Police, Tow Truck Driver Reunite Son With Mother’s Ashes

Homeless man had lost mother’s remains

By Scott Gordon
|  Thursday, Feb 4, 2010  |  Updated 9:02 AM CDT
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Fort Worth police worked to reunite a woman's ashes with her missing family.

Scott Gordon, NBCDFW.com

Fort Worth police worked to reunite a woman's ashes with her missing family.

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An altruistic tow truck driver and devoted police officers went "above and beyond the call of duty” to reunite a despondent Iraqi War veteran with the lost ashes of his mother.

It all started with Fort Worth driver Nick Lyons, who's been towing cars long enough to know what to expect to find inside – everything from drugs to  weapons to cell phones. But the box in this car stunned him.

"It was just a box with a lady's name and the date of death,” Lyons said. “And it had ashes in it, so it was obvious what it was."

He called police. Officer Weldon Walles responded.

"In 30 years of law enforcement, this is one of the most unusual calls I've ever had,” Walles said.

The officer set out to find the woman's relatives.

"Usually, these aren't police department matters, but this was something I felt was very important and we needed to reunite the family with these remains,” he said.

It wasn’t easy.

Walles knew the woman’s name and tracked down the name of her only son, but couldn’t locate him.

The officer couldn't imagine the remains sitting in the police property room, unclaimed.

"It could have been years,” he said.

Walles recruited a detective to help with the search, and finally, they found the missing son.

"The police department wasn't going to stop until we found him," Walles said.

Down on his luck, Andre Kelly is living in the Union Gospel Mission, a homeless shelter on Lancaster Avenue.

Kelly, 43, an Iraq War veteran, said he became homeless after he lost his job as a college instructor.

Police impounded his car when he was arrested on unpaid speeding tickets. The car was then repossessed because he didn’t have money to pay his loan, he said.

He said he didn’t know who to call to recover his mother's remains.

"I was really upset about it, but I didn't know what to do about it," he said.

Kelly also couldn’t find a way to tell relatives he had lost his mother’s ashes.

"I haven't told anybody,” he said. “I've been holding this in.”

With each passing day, the loss weighed heavier on him, he said.

"I've been praying on it,” he said. “And I've been saying, if you know, God's willing, it will happen. And here I am today, getting calls from Fort Worth PD."

His mother, Carol Ann Riley, died a few years ago in California of a heart attack.

The wrecker driver said he is grateful police were able to find him.

"I'm excited for the guy,” Lyons said. “That has to be quite a relief to get the remains back of your mother."

Kelly is studying to become a nurse and hopes to leave the shelter soon.

"This is the first time in my life I've been unemployed or in this situation,” he said.

Kelly thanked the police for working hard to find him.

"That's something you do above and beyond the call of duty,” he said. “Like I say, if I were in a position to do that, that I could do that and go that extra mile for someone."

Kelly plans to pick up his mother’s ashes from the police property room on Thursday and keep them at a friend’s house until he is able to leave the shelter.

"Me being her only child, she always wanted to be with me,” he said. “She said, ‘Put me in an urn and take me wherever you go.’"
 

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