Walla Walla County coroner’s efforts bring closure, peace to families

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The work of a coroner — investigating all unattended deaths in the county — is generally grim.

Yet, Walla Walla County Coroner Richard Greenwood seems to have found a way to lighten his emotional load by helping the living. He is reuniting unclaimed remains with families, an act that often brings closure and peace to those who lost a loved one in the past few years or even decades ago.

Since he was elected to his first term in 2010, Greenwood has made reuniting unclaimed remains with families a priority. Greenwood has had success. Nearly 40 families have taken possession of the cremated remains of relatives and another 12 have been found.

“One lady said she had been looking for her kid for 54 years,” Greenwood told U-B reporter Luke Hegdal.

About a year ago Greenwood, with the help of Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in College Place and Spokane, was able to identify remains of a dozen veterans so they could be buried with honors at the state Veterans Cemetery.

Still, the remains of about 200 people are being kept in a storage room. Greenwood has a plan to put the unclaimed remains in a more suitable resting place.

On Sept. 11 at 9 a.m., the Coroner’s Office will inter the 200 unclaimed remains at Mountain View Cemetery during a public ceremony. Several ministers from area churches will be officiating.

This is not necessarily the final resting place for the unclaimed as Greenwood will continue working to match families with their lost kin.

Greenwood is providing an excellent public service that goes beyond the required duties.

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