Ratermann, director of planning and community development, said Peggy Burns was told  early on to get the ashes.

“We never told her she couldn’t do it,” she said.

Peggy Burns said the neighbor wouldn’t let her in the house. She was afraid of the neighbor. In addition, she fell and broke her toes and some ribs, she said.

“It’s aggravating me,” she said. “It’s unfortunate.”

Housing official Mary Church said she doesn’t know what more the city could have done for Burns.

The house will be demolished in a matter of days, she said.