Mystery of 87-Year-Old Oregon Urn Solved?

The mystery of the origins of an 87-year-old urn that washed up on the coast of Oregon may have been solved. An Oregon funeral home has been searching for the descendents of the 1925 urn.

Alex Reed, 17, of Warrenton, Ore., found the copper-colored urn engraved with, "William George Kennedy, 1870-1925? wedged between rocks on the coast. The urn is dented in several places and the top is bent to the right.

Reed asked for help from the funeral home and a team of volunteers began to search for Kennedy's descendents. Now, they think they may have found one of Kennedy's great granddaughters in England who said the family has been missing the urn for years and is thrilled it has been found.

"We still have to make sure," Reed told today. "We don't want to give this to someone that's not an heir of the guy."

Reed was relaxing with a friend on a jetty and taking photos on the rocks when he climbed over the rocks to the ocean side where the waves were crashing.

"When I turned to leave from the spot, I saw the urn and picked it up. I saw that it was from 1925 and put it in the car," Reed said. "When I got back to my friend's house, I realized it was an urn and I didn't know what to do."

Reed called the Hughes-Ransom Mortuary in Astoria, Ore. and asked if they could help. Funeral director Tom Preston told him to bring it in.

"I was really expecting it was going to be something fairly recent," Preston told "I was thinking someone went out to scatter cremated remains and didn't have the common sense to take them out of the urn first."

"When he showed up with an urn that was 87 years old and looked like it had been to hell and back, I can't even tell you what went through my mind. It's just too many four letter words," Preston said with a laugh.

(Image credit: Courtesy Tom Preston)

Preston said the funeral home wanted to "try to get this urn home to wherever home may be," but didn't have time to do the research into the urn's origin, so they told the story to their local media.

Soon enough, offers of help were pouring in.

"The help that I've been getting has just been absolutely phenomenal," Preston said. "Genealogists have been coming in, and there's one lady in Oregon that has assembled a team, and they have just been working day and night."

Their research led them to an obituary for an Englishman named William George Kennedy.  The obit said he lived in British Columbia for a time before moving to Bellingham, Wash., where he died on April 9, 1925.

It said Kennedy was an expert gardener who lived in Canterbury, England,  until he moved to British Columbia in 1922 and worked in the nursery business. He moved to Calgary soon after and then to the United States in 1922.

He lived briefly in Eugene, Ore. before moving to Bellingham where he, his wife Adelia Clohessy and her sister Honor Clohessy bought and ran the Sehome Hotel until his death.

Kennedy was married twice and had four children with his first wife, who died in England. The obituary said three of the sons lived in British Columbia - Cecil, William and Harold.

"There's no DNA with cremated remains, so you can never be 100 percent certain," Preston said. "But there doesn't seem to be anything out there that fits as well as this."

Reed hopes to meet Kennedy's descendents and tell them the story of how he found the urn.

"If I were to have lost my great great grandpa's urn and somebody found it, I'd hope they would return it and not damage it more," he said. "Morally, I think this is right."