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.
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.
There’s a story written all over the memorial box of Sippel. He was 51 years old when he died on May 3, 1994. There’s a Harley Davidson sticker on top and his loved ones signed it.
Over time, Folco has grown very fond of him.
“I walked around with him most of the day and I didn’t know what to do with him,” Folco said. “He’s like my buddy, someone I can depend on and is there everyday. He’s not going anywhere on me.
“When I leave I know he’s in good hands and I say goodnight and other people in the office, they come in and say hi to Rick, he’s become part of the village family.”
Sippel’s four daughters wrote messages on the box. Their names are Amber, Shana, Kathy and Georgia. He had a partner named Bonnie.
“I don’t want to see Rick to become somebody nameless and in a crematory to be disposed of,” Folco said.
“To me, he’s not just an urn. He was loved, a family man I believe was accidentally donated.”
Folco has since transferred locations and staff at the new Value Village has welcomed him and temporarily made him a part of their family, but they know it’s time for him to return to his own family.
“It has all four daughters writing a goodbye to their dad and that just, that to me, that’s somebody.”
“Breaks my heart to think I can’t find his home,” Folco said.
She has spent time scouring online, trying to find any trace of his family. Her hope is to share his story more widely in hopes of reuniting him with his loved ones.
“I owe it to him and those I’ve lost to know he will make it to his home where he belongs. If someone found me, I would expect the same in return,” Folco said.
Some of the staff admit they were a little reluctant at first to welcome Rick in the same way Folco did.
Naomi Moir works at Value Village and said she embraced the idea.
“To be very honest, I was shocked. She explained to the team the story behind him and it was jaw-dropping. My heart was pounding out of my chest and I wanted to cry, it was such a feel-good moment,” Moir said.
Fellow employee Joe Bruce said it was a special addition.
“Rick represents human nature and just compassion. He just settled in here and has only been here for a couple of weeks. He’s been with Jen much longer but it’s like he is part of the family here now,” Bruce said.
“I hope his family is able to come forward and give him his forever home back because he shouldn’t be here with us he needs to be with his family,” Bruce said.
If they did return him to his family, Folco said it will be bittersweet.
“Oh, I’d bawl like a baby. Tears of joy. If we do find his family he will be whole,” Folco said.
“I will miss him dearly, but I will be good with it because I know he’ll be with his family.”
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