Cremains - a resting place for Elizabeth

After finding the cremains of Elizabeth L. Schultz in a shed on his new purchased property east of Snowflake, James Lang learned that the cremains left behind legally belonged to him. He reached out to the Independent in hopes of reuniting the cremains with family. after our Aug. 23 story, we now have most of the rest of the story, and the cremains have a home.

SNOWFLAKE – If nothing stopped the U.S. mail – rain, sleet, snow or hail or anything else – the cremains of Elizabeth L. Schultz should have reached her grandson in Idaho on Tuesday, Oct. 15, re-uniting her with family, after a nearly two-month circuitous search.

Shed on Lang property

The shed on Lang’s property remained padlocked for some time after he moved there. He didn’t discover the secret inside right away.

James Lang from the Chicago area bought a property east of Snowflake and there was only one structure on the property, a shed, and it was padlocked. He lived on the property in a trailer for a time before purchasing a manufactured home. When his new home arrived, conversation regarding the shed caused the delivery person to cut the padlock for Lang. One of the things he found inside was a propane refrigerator. Upon opening it he found a weathered cardboard box with a label which read, “Ocean View Cemetery, Sunset Park, Eureka, California, No. C-19586-C, Cremains of Elizabeth L. Schultz; Born March 27, 1914; Died February 26, 1981; Service, February 27, 1981.”

After contacting the Navajo County Sheriff’s office and learning that the cremains left on the property were now his personal property, Lang contacted the Independent since he was not familiar with surnames in the area. He said he had checked with the realtor who sold him the property and was told the previous owner did not know about the cremains.

Lang was hopeful that a story would help Elizabeth Schultz go home – wherever that was. Snowflake is a long way from Eureka, California, but those cremains got to Snowflake somehow.

Prior to the publication of the August 23 article (“What to do with what remains,”) by the Independent, contact was made with the former owner of the property who wished to remain nameless. It was learned that her husband, who is now deceased, had rented the property to a friend he was helping out from California. The friend was her husband’s acquaintance, not a close friend of hers, though she knew some information about him. Circumstances relating to where the friend had gone when he left the property are unclear, but he had left things in disarray, and left behind the box of cremains.

A threatening message scrawled on the door of the shed may have led to his hasty departure. It read “If I find you, I will kill you.”

Cremains threat

A message scrawled on the wall of the shed on the property east of Snowflake purchased by James Lang. Inside an old refrigerator in the shed was a box containing the cremains of Elizabeth Schultz.

It turns out that when the property was cleaned up they had found the cremains and placed them in the freezer portion of the propane refrigerator for safe keeping, padlocked it, and forgot about them. The previous owner does not live in the area, but in the Valley. She actually had a key to the shed, unbeknownst to the realtor who sold the property, or to Lang. It appears that issue was never addressed before the real estate closing since Lang bought the property sight unseen – except on Google earth. It was also learned through the previous owner that the renter is now deceased but has a son. The former owner said she would try to locate the man’s son, who would be Elizabeth Schultz’s grandson, acknowledging that the cremains were actually those of the renter’s wife.

Offers to assist Lang with a proper disposition of the cremains came in after the publication of the Aug. 23 article.

Some comfort was immediately afforded Lang when Tim Livingston, owner of Owens-Livingston Mortuary, offered to inter the cremains free of charge in the Show Low Cemetery.

A pilot reached out after reading the story of the cremains saying, “I will be happy to scatter Mrs. Schultz’s ashes over the Mogollon Rim in a few weeks.” He added that he would be scattering the ashes of another person at that time and there would be no charge for the service.

Next, a private detective reached out to offer his services to try and help locate a relative and get the cremains to their rightful place.

Still, there was hope that the former owner might locate the grandson or that someone would come forward with information that would re-unite Elizabeth Schultz with her family.

At the eleventh hour, just as Lang had made the decision to accept Livingston’s offer and deliver Elizabeth Schultz’s cremains to Owens-Livingston Mortuary, the previous property owner informed Lang that she had located Schultz’s grandson through a man who had bought a business the grandson had owned. The grandson did not want his name revealed nor his address. She told Lang she would send the cremains to the grandson, but Lang wanted to send them himself.

The man who bought the grandson’s business said the cremains could be sent to him and he would deliver them to the grandson whom he sees regularly. Though, not necessarily Lang’s ideal, he decided it was time for Elizabeth to be reunited with family.

We may never know what happened as to why the renter left the property and did not take the things he left with him, especially the cremains. But it is hoped that upon receiving the cremains of his grandmother that the grandson will feel the sense of relief that James Lang feels in having done everything he could to see that the cremains of Elizabeth Schultz’s found their rightful place.

Questions you may have about cremation can be answered at or through your local funeral director.

Reach the reporter at

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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