BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - Three sanitation employees working for the city of Bartlesville made a family’s Christmas special by reuniting them with their loved one’s remains, according to a spokesperson from the city.
Nathan Williams and Brandon Lopez reportedly noticed a wooden box containing an urn holding the remains of a Bartlesville man while performing their duties earlier in December. They said they assumed the remains had been discarded by accident and retrieved it from the trash, hoping to return it to family members.
When a local search didn’t turn up any results, the employees turned to their supervisor, Craig Gordineer.
"We thought, 'Surely this isn't a situation where there is no family member who wants this," Gordineer said.
Goridneer reportedly contacted the deceased man’s daughter after finding her on social media.
The woman, who lives out of state, sent an email to the city, saying she cried when she heard that her father’s ashes had been found.
"I can't thank them enough," she wrote. "Their thoughtfulness and consideration — for people they don't even know — have blessed my family. I just want to say loud and clear: These three men did something wonderful for my family."
The man's remains were turned over to another family member on Dec. 14, and an email from the man's sister called Gordineer, Williams and Lopez's actions a "Christmas miracle."
"For such an unappreciated job, the fact that Nathan Williams and Brandon Lopez noticed a container and retrieved it to take to their boss, Mr. Craig Gordineer, is truly a miracle in itself," she wrote. "Then, for (Gordineer) to go to the lengths to try and locate the next of kin — well, it goes beyond his job description.... His remains are with his family that love him, and we owe it all to your staff. You truly have witnessed a Christmas miracle, as well as our whole family. I consider it was God working through your wonderful staff to return him to his family. God bless all of you from the bottom of my heart. You have already given me the greatest gift of all."
"I'm glad we were able to help," Gordineer said. "We didn't want him to end up in a landfill."
The family reportedly contacted city officials to recognize the three men for their actions.
Mike Bailey, Bartlesville’s acting city manager, commended Gordineer, Williams and Lopez for a job well done.
"What they have done for this man's family is remarkable," Bailey said. "They have given the family a precious gift by going above and beyond their regular duties. They are true public servants, and their efforts are applauded by us all."
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