CROWN POINT — A Korean War veteran who was awarded two Bronze Stars and died in 2013 is finally getting a proper burial.
Mark "Bud" Kelly lived downstate in Peru after the war and later moved to New Mexico, where he died in 2013.
He was cremated, the ashes were returned to a family member, but were never given a military burial for reasons that still remain unclear.
Tessa Spila, manager of a Goodwill store at 1601 W. 45th St., Griffith, said she was sorting through a storage trailer in LaPorte where Goodwill donations are kept last April when she came upon a bag of ashes.
Goodwill Industries International accepts the donation of used household goods for resale in 3,200 stores around the country.
"Our stores fill up with donations from summertime garage sales and they go into trailers where they sit until the winter months," Spila said. "That's where I was when I found it in this trailer where it had been for I don't know how long. Sometimes things can be in storage for years."
Spila said the cremains might have been donated by a landlord disposing of property a tenant left behind or a person who purchased the contents of an abandoned storage rental unit.
She said she looked up on an online obituary service the name found on the bag and discovered Kelly was a celebrated veteran. She contacted the crematory and was given the telephone contact of the family member, but it was no longer a working number.
Spila asked a fellow Goodwill employee, who knew veterans, to request some help. He called Shawn Kaochopolous, a Cedar Lake naval veteran, who then called Lake County's Veteran Services Office.
Raymond Guiden, the county's veteran service officer, said state law authorizes every county in Indiana to provide a burial benefit to veterans families. He said their office has assisted more than 76 such burials this year.
Jason Gootee, an assistant services officer, said "This wasn't something we come across typically, but the state passed legislation last year allowing Veteran Service Offices to assist in interning the unclaimed remains of veterans."
Lake County Councilman Ted Bilski, D-Hobart said the Veteran's office and Highland's Hillside Funeral Home made burial arrangements with the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois, operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He said the Illinois Patriot Guard Riders, volunteers who honor veterans, escorted the remains to the burial site.
Gootee said he doesn't know why Kelly didn't receive a military burial earlier and was unable to locate any of Kelly's family members. Spila said she later spoke with one of Kelly's children, a son, who called to thank her and said he had lost contact with the family member who had Kelly's remains earlier.