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Carol Lalonde holds an urn containing the ashes of her late husband Laurence. (Jeff Vinnick/Jeff Vinnick for The Globe and Mail)
Carol Lalonde holds an urn containing the ashes of her late husband Laurence. (Jeff Vinnick/Jeff Vinnick for The Globe and Mail)

Crime

Contrite thief returns husband's ashes to widow Add to ...

When the ashes of her husband of 58 years were stolen on Christmas Eve, Carol Lalonde felt as though she’d lost a piece of herself.

She forgave the taking of the television, computer and jewellery box that were also lifted from her Delta, B.C., home and issued a public appeal for the safe return of the ashes, which were housed inside a silver hockey puck container to commemorate her husband’s love of the game.

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For nearly a month, her plea went ignored. Then, late last week, the conscience of whoever had the urn got the better of them, as it was dropped off at the Salvation Army.

Delta police returned the ashes to Ms. Lalonde, 77, on Monday during a tearful scene inside her living room.

“It was an emotional moment, to think that he was home again,” Ms. Lalonde said of Laurence, the love of her life who passed away in October of 2010.

The theft was discovered Christmas Eve when Ms. Lalonde and her daughter returned home to find an unlocked door.

She wept when she realized her husband’s ashes had been stolen, and both Ms. Lalonde and Delta police said no questions would be asked if the item was returned safe and sound.

Police have said little about how the item was found or who might have dropped it off.

Ms. Lalonde said the hockey puck has several scratches on it, but she’s hoping they can be polished off.

What’s most important, she said, is the ashes remain.

“I checked inside and he’s all there,” she said.

Ms. Lalonde said she was grateful to whoever returned the items.

“God bless you. Thank you for doing the right thing,” she said. “Whoever might have turned it in, it may not have been the people who broke in, it may have been someone else, but thank you.”

Mr. Lalonde passed away at the age of 77. His wife remembered the 32-year military man as generally composed and serious, though he had an affinity for joke telling. He was also an avid sports fan who played hockey for most of his life.

Most of his ashes were buried in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ont., but the family kept some in hockey-puck shaped containers so he’d always feel close.

Delta police chief Jim Cessford joined Ms. Lalonde in expressing his thanks to whoever returned the ashes.

“We are very glad to see that Mrs. Lalonde’s unfortunate loss has come to an end, and that she will have some closure to this terrible incident,” Chief Cessford wrote in a statement. “Although we do not condone the actions by which the urn was stolen, we can recognize that the person who returned the urn to Mrs. Lalonde chose to do the right thing, and for that we acknowledge your good will.”

But despite the force’s pledge to ask no questions if the urn was returned, police spokesman Constable Ciaran Feenan said the investigation into the break and enter is “ongoing.” The urn was processed by the department’s criminal investigation section and forensic identification section over the weekend.

When asked if Delta police were going back on their word, Constable Feenan said, “We don’t know who returned it. That’s where the questions won’t be asked.”

He added: “We haven’t stopped the investigation itself. There is outstanding property missing as well. Not all the property was returned. We still have to investigate to see whether we can locate the property.”

Ms. Lalonde said she just hopes whoever took the urn doesn’t victimize anyone else.

Police have not discussed a specific motive for the robbery, which was one of three Lower Mainland urn thefts in less than a week. Police have said urns, often made of precious metals, can be valuable to robbers.

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