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Dad Reunited With Baby's Cremated Remains After 26 Years

CARPENTERSVILLE, Ill. (STMW) -- Jerry Wolf was driving a truck full of cattle in Colorado when his mother called from Carpentersville.

She'd just read a story about the Kane County Coroner's Office trying to connect families with about 50 unclaimed cremated remains that had been lying in storage for years. And the name of his daughter was included in the list.

Little Shawna Lea Wolf, his firstborn, was only 2 months old when she died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1987 in their Carpentersville home.

Her remains had been cremated and eventually ended up in a storage shed that was sold at auction when Wolf, just 20 years old at the time, and his wife fell on hard times a little more than a year after their child's death, he said.

Jerry and Denise Wolf were living in Florida at the time and didn't know what happened to their daughter's ashes.

Until that call.

"I was in shock," said Wolf, who had tattoos bearing Shawna's name etched on both his legs. "All these years we didn't know what had happened to my daughter ... but I kinda knew that one day we would find her."

Kane County Coroner Rob Russell said reuniting father and daughter was the best outcome he could have expected when he decided to go public with his request to find permanent resting places for the many urns and boxes of ashes that had been collecting dust over the years.

There have been other positive results. Since the media coverage, several local cemeteries — even some citizens — called offering help with burials. He also received an email from a woman in Australia who said she was a cousin to one of the names on the list.

Russell said his office is currently confirming lineage and will send the remains to Australia when that is confirmed.

He said there is also an MIA veterans group that not only offered to take any veterans but also the spouses and children of veterans.

Wolf drove to Illinois from his home in Wisconsin the following day to pick up his daughter's urn.

"I couldn't wait," he said. "I had to have her back again with her family."

He and the baby's mother are now divorced, he said, but they decided that Shawna's ashes will be buried with the parent who dies first.

"There's closure now," he said. "My life is complete."

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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