GENEVA – The cremated remains of Ursula Staack, age 84, were set to be interred at North Cemetery in St. Charles on May 31 along with 16 other unclaimed cremains left at the Kane County Coroner’s Office.
But Coroner Rob Russell did another search and see if he could locate a next of kin for Staack. All that was on the container was her name, but no other identifying details, so Russell used an investigative database to search.
And because Staack’s name was unique, he found that she had died on Sept. 3, 2009 in Streamwood.
After continuing to search, Russell found Kristine Moe, Staack’s 70-year-old daughter, in an assisted living facility in Rolling Meadows – and reunited them in time for Mother’s Day.
“I got this call and he said, ‘I found your mother’s remains.’ and I said, ‘What are you talking about? This is too bizarre for me,’” Moe said. “I asked, ‘Where has she been for five years?’ He said, ‘She’s been moving around. She ended up at Goodwill and Goodwill called the police and the police brought it to Kane County.’”
One could say the road to a family reunion – of this sort – can be filled with twists and turns.
Moe’s mother had lived with her and her son in an apartment in Streamwood for two years.
“I worked full time and took care of her until I could not do it any more,” Moe said.
Staack went to live in a local nursing home until her death from dementia and hypertension. But Moe said she did not have enough money to have her mother buried with her father.
“The funeral home was very kind to me. They took care of the cremation,” Moe said. “I gave them as much money as I could.”
She kept her mother’s cremains as they came, in a plastic bag and cardboard box, in her Streamwood apartment.
Moe, who had worked as a food service buyer, had surgery to replace her hip and then went into rehab.
During that time, everyone in her apartment building was evicted because the landlord had not paid his taxes, she said.
“We had to move out,” Moe said.
Her son handled where things went – into storage and into various friends’ garages and basements.
“I came out of rehab and we put things in their place – but I could not find her,” Moe said. “I said to my son, ‘Where is Omi? You need to find her for me, but he never did.’ Long story short, I did not know where she was.”
Omi is German for granny.
Life went on until Moe fell and broke her ankle in five places. She could not work and retired early, going to live in the supportive living facility.
After locating Moe as Staack’s next of kin, Rob Russell and his wife, Susan Russell, drove out to the Rolling Meadows facility on May 10 to deliver the mother’s cremains.
“We are the guardians of the deceased and we must do our due diligence in locating next of kin, even if he or she isn’t from our area,” Russell said in a statement. “I am happy that we could reunite mother and daughter just in time for Mother’s Day.”
Moe was tearful at recalling the delivery.
“Oh my God, what a lovely thing to do,” Moe said. “They were a lovely couple. He’s really kind.”
Moe said she sees that things have come full circle.
“My son’s birthday was a Friday like today and I was in the hospital with him on Mother’s Day,” Moe said. “It has all come full circle. Karma is good.”
Her mother’s cremains will remain with Moe – for the time being.
And her plans for Mother’s Day?
“Mom is on my couch right now,” Moe said. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet. I live here in supportive living with lovely people and my friends. It’s all good.”
“Maybe I’ll take her to dinner.”