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South Haven church holds burials for forgotten remains

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A special burial was held Thursday for a man whose ashes had gone unclaimed for years.

The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, in South Haven, held a funeral for the man Thursday.

Across the U.S., there are thousands of unclaimed and unidentified remains.

Since 2011, the church in South Haven has been doing what it can to give some of those people a proper goodbye.

While it's the kind of burial you would expect for a loved one, the people in attendance are on hand to say goodbye to a stranger--a man they known only as Maurice Harrison.

"We know absolutely nothing about Mr. Maurice Harrison; we know the date he was born and the date he died," said Father Michael Ryan, from the Church of the Epiphany.

Since 2013, Harrison's remains have waited, abandoned by family and friends, and left with no goodbyes and no place to rest--until today.

"When you come into this world, you are loved by someone or some people, and you deserve to go out with that same love and recognition," said Robert DeHaven, from the Church of the Epiphany.

This is the fourth burial of its kind done by the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, claiming the unclaimed.

"There are people who spend their whole lives in prisons, their families have disowned them; I'm sure there are people we are burying that have done terrible things," said Father Michael.

But Father Michael says life is about much more than that.

"The value of a human being is not totaled up by the worst thing anyone has done," he said.

As the ceremony ended, Father Michael laid Maurice Harrison's remains in the memorial garden, and each person placed a handful of earth on the gravesite.

"It's a beautiful way for us to really, profoundly welcome those who have no place to go," DeHaven said.

Father Michael says those they bury do not have to be Christian.

They will hold funerals for people of any faith.

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