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Beloved Husband's Cremated Remains Got Lost In Mail, But Story Has A Twist

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Talk about a tragedy made worse.

A suburban family reached out to CBS 2 after shipping the remains of their beloved dad and husband through the mail. You can likely guess where this is all going, but there was a surprising twist along the way.

Mark Colby loved jazz. He spent decades performing and teaching others to play.

Even more importantly, Colby was a husband, father, grandfather, and friend.

"It's no small thing to become a widow," his wife, Mary Colby, told CBS 2's Tim McNicholas. "People telling me stories – he changed their lives."

Mark and Mary Colby were married for 44 years, until cancer took Mark Colby's life on Aug. 31.

"This whole thing has been quite the whirlwind," said Mary Colby.

"This whole thing" refers to the shipping of her husband's remains. She sent three separate urns to Mark's son in Georgia, a sister in Florida, and his best friend since kindergarten in New York.

A U.S. Postal Service video boasts the Post Office is your only choice to ship cremains, ending with, "Trust the USPS."

Well, despite those promises, the urn headed to Mark Colby's hometown of New York City got lost.

"It's not just a package. It's not just a package," said Mary Colby. "There's a reason it's supposed to have special handling."

Mary's receipt for the missing urn shows she paid $36 to get that precious package to New York by noon the next day. There is even a money-back guarantee.

As McNicholas struggled to chat with Mary Colby via Zoom with the internet connection going unstable, she got a welcome message loud and clear.

"What's that? It just got to New York?" Colby said. Addressing McNicholas, she continued: "They were just calling me to tell me that it just got to New York. So maybe our story is ending before it even got started."

We let Mary Colby investigate and continued our interview the next day.

"I suppose you want to begin with the really good news," she said that next day. "The really wonderful news is that Mark's remains and urn were delivered."

A widow's relief – four days late, but her husband's remains did arrive. Now, she wants to get the word out, warning other families and letting people know the Post Office video where they claim they will "provide you with world-class customer service" is not reflected in reality."

"People seemed brusque and abrupt," Mary Colby said. "It wasn't an envelope or box with toys. It was my husband's remains. The woman at the Post Office was flat-out rude."

Now, Mary Colby's daylong search for a package is over. She can return to more important things, such as cherishing the memories of her husband.

"I miss him so terribly, as do many," she said.

The USPS apologized for the delay, but never explained why it took so long for the urn to arrive in New York.

Post Office spokesman Tim Norman released the following statement:

"The Postal Service apologizes to the Colby family for this delay in service. Let me assure you that the Postal Service does its utmost to ensure these packages are handled properly and with respect. In the very rare instance a package of this sensitive nature is found to be missing, we do a thorough search throughout the facilities the package traveled through, and staff at every level is notified of the missing package.

"We work very hard to offer good service to our customers, and it is genuinely disappointing to hear about instances when we simply do not meet the needs of our customers. The delivery service standard for (Mary Colby's domestic tracking number) Priority Mail Express 1-Day® was Scheduled Delivery by: Friday, 09/18/2020 by 12:00pm. This is based on the origin and destination ZIP Codes of the mailpiece, and the time the Postal Service receives it from the customer. Express Mail is automatically insured up to $100. It is also backed by a postage guarantee if we fail to deliver, or attempt delivery of the mailpiece as promised.

"Since the mailpiece did not arrive based on the guaranteed service arrival time, the customer is entitled to a postage refund 09/18/2020, after 12:00pm."

The Post Office also highlighted information and frequently asked questions on how to ship cremated remains.

How to Package and Ship Cremated Remains with USPS® by USPS TV on YouTube
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