She couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. So she did both.
Katherine Goodman White wept openly late Tuesday morning as she caressed the gorgeous white marble urn now holding the cremated remains of her father, Benny Goodman, a Buffalo handyman who died in July 2010.
When Elmlawn Cemetery President Michael Austin presented White with the new urn Tuesday, replacing the old plastic box holding the cremains, it put an exclamation point on her two-year search for those remains. They were located in late January inside a burned-out Bailey Avenue funeral home scheduled for demolition.
Once her tears of joy turned into a huge smile and plenty of laughs, White explained what the gesture by Elmlawn Cemetery in the Town of Tonawanda meant to her.
“I feel my father’s soul is rested,” she said. “I feel he’s happy, and he’s proud of me. I’m keeping him with me. He’s not going anywhere.”
There also was good news Tuesday for the families – or the souls – of the other 30 people whose cremains were found Jan. 26 inside the charred rubble of the former United Memorial & Moss Funeral Home on Bailey Avenue.
None of the remains will be lost with the demolition of the burned-out funeral home.
Several days after The Buffalo News reported in January the recovery of the 31 boxes, representatives of the Erie Niagara Funeral Directors Association retrieved 28 of those boxes; the building’s owner took the other two.
“They currently are in safekeeping at a local cemetery,” Henry D. Gartner, the association’s counsel, said of the 28 boxes. “We are looking at alternatives for the proper disposition of those cremated remains.”
Representatives of the Funeral Directors Association say that it would be difficult to find the relatives of the 28 people, many of whom died up to 13 years ago. By state law, funeral directors are not required to hold on to remains for more than 120 days after cremation.
The association has contacted the Patriot Guard Riders group, which will try to determine whether any of the 28 people were military veterans. If so, those remains could be placed in an aboveground section of Bath National Cemetery in Steuben County.
No matter what happens, White and her boyfriend, Thomas Buono, are thrilled that when the former funeral home on Bailey Avenue is demolished, that won’t become the “cemetery” for the other cremated remains.
“That’s fantastic news,” Buono said of the funeral directors’ actions. “They took the initiative to make sure these cremains will be taken care of responsibly and respectfully.”
That was double good news for White, who received the urn after Buono called Austin at Elmlawn last week.
White planned to take the new urn home and place the approximately 7-by-8-by-12-inch vessel on a stand above her television set, next to a collage of her father’s photos.
“I couldn’t bear the idea of him being in the ground after such a long search,” she said.
“This is the last step of looking for him after a two-year journey.”
White then shared what she “asked” her father: “Daddy, are you satisfied now? Are you happy? Is your soul at rest?”
And what would he have said?
“ ‘Yes, yes. As long as I’m with you, baby.’ ”