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Veterans with unclaimed remains in Lewis County to be honored in procession, burial

The Chronicle - 11/4/2023

Nov. 3—Four deceased veterans whose remains were left unclaimed in Lewis County deserve recognition for their service to the country, "at the very least," said Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod.

On Nov. 10, at 8 a.m. a procession will begin at the Veterans Memorial Museum to transport the remains, which belong to Frederick Clough, Robert Larson, Michael Damis and Russell Welk.

"These folks served their country honorably and deserve this honor to be returned," McLeod said.

At about 10:30 a.m., the procession will arrive at the Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, where the remains of the four veterans will be interred. Both the procession and ceremony will be open to the public, and attendance is encouraged, McLeod said.

Benny's Florist in Chehalis donated flowers for the ceremony and eCare Mortuary donated urns for the remains.

"This is Veterans Day weekend and we are proud to be able to have this ceremony for these folks who honorably served their country and either have no family or have been abandoned by their family. They certainly deserve this honor," McLeod said.

In September, the coroner's office buried four sets of unclaimed remains at the Pioneer Cemetery in Chehalis. It is an annual tradition that takes place after the office has confirmed the decedents either do not have families, or that their families will not be coming to claim their remains.

State law says the coroner must keep unclaimed remains for a total of 90 days after acquiring them, but does not declare what should be done with them after that period. The Pioneer Cemetery allows their burial for free each year.

Most years average eight to 10 people whose bodies were unclaimed, McLeod said previously. This year was the first since the inaugural ceremony in 2014 that did not include any children.

It was also the first time the office had unclaimed remains from several veterans, McLeod said, prompting coroner's office staff to work "closely with" Tahoma National Cemetery to set up the Friday, Nov. 10 procession and ceremony.

There, McLeod said, they will be interred with "full military honors."

"They are not only 'decedents,' people who died, who have been abandoned or forgotten, but they served their country," McLeod said. "They served our country."


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