ZEPHYRHILLS — There was only one priceless item stolen from Frank Amato's home Saturday, and it's worth next to nothing on the open market.
A burglar stole more than $4,000 in electronics, including two flat-screen TVs and a laptop. But the item that has consumed Amato's thoughts is a brass urn holding his parents' cremated ashes.
"I don't really understand the whole reason they would take it," said Amato, 36, who works at a computer chip company. "The only thing I can think of is that they saw it was bright and shiny."
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Amato and his parents moved to Florida from North Carolina in 1989 and settled in Zephyrhills a few years later. His father, also named Frank, wanted a nice place to retire after a career in the electronics industry. He never got to retire.
The elder Frank died in 1996 after a six-month battle with aggressive lung cancer. He had open heart surgery to remove the disease, but it had spread to his spine and most major organs. Doctors said the only thing they could do was keep him comfortable. Amato was almost relieved when his father wasn't in pain anymore.
Amato's mother, Carol, moved in with him after his father died. Amato spent several years helping his mom manage emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Her lungs gave out in 2008.
Half of each set of ashes was sent to be buried with relatives in the Bronx. Amato was saving the rest for a special trip at his mom's request.
"My parents always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon," he said. "My mom and dad never got that chance."
Amato said he hopes the burglar has the decency to return the ashes. He said the person can drop them off at a fire station or at a funeral home.
And if the ashes are returned? One option is a drive along the Grand Canyon with the top down on his Mustang.
"My mom got to ride in my convertible a couple of times," he said. "She enjoyed it."
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Amato said someone broke into the house after 10 p.m. Saturday, likely by pushing his sliding glass door off the tracks. He has been living at his girlfriend's house for a few months. His girlfriend's cousin was living in Amato's house, but had left that night to visit friends.
Pasco sheriff's deputies are investigating the burglary, but no suspects have been identified.
Since the robbery, Amato has been second-guessing himself. Why didn't he replace the sliding glass door? Why didn't he go to the Grand Canyon earlier? Why didn't he take the urn with him when he stayed at his girlfriend's house?
For that last question, Amato has an answer: "Part of my thought process was they would watch over the house while I wasn't there."
Lee Logan can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6236.