BURLEY, Idaho (AP) — Cassia County Coroner Craig Rinehart has searched for nearly seven weeks to find family members of Steven Buskirk, 62, who passed away in Burley on Nov. 7.
"I'd really like to find his family so they can take care of him," said Rinehart. "No one should have to die alone."
Rinehart, the coroner for four years, said this is the first time he has failed to find family members of a deceased person.
Buskirk had lived in Moscow, at Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation Aspen Park, before he was transferred to the Mini-Cassia Care Center in Burley.
He had recovered enough that he was able to get an apartment at Syringa Plaza Apartments in Burley before his death.
Buskirk fell and needed elbow surgery. Afterward, he contracted pneumonia and passed away at the hospital, the coroner said.
"He was a really nice man," said Rinehart. "I met him once when I was still working on ambulance."
Rinehart signed cremation orders for Buskirk around Thanksgiving time.
His remains are stored at Morrison's Funeral Home & Crematory, 188 S. Idaho 24, in Rupert.
Buskirk was the eldest of seven children, said friend Green Kent, of Moscow.
"When he was 7 years old, his mom and dad abandoned the children. They both just walked out on them," Kent said.
At the time, Kent said, the family lived somewhere in Washington state.
"He told me once that he'd done some bad things and as the oldest, he was stealing food from the stores to keep the others fed," Kent said. "I told him I didn't think God would mind."
A week after their parents left, Buskirk's mother returned with a social worker.
"She looked around at the children and said, 'Take them all,'" Green said. "He never saw his parents again. "
Kent said some of the children were adopted into families, but Buskirk grew up in foster homes and Catholic orphanages.
"I've always had a loving family, and I've never known what it was like to be alone in this world and lonely," Kent said.
Kent said Buskirk was divorced and may not have had any children.
At one time, he said, Buskirk worked as a salesman, but he was injured and never got a doctor's release to go back to work.
"He was very personable," said Kent. "At the rest home, he would look for people who were lonely and that no one talked to, and he would make it a point to talk to them every day. He had a very good heart."
County Treasurer Patty Justesen was named executor of his estate, which totaled less than $300 and consisted mainly of his wallet contents.
Rinehart said the furnishings at his apartment belonged to the complex.
"The estate was extremely minimal," said Justesen.
Rinehart said the county pays $1,100 to bury or cremate an indigent person, which was used for the cremation.
"Isn't there some kind of a national database where you can put people's names in cases like this?" asked county Commissioner Paul Christensen.
No national database for unclaimed deceased persons exists, Rinehart said.
"Right now, he's in our safekeeping," said Kerry Morrison, owner of Morrison Funeral Home & Crematory. "I'll hold him for as long as we need to. But after a year or so, I'll probably get together with Craig and we'll make a decision on what to do with him."
In large cities, it's not unusual to have unclaimed bodies, but it's very uncommon in Mini-Cassia, he said.
"I'm willing to do whatever I can to make it right," Morrison said.
Information from: The Times-News, http://www.magicvalley.com