Hundreds of King County's 'homeless and destitute' laid to rest

Hundreds in our community die with no known relatives to say goodbye, but today King County attempted to right that wrong.

They died with no family or friends at their side, but on Wednesday, close to 100 total strangers made the statement that those lives mattered.

That was more important to Leah Mehus, than anyone.

Mehus came from Sacramento to Renton's Mount Olivet Cemetery after learning her father had died in the bathroom of a Seattle homeless shelter.

Mehus didn't see her father for the last 36 years of her life.

"I just never got to know my dad much," Mehus said. "He didn't want to have much to do with me."

It's a familiar story.

Mehus’ father, Edgar Lee Mehus, had fallen into homelessness and addiction. She followed him down that road. They spoke three times in nearly four decades, but Mehus never stopped loving her dad.

On Wednesday, he and 277 others with no family or friends to claim them were laid to rest.

Despite exhaustive searches by the King County Medical Examiner to find next of kin for all of the dead, Mehus was the only relative who showed up. Mehus’ father was completely estranged from his family. She said the only reason she knew about Edgar's death was because someone else happened to spot his obituary in a newspaper.

Mehus saved her money for two years for this opportunity to say goodbye.

"It's a gift from God," she said. "It's almost the only thing I could do to honor my dad."

Every few years King County lays to rest dozens, if not hundreds of homeless or indigent people who have no other means for a proper burial.

Mehus expressed her eternal gratitude.

"Every one of those souls has value," she said. "I believe we're all God's children and He loves every one of us."

Giving Mehus comfort was a coin her father left behind showing two years of sobriety.

Adding to that comfort was the hug of a complete stranger who sat by her side during the ceremony. The two wept together. As Mehus contemplated her father's final moments alone in that homeless shelter bathroom, she at least knew she was not alone in her sadness.

Copyright 2016 KING


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