TAMPA — Thanks to inquiries from concerned strangers, the unclaimed ashes of a man killed in a bicycle crash will be buried at a veterans cemetery with military honors instead of being unceremoniously scattered in the Gulf of Mexico.
Edward Allen Weber, 63, died Nov. 16 when a Jeep Cherokee rear-ended his bicycle on U.S. 41. The Florida Highway Patrol spent more than a month trying to locate relatives without success. His body was cremated Dec. 27.
The next step would have been to spread the ashes in the gulf, standard practice for unclaimed remains. But after the St. Petersburg Times reported on Weber's case, several people called the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office and a Tampa funeral home seeking to arrange a burial.
David Miller, a veteran and national hospital representative for the American Legion at Bay Pines VA Medical Center, said he read the story and on Wednesday called the funeral home, Florida Mortuary Funeral and Cremation Services, and arranged for Weber to be buried at Florida National Cemetery near Bushnell.
Many of those who inquired about Weber thought it was not right for a veteran's remains to discarded in the gulf without ceremony and sought a more proper burial.
"Veterans stick together, man," Miller said.
Funeral director Ron Mees said Weber's ashes will be held for 120 days after his cremation in case a relative steps forward, as state law requires.
After that, Miller said he will pick up the ashes at the Medical Examiner's Office and ensure that Weber is buried with military honors at Florida National Cemetery near Bushnell.
The Medical Examiner's Office cremates about 600 bodies a year. Many of those bodies arrive without information about next of kin, but authorities usually find someone anyway, said Dick Bailey, a medical examiner spokesman. Still, about five each month are unclaimed and the ashes spread in the gulf because relatives could not be found or they could not afford a burial.
Ileana Morales can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or firstname.lastname@example.org.