An honorable end

Published 9:34 pm Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chris Ouimet and Chris Hawkins cover three gravesites at Suffolk’s Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery on Wednesday. The remains were buried with full military honors.

The remains of two veterans and one spouse with no known kin to claim them — or perhaps the families couldn’t afford to — were buried with full military honors Wednesday at Suffolk’s Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery.

A real estate agent had discovered vessels containing the ashes of Joseph and Nina Seydak in a vacant house and left them at R. Hayden Smith Funeral Home in Hampton.

“He’s (the real estate agent’s client) bought a foreclosure, or something of that nature, with stuff in it,” the funeral home’s Tim Smith said.

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“When they started to clean it out, they found cremated remains. … Occasionally you have family who just don’t pick up cremated remains. They think the person’s gone and what’s left behind is not that important.”

After verifying the remains’ identities with the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, along with those of Daniel Edmonds, which it had also come into the possession of, the funeral home took all three sets to the veteran’s cemetery for what Smith described as “a proper burial.”

The cemetery’s burial operations officer Susan Ulrich re-confirmed and documented the remains.

Seydak, who died at age 75 on Oct. 10, 1997, had served five years in the Army and 13 years in the Air Force. His rank was unknown. His wife was 79 when she passed on Nov. 3, 1995.

Pfc. Edmonds, who served in the Marine Corps from 1968 to 1970, was 64 when he died on Nov. 3, 1995.

The veterans were buried with full military honors — rifle squad, flag folders and bugler — just before 11 a.m.

Suffolk’s Jeanne Banks received the flag. The Horton Wreath Society volunteer was the sole private citizen to witness the ceremony.

“My reason for coming is my respect for the military and for what staff here do to provide services for the unclaimed veterans, and I just come and receive the flag in their honor, in their memory,” Banks said.

Honorable interments of the remains of those who sacrificed for their country in the armed services have been increasing in Virginia following legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2012, cemetery director Dan Kemano said.

The new law requires funeral homes and crematoriums to contact the Virginia Department of Veterans Services with the names of unclaimed remains.

The department provides an “honorable and dignified” burial after staffers such as Ulrich verify the remains are qualified veterans.

“Sometimes funeral homes will submit 15 or 20 names, but only one or two of them will be veterans,” Kemano said. “It’s an extensive amount of time through national (the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) to verify that the individual is a veteran.”

Including the three on Wednesday, about 22 sets of unclaimed remains have been buried at the Suffolk cemetery since the legislation was signed into law, Kemano said. “There will probably be another service in the next two months,” he added.