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SALEM, Ore. — Don Whetsell buried his grandfather last year, finally laying him to rest 60 years after his death.
The final resting place next to his wife was far better than the previous one: on a shelf with the neglected remains of 3,500 others in a storage area dubbed the “room of forgotten souls.”
Whetsell is one of 120 people to claim the remains of loved ones who had been left behind at Oregon’s state mental hospital, some of them in corroding copper canisters that had fused together.
Hospital officials are hoping a new online list will help them reunite living relatives with the forgotten patients and prison inmates who died at Oregon State Hospital between 1914 and the 1970s.
“I just felt that I couldn’t rest,” Whetsell said, describing his need to claim and bury his grandfather’s ashes. “I knew my grandmother for years and loved her dearly. It made me feel good; I know she would’ve been pleased.”
Whetsell’s grandfather, Nathan McComber, died in the early 1940s after he was deemed insane and committed with symptoms that would, in modern times, probably be diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease, said Whetsell, 79.
McComber’s ashes were in a solid copper canister that didn’t seem to have any damage, Whetsell said.
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