Theft of husband’s ashes leaves woman grieving a second time

Patricia Eriksen provided this photo of the urn containing the ashes of her late husband, David.
Patricia Eriksen of Burnsville is heartsick over the theft of an urn containing her late husband’s ashes and is determined to retrieve it. Photo by John Gessner

Patricia Eriksen takes a trip this time of year to blunt the memory of her husband, David, dying at  home on Feb. 6, 2010.

On Feb. 11 she departed for Florida to visit her late husband’s cousins. Eriksen left her Burnsville home at 5:30 a.m. Her nephew and housemate, Tyler McLean, who had been staying with friends, arrived home about 13 hours later.

The house had been burglarized.

Eriksen said she can live with most of the losses, including a laptop computer, ruby and emerald rings and a 4-gallon canister of coins.

But the theft of a silver-colored urn containing David’s ashes makes her heartsick — and determined to get it back.

“It’s the last thing I have left of him, other than the spiritual connection I feel,” Eriksen said. “It’s the last physical connection I have to him.”

Eriksen, who’s lived at 1200 Echo Drive since the late 1970s, isn’t content leaving the case to the police, whom her nephew called immediately after discovering the burglary.

She made fliers with a photo of the urn and posted them at places around Burnsville, including the post office, Walmart, a Walgreens store and the Kwik Trip on County Road 11.

She went to the Burnsville Pawn America to see if the urn had been pawned. Eriksen monitors Craigslist for any of the other stolen items that might lead her to the urn.

She can’t imagine why anyone would take it.

“They took coins. So maybe they thought it somehow contained coins or something,” Eriksen said. “I’m not sure. They just didn’t know what they were doing.”

Eriksen admits to leaving her front door unlocked when she left for Florida, knowing her nephew would return home later that day.

“I’ve always felt safe in Burnsville, and I’ve never locked my door in Burnsville,” she said. “Now it’s always locked, and I’m getting a home security system. When the cows are out of the barn.”

The items were stolen from her bedroom except for a Dell laptop that was in the family room, Eriksen said. Her nephew arrived to find the front door open and her bedroom drawers removed from the dresser and placed on the bed, she said.

She reported stolen the glass canister of coins; a bag of coins; miscellaneous jewelry including a gold butterfly ring with three rubies (one missing), a gold butterfly ring with four emeralds and a silver bangle bracelet engraved with “To Mary from Bro. Bob;” a navy blue laptop with the  Dell emblem in the corner; and the urn.

It’s a rectangular urn bearing a car-racing emblem with a steering wheel, checkered flags and a helmet. The urn is secured by four screws on the bottom. David Eriksen’s name is not engraved on it.

The emblem marks the Eriksens as a racing family.  The adult children in their blended family, son Shannon and daughter Jennifer, did the driving, Eriksen said. Their last endeavor was racing sprint cars.

David, who was 58 when he died of esophageal cancer, was the “crew chief,” his wife said. “He just got the power to the ground.”

She wondered at first whether David’s sister who lived in Apple Valley took the ashes for sentimental reasons. “I thought maybe she was feeling nostalgic, coming up on his three-year anniversary,” Eriksen said.

Tragically, the woman was found dead of a heart attack in her apartment on Feb. 17, Eriksen said.

“Everybody’s looked at all her stuff, and she didn’t take them,” Eriksen said. “It’s just some kid who didn’t know what they were.”

Jennifer Eriksen, David’s 32-year-old daughter, picked out the urn for her father’s funeral.

“This is the only thing I want back,” Patricia Eriksen said. “I describe all the other stuff, and that’s only to help me get back to this. Coin don’t mean anything. But this is my daughter’s last connection to her dad that’s still here.”

Eriksen said anyone who might have information about the urn may call her cell phone at (651) 249-9163.