Perhaps Kelly Hilts said it best during a service held Sunday in Tumwater to memorialize five people whose remains have gone unclaimed in Thurston County.
“Hey, Blair, you aren’t forgotten. Look at all these people!” said Hilts to the audience, who shared a few warm thoughts about Blair Burwell, one of the five who were honored.
Sunday’s gathering was the Interfaith All Souls Day Service, which was organized by the multifaith group, Interfaith Works, as well as Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock, and hosted by Mills and Mills Funeral Home in Tumwater. The CIELO Project, a bilingual Latino center in Olympia, created a “dia de los muertos,” or day of the dead-themed altar.
Interfaith Works board member Erin Gray read aloud the names of the five people. Those in the audience were asked to reply with, “We grant you peace and light.” After that, a candle was placed by their name on the colorful altar.
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Remembered on Sunday:
▪ Virginia M. Belden, 76, died in Yelm on June 23, 2006. Her remains came to the coroner’s office this year. Belden was born in Montana, but nothing else is known about her, according to program information.
▪ Paul Petersen, 55, died at Mother Joseph Care Center in Olympia on Sept. 24, 2007. His place of birth, mother, father and next of kin are unknown, according to the program.
▪ Robert G. Visser, 66, died at Providence St. Peter Hospital on Jan. 27, 2016. Visser was born in Tacoma.
▪ Robert P. Eades, 55, died at Providence St. Peter Hospital on Oct. 28, 2011. He was born in Hanford and never married. He had been employed in the building trade, according to program information.
▪ Blair Burwell, 63, a former resident of Quixote Village, died on June 27, 2016. Distant relatives did not claim his remains, but Friends of Quixote Village claimed the remains.
Burwell’s friend, Hilts, who also lives at Camp Quixote — a housing community for the homeless — remembered Burwell as a man with a big heart, and that they often discussed work, relationships and family. “He became my friend,” Hilts said.
“Some might have said he was a ‘nothing,’ ” said Hilts about his friend, “but he wasn’t.”
Hilts often had to pause to keep his emotions in check during his speech. .
“C’mon, Blair, give me a hand,” Hilts said at one point, adding “he will never be forgotten in my heart.”
Also remembered Sunday were the 46 people who, through October, have taken their own lives. Candles were placed on the altar in their memory as well.