Cremains of 50 ‘unclaimed souls’ to be buried after decades on shelf

Unclaimed cremains are in storage at funeral homes around NH. On Saturday, many will finally have a permanent resting place.
Unlike these containers selected for the ashes of loved ones, unclaimed cremains are left in storage at funeral homes around NH. On Saturday, many will finally have a permanent resting place, thanks to Mt. Calvary Cemetery and Phaneuf Funeral Home.

MANCHESTER, NH – On March 12 a special service will take place at Mt. Calvary Cemetery chapel. With more fanfare than has been afforded to them since death, 50 “unclaimed souls” will finally be laid to rest in the mausoleum.

At 9 a.m., Bishop Peter Anthony Libasci will preside over a Mass asking God to retroactively receive the souls of those who remained in actual limbo, after death, on a funeral home shelf.

“I’m happy that these people, some of whom have been with us for decades, finally have an appropriate, dignified final resting place,” said Arthur O. “Buddy” Phaneuf, of Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium, of Manchester.

It will solve the immediate problem of what to do with these cremains, but leaves a larger question unanswered: Why, after death and cremation, some people’s remains are never claimed.

The trend in cremation has been accelerating over the past few decades, to the point that in 2015  more people across the country were expected to opt for cremation than traditional burial (48.5 percent, according to the National Funeral Director’s Association.)  Of those, as many as 5 percent will not be claimed, and instead left, boxed and abandoned, on funeral home shelves.

They are sometimes referred to as shelf people. They are men and women, young and old, rich and poor, from all different backgrounds and walks of life. The cremains are abandoned for many reasons: Some people have no families and thus no one to pick them up. Some family members can’t bear to claim the remains because the loss is felt so greatly. Some are simply left behind.

Phaneuf Funeral Homes and the Cremation Society of New Hampshire have cremated remains in storage of more than 40 people – some of which have been unclaimed for more than 40 years – that will be moved to Mt. Calvary on Saturday. Lambert Funeral Home and Connor Healy Funeral Home will also inter their unclaimed remains. Other area funeral homes are also invited to bring abandoned remains on Saturday.

The names of the deceased can be accessed by calling Phaneuf Funeral Homes, should a friend or family member will want to reclaim them. After Saturday, loved ones will be able to work directly with Mt. Calvary to claim remains.

Those deceased who will be interred at Mt. Calvary Cemetery are listed below. If friends, or relatives recognize the names of any of these people, they are welcome and encouraged to attend the Mass, or to make arrangements to provide a final resting place with other family members.

The Chapel at Mt. Calvary Cemetery and Mausoleum is located at 474 Goffstown Road in Manchester.


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List of Manchester’s ‘Unclaimed Souls’