Staff at a Calgary thrift shop have spent the past year trying to find the family of a 51-year-old man whose cremated remains showed up unexpectedly. They have now been returned home to loved ones.

Value Village manager Jennifer Folco has taken care of Rick Thomas Sippel’s remains since they turned up at the donation centre, where she was working, about a year ago. She believes it was by accident and that nobody intended to donate him.

Sippel had five daughters. All had signed his memorial box. His second eldest daughter, Georgia Bell, made the box and recognized it right away.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was mystified as to how this even happened,” Bell said.

As strange as it was to have a memorial box of cremated remains turns up at a second-hand store, it was just as bizarre for his entire family to find out he’d been at Value Village for nearly a year. They didn’t even know he was missing. Rick’s youngest, Amber Jerrett, was shocked.

“We didn’t even know he was lost,” Jerrett said.

His daughters assumed their mom, Bonnie, had the remains but their mom thought she gave it to one of the girls.

“She thought he was with me and we all thought he was with her,” Jerrett said.

Once they learned their father was at the second-hand store, they rushed to retrieve him, grateful to Folco for her care.

“Jenn was his guardian angel on Earth… You see the humanity in some people and it’s amazing and we owe her so much for taking care of him because who knows what could have happened to him,” Jerrett said.

Rick’s daughter, Kathi Farough, was also very grateful.

“I’m happy somebody looked after him and he didn’t end up in a garbage bin or something because he wouldn’t have deserved that,” Farough said.

Rick’s picture is now framed and will remain in Folco’s office.

His box will now sit safely on a shelf reserved just for him in Jerrett’s living room.

“Now I feel whole. He’s back where he belongs,” Jerrett said.

“Somehow in the cosmos he made this happen and it was like: ‘OK I want to come back home now. I am done having fun.’

“He was a wanderer. He liked hiking, fishing, hunting and camping. He likes to wander. He went for walks every day,” Bell said. “This is something he would have done.”

Rick was 51 years old when he died on May 3, 1994.  He passed away from a heart attack.

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