Century-old remains returned to Ceres family

etracy@modbee.comJanuary 1, 2014 

— After years of sitting in a storage facility, the cremains of a woman who died more than a century ago have been returned to her family.

Kenneth Moore, 66, of Ceres recovered Rose Lyons’ urn from the Stanislaus County Coroner’s Office Monday.

Moore had read the story in the Dec. 25 edition of The Bee about Deputy Coroner Tom Killian’s search for Lyons’ kin, but had no idea she was his great-great-grandmother until he got a call from Killian the next day.

Lyons died at age 70 in San Francisco, about a week after the massive 1906 earthquake. Her ashes were given to her granddaughter Pearl Partridge, who was living in Oakland.

One hundred seven years later, Killian got a call from the owner of a south Modesto storage facility where the urn had been since the facility changed ownership two years ago. The new owners didn’t retain any records from the previous owners, so Killian didn’t know how long the urn had been at the facility, which storage unit it was in or to whom it belonged.

Moore read in The Bee about his grandmother Pearl Partridge, but her married name was Pearl Moore and she died when he was a year old, so he knew little about her.

It was the detective work of a handful of genealogists, amateur and professional, including a New Jersey-based author of several ancestry books, that linked the two. Several called Killian with their findings, and he tracked down Kenneth Moore.

Moore said he has no memory of Grandma Pearl, but has seen home movies of her in his first boyhood home in Ceres.

Moore’s parents later moved him and his siblings to a two-acre ranchette with peach trees in Ceres. There were three outbuildings on the property in which his siblings have a vague recollection of seeing an urn, he said.

His father sold the ranchette in the early 1990s.

“My brother said that in the shop building, he left almost everything there – tools, tractors,” Moore said. “My dad probably forgot all about the urn. Maybe someone that bought the place put it in the storage unit; it sold two or three times.”

Pearl Moore is buried in Modesto Citizens Cemetery on Scenic Drive, next to husband William Moore and daughter-in-law Elizabeth Moore, Kenneth Moore’s mother.

Kenneth Moore said he and his siblings recalled that another plot had been purchased for his father, but he was buried at the veterans cemetery in Santa Nella.

They are working to determine if the plot is still available so Lyons can be interred next to her granddaughter at Citizens Cemetery.

“We are going to give her a decent going-away,” Moore said. “We are not going to leave her in a storage unit.”

He is also keeping in contact with Killian, who said the case was special to him and he would like to pay his respects when an interment is scheduled.

Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at etracy@modbee.com or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter @ModestoBeeCrime.

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