The cremated remains of a woman who died more than a century ago were recently discovered inside a defaulted self-storage unit at Derrel’s Mini Storage in Modesto, Calif. The woman’s ashes were turned into the Stanislaus County coroner’s office by the facility’s owners, along with two other abandoned urns.
The woman was Rose Lyons, who died in San Francisco about a week after a massive earthquake struck the city in 1906. Official records indicate she died from a stroke. Lyons was born in 1836 and lived in the Bay Area and Los Angeles during her lifetime, but it is unknown how her remains wound up in a storage unit in Modesto, about 90 miles east of San Francisco.
The other urns contained the remains of a man who died in 1993 and an animal from a pet cemetery, according to the source. All three cases were assigned to deputy coroners, with Lyons’ being the most mysterious.
Deputy Coroner Tom Killian said the coroner’s office receives about 10 abandoned urns a year, but he has never had to search for family members of someone who has been deceased for more than 100 years.
Killian used a genealogy website to learn Lyons’ remains had been given to her granddaughter Pearl Partridge, who lived in Oakland at the time, but what happened to the urn after that is a mystery. Using the names of other relatives found on the website, the deputy coroner found a distant relative living in Illinois named Janice Levitan.
Although Levitan indicated she was willing to receive Lyons’ ashes and provide her a proper burial, she and Killian are hopeful they will be able to track down closer relatives. Anyone with knowledge about Lyons or her family can call the coroner’s office at 209.567.4500.