MONTROSE, Colo. (CBS4) – Forty-four years ago the Oyler family, grieving after the loss of their patriarch, turned over his cremated remains to a funeral home in Montrose with specific instructions. But that never happened. Instead, his remains turned up in the basement, forgotten.
Theodore Oyler was among 175 remains stockpiled in the funeral home. The instructions to scatter his ashes over the mountain range he loved were seemingly ignored.
The remains at Rose Memorial Parlour were found in containers ranging from pickle jars to expensive urns. The new owners hope to return the remains to families.
“I’m kind of outraged, I’m kind of disappointed … funeral directors need to take a more proactive approach to the handling and care of cremated remains,” said Chuck Bowman with the Colorado Funeral Directors Association.
Bowman said while this situation is extreme, it’s not uncommon.
“Unfortunately this is a nationwide problem — is that funeral director is going to do this tomorrow and it never gets done. Whether it’s a fraud situation or not following through on good intentions is difficult to say. But it does happen,” said Bowman.
Funeral homes are not regulated in Colorado but are expected to follow the Mortuary Science Code that is administered through DORA.
“I believe that we need to have a little tighter regulation that gives the state more authority to step in,” said Bowman.
The state announced on Wednesday that an official investigation had been launched into the previous owners of the funeral home in Montrose.
As for Theodore Oyler’s family, his son told CBS4 that he would bring home his father to his home in the Denver metro area where he will be honored.
“My father’s remains were neither ‘forgotten’ nor ‘unclaimed.’ My father loved the outdoors and arrangements were made with the mortuary to have his ashes scattered over the nearby San Juan Mountains. My mother, grandfather and grandmother and I were assured that this was done. Obviously, this was not the case,” wrote Theodore Oyler III.
There is no inspection that happens when a new funeral home applies for a license online in Colorado. That’s something the Colorado Funeral Directors Association says might have helped in the Montrose situation if there was some type of audit to show what was left behind by the old business.