Rob Russell didn’t have to do a thing when he encountered dozens of cremated remains – also known as cremains – stacked in containers and sitting among other items in a storage area at the Kane County Coroner’s Office. But when Russell ran for the coroner position last year, he said restoring integrity to an office previously marked by controversy would be a priority. Chuck West, the previous coroner, had been charged with official misconduct.
The decency shown in last week’s ceremony was a step in the right direction. The abandoned cremains of 41 people left on a shelf in the coroner’s office were given a proper burial at North Cemetery mausoleum in St. Charles. Also, the ceremony included cremains left at the cemetery and at Yurs Funeral Home, making a total of 161 cremains given a final resting place.
Russell, who won election to the office in November, has said he found the cremains on a shelf when he took office. Some had been there for more than 20 years. The cremains sat on a shelf, in a room that included furniture, shovels, holiday decorations and a box labeled as “reaper of old souls.”
“The day I walked in here, I could not believe there were human remains next to files,” Russell said in March.
Russell publicly identified the names of those whose cremains were stored there, and he said six cremains were claimed. And while Russell might not have liked the cremains being stored in the office, he didn’t have to make a public plea for next of kin to claim the cremains. He didn’t have to arrange for a ceremony and a memorial service to properly inter those cremains.
“Respect goes to everybody,” Russell said at last week’s ceremony. “Today, we right what was wrong.”
He didn’t have to say anything at all. But he did. And he did the right thing.