"Maybe someone else thought they were picked up," he said. "One lady died and her family talked about getting her ashes out on a small island in Lake Erie. She passed away during the winter, and they were going to do it in the spring. [The family] never came back."
Peter Stefan, director of the Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlor in Worcester, Mass., said he has more than 200 boxes of remains stored in floor-to-ceiling shelves in an unused dumbwaiter.
"It's sad," he told ABCNews.com. "It's part of a nationwide problem, and the funeral directors do nothing about it."
The problem has gotten so bad in his state that he has pushed for a bill to release funeral homes of liability after they dispose of the remains -- either through burial or scattering -- as long as they keep permanent records. It now sits on Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's desk, according to Stefan.
"We have to absorb the cost and we have to do something decent," he said. "We can't have them all over the basement. Some funeral homes have to build another house to put them in."
"It's an age-old story," he said. "People say, 'Throw my ashes in the garbage or the river.' But you can't throw them away," he said. "They could be Uncle Freddy's ashes. They could come and sue you."
One woman -- a drug addict -- had a stillborn child and Stefan offered the cremation for free. She took the ashes home, but when she moved, she left the urn behind.
"The new guy called me and I contacted her," Stefan said. "She called back and said she would come over. That was four years ago."
But when funeral directors such as Abele can connect relatives like Grinestaff with lost ashes, they say they feel a sense of pride.
"She was a neat lady, so it was kind of a relief," Abele said. "I get the satisfaction in my own mind of getting them reunited."
Meanwhile, Grinestaff, who for years worked for Ohio Bell telephone company and now enjoys her knitting, gardening and reading, hasn't decided yet what she will do with her father's remains, but she is grateful to Abele.
"They are good people," she said.