REYNOLDSVILLE — Brenda Shumaker recently held an interment at Lakelawn Cemetery for 46 individuals who have been unclaimed in her funeral home for decades.
Shumaker said when she took over the funeral home from Wayne Pifer in 2011, there were already some unclaimed individuals in the basement. Over the years, that number has increased from both her funeral home, and her work as the county coroner.
The oldest set of ashes she has dates back to 1991 and the newest are from 2017. Wanting to properly lay these people to rest, she purchased a mausoleum space at Lakelawn in Reynoldsville.
“This was the best solution, so Art and Lakelawn were wonderful to me. It was wonderful to be able to do this,” Shumaker said.
Shumaker also got a plaque to go over the mausoleum space that says “The Forgotten.”
When she decided she was going to do this, she knew right away who she wanted to officiate the ceremony, Father William Laska with the Immaculate Conception Church in Brookville. Shumaker said she’s heard Father Laska often give a prayer at the end of his ceremonies for those who would die that day with no one by their sides.
“Let us remember those who will die today without having any prayers offered on their behalf. We remember them and we pray,” Laska said during the ceremony.
Shumaker said many of the unclaimed individuals come from personal care homes.
“They would call Wayne Pifer, and Wayne would come and pick them up and not charge them anything,” Shumaker said. “Wayne was good hearted to do it. So a lot of this is Wayne’s good work too, and his kind heartedness.”
In the hopes that someone will someday come searching for some of these people, she made copies of all of their important information, and has them all attached to the back of each urn. Each envelope is also labeled with a name and birth and death years.
“I also have a copy at the funeral home, but at least if somebody comes to claim them, it’s pretty complete,” Shumaker said.
She said she went through all of them, and there were a few she had returned to family members a couple of years ago. The rest were left.
Her first thought was to buy a vault to bury them in, but she worried someone would come along to claim one of them. She said they would have to disinter the grave, bring equipment to dig it up, and rebury it afterward. The Mausoleum space seemed the better solution in case anyone would come to claim a person.
The 46 individuals have now all had a proper ceremony, and been laid to rest in Lakelawn until someone might come searching for them.