37 boxes of cremains found in storage

Spencer's Funeral Home in Athens on Nov. 2, 2017.


ATHENS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s a surprising discovery after the owner of a funeral home in Athens recently died: more than 35 boxes of cremains were found storage.

A Battle Creek woman whose mother died more than two years ago thought she was given her mom’s cremains immediately after her mom was cremated. But Julie Decker got a call from the medical examiner’s office saying a box of her mom’s cremains were found in “a room” last week.

Now, Decker is left questioning everything about her mom’s cremation.

“Who knows whose ashes they have?” Decker said. “If they have a box of my mother’s ashes, who did I get? I don’t know. Did I get just half of her? Did I get half of somebody else?

Medical Examiner Dr. Joyce DeJong told 24 Hour News 8 that Joy Spencer, also known as Joy Spoors, recently died. She and her husband Jim used to own Spencer’s Funeral Home in Athens.

It was Spoors’ family who found 37 boxes of cremains. DeJong said her office is just starting the process of identifying the cremains and returning them to families. She doesn’t know yet why the remains were being stored.

In statement provided to 24 Hour News 8 Thursday, Lighthouse Funeral & Cremation Services, which bought Spencer Funeral Home at a federal bankruptcy auction, said it received “several boxes … that contained the cremated remains of those that had not been claimed” from Spoors’ family members following her death.

“While it is unusual for the former owner to hold to them for nearly 2 years, it is not unusual for a funeral home to be in possession of unclaimed cremated remains,” the statement continues.

“If they filed for bankruptcy, were they saving money and just giving people other ashes? Who knows?” Decker said.

Lighthouse said it turned the remains over to the county medical examiner’s office at the Western Michigan University School of Medicine.

The full statement from Lighthouse Funeral & Cremation Services manager Tate Goodwin:

“We, Lighthouse Funeral & Cremation, acquired the Spencer Funeral Home building through a federal bankruptcy auction in Nov. 2015 and took possession of the building in Mar. 2016. Since that point we have be working on plans to clear the building out and ready it for demolition, so we can rebuild and event hall on the same property.

“In mid-October of 2017, the former owner of the funeral home died, and her family delivered several boxes to us that contained the cremated remains of those that had not been claimed by family members prior to the sale of the building. While it is unusual for the former owner to hold on to them for nearly 2 years, it is not unusual for a funeral home to be in possession of unclaimed cremated remains.

“Once the unclaimed urns were given to us, we immediately called the Calhoun County Medical Examiner’s office to inform them of the unclaimed urns. They instructed us to bring them to their offices housed at the Western Michigan University School of Medicine. We have delivered the urns to WMU and anyone who believes that their loved one’s cremated remains were housed at Spencer Funeral Home should contact the Calhoun County Medical Examiner at 269-337-6173.”