Churches are often known as safe havens for people who have nowhere to go, and that’s certainly the case for Viers Mill Baptist Church in Rockville. Something very unusual was dropped off at the church: A man’s ashes. Now, the pastor is asking for the public’s help in figuring out what to do with it.
Pastor Robert Wilson is not surprised when random things just show up at his church. “Get a lot of clothes and food. We found car engines and a lot of trash,” says Wilson. Stuff just finds its way to the front door of Viers Mill Baptist Church, sometimes, through it. “Our building has actually been hit by cars twice in the last 20 years,” he says.
But in the 21 years he’s been the pastor here, this is by far the strangest find: human ashes. On September 29th, a box containing the remains of Donald Irving Willard was found outside the church in a plastic grocery bag. Since then, Pastor Wilson has been trying to find out more about Mr. Willard. “The only thing we know for certain is what’s on the label on the top of the box, which shows his name, his date of death and date of cremation and who cremated him.”
The only other small bit of information the pastor has been able to find, is that Mr. Willard may have lived on Schuylkill Road in Rockville at one point.
Wilson has called the crematory, which no longer exists, the police and even the county attorney. “Everyone I’ve talked to said this is a new one to them.”
So he reached out to WUSA9, hoping to get the word out about Mr. Willard. “I would feel bad if we didn’t do everything we could to get him back to his family,” says Wilson.
Pastor Wilson says he does not know why his church was chosen, but he’s taking this new responsibility very seriously. “I’m thankful that whoever decided to bring him here did not just throw him in the garbage.” For now, the newest member of the congregation will stay on a shelf in the church, his temporary resting place.
Because even though Pastor Wilson knows almost nothing about Mr. Willard, he knows one thing: He was a human being. “He deserves to be buried, scattered, whatever word you want to use, with respect, with dignity,” says Pastor Wilson. “To be left by the door to me is just not an act of dignity.”
Pastor Wilson says if no one comes forward, he will give Mr. Willard the proper burial.
If you know anything about the remains, contact the Viers Mill Baptist Church.