OXFORD — Roopers Redemption manager Janice Kimball has seen a lot of odd things come through the company’s returnable business over the years.

She has returned car keys to customers, stopped them from bringing in bags of used auto parts (“I thought you took in recycling”), dealt with all forms of household trash and has to assume that anyone who works for her may come across discarded drug paraphernalia.

Recently she tracked down a customer who had inadvertently included a power drill with his bottles.

Roopers redemption manager Janice Kimball discovered an urn in a bag of returnables. Oxford store clerk Teresa Caron tracked down the deceased’s family. Supplied photo

But this past September, Kimball was shocked to find a custom urn nestled in a bag full of bottles. At first she thought it might be just an empty container, but the weight of it convinced her that she was holding something of irreplaceable personal value. And she wanted to get the urn home.

“It was with bags from our redemption drop-off program,” she said. “It’s set up so people can just drop off and not have to wait around while we count. They don’t have to stand in line or be stuck in bad weather. We credit their Roopers account and they can cash it in, use it as store credit, whatever.”

The first challenge was to figure out where the bag originated. Kimball spends most of her time at the Roopers warehouse in Lewiston, which takes in returnables from all six of its retail stores. She traced the account number on the bag label to the Oxford store.

“They had been bombarded up there so I sent one of the guys with the truck to pick up uncounted bags to help out,” she said. “I was glad I was the one who found it, not everyone would have realized what it was.”

Unfortunately, the label gave Kimball no further information. There was no contact name with the account in the database and the phone number had been disconnected.

“It had a person’s name and birth and death years on it,” she said. “And on the other side it said ‘Forever My Brother.’ I knew someone would want it back.”

She put the urn on her desk and asked the store to post a notice that she had personal property in her Roopers office and would return it to the rightful owner. But no one came forward and the urn stayed with her for months.

Last week, Kimball had an errand that took her to Oxford and she decided to bring the remains to the Route 26 store, which would at least get the urn closer to where it came from. Oxford employees took up the cause and started posting lost and found notices on their social media accounts.

One employee,Teresa Caron, of South Paris put a picture of it on her Facebook account on Saturday with a note about where it was. And from there good Samaritans took over.

“My post got over 100 shares really fast,” Caron said. “But no one got in touch with me about it. So I decided to post it on the Marketplace page for the Oxford area. Someone – not someone I know – began researching it. She did searches using the name and dates, reading through obituaries.”

The person messaged Caron what she had found: an obituary that matched the writing on the urn. The obituary listed two siblings who were predeceased to the person but one was listed as still living in the Oxford Hills area.

“I was able to track that person on Facebook and I sent a private message that we had the ashes,” Caron continued. “And in the meantime another person who knew the family got in touch with me and confirmed that I had the right person.”

The sibling immediately responded and made arrangements to collect the ashes. That particular urn had been in the possession of an extended family member who had been like a brother to the deceased. It accidentally slipped from its shelf and into the bag where it was later discovered by Kimball. The family was extremely grateful they were able to get it back, almost four months after it went missing.

Once social media became involved, the siblings’ reunion happened so quickly that Kimball was not even aware of it until contacted by the Advertiser Democrat on Monday morning. She was thrilled to hear the news.

“I have brothers who have passed and I would be devastated if I lost their remains,” she said. “I am so glad they found him.

“In all the years I’ve been in the business, this was the first time I’d seen something like this. I used to joke, ‘the first time I find a body part, I’m out.’ And then I find this.”

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