Austin woman discovers urn with ashes inside at Goodwill store

State & Regional

Austin resident Jessa Randall discovered an urn at a local Goodwill store will thrift shopping. (Courtesy: Jessa Randall)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — One Austin woman’s thrifting trip took a mysterious urn, as she discovered a used urn at a local Goodwill store.

Resident Jessa Randall went to the Goodwill at Scofield Crossing Monday where she found a small vase-like item. After a closer look, she found a plug at the bottom of the ceramic with a bag of ashes tucked inside.

Store managers confirmed Goodwill does not track personal or contact information for donors, and the urn didn’t have any identifying information etched on its surface.

After losing a close family member last year and going through the cremation process on their behalf, Randall said this hit close to home for her. Now, she’s looking for answers and closure for the potential family missing this memorial piece.

“I just had the sense that I couldn’t leave it there. It just felt sad,” she said. “It needed to be in a home.”

Randall and her husband have dubbed the urn “Jackie,” in a way to provide a sense of respect and integrity for its occupant, she said. Currently, the two haven’t narrowed down any leads on who might be missing the urn.

While the ceramic doesn’t have any identifying markers pointing to its occupant, Austin Police officials told KXAN cremated remains can be tested for DNA samples. During the cremation process, bones and teeth remain and when extracted and analyzed can potentially be matched to a DNA strain. However, the amount of ashes remaining and the level of heat used during the process can affect the DNA analysis.

Here in Austin, this is the first reported urn found at a Central Texas Goodwill location, officials said.

“It is common for families who are cleaning out houses during big life events such as a death in the family or a cross-country move to donate in bulk, and an unusual item could easily be mixed in. Normally, that’s the fun of shopping at Goodwill — you never know when you’re going to stumble upon a cool vintage piece or an old family heirloom,” said Angela McKendree Marshall, vice president of marketing and communications for Goodwill Central Texas. “However, this is the first time I’m aware of any reported case of an urn being donated.”

Elsewhere in Texas, this isn’t as rare of an occurrence. At Goodwill North Central Texas in the Fort Worth area, urns, empty coffins and even a live grenade have all been donated.

For now though, Randall said her focus is providing the urn a home, until it can be reunited with its loved ones.

“I can’t imagine searching for my family member,” she said. “I don’t know this person. It’s not a person really anymore — but it was. I don’t think anybody deserves to live on the shelf and not be at peace.”

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