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WWII veteran's ashes go missing for three years

Posted: 10:27 PM, Nov 12, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-13 09:16:26Z

NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. –  Walter Lubinsky spent most of his life on the water. It’s where he felt at peace.

“He had probably about six or seven boats over the course of our lifetime,” said Holly McLeod, Walter’s daughter. “He was always going fishing.”

Holly sat in her home in Port St Lucie flipping through a photo album remembering the good times and her beloved father. He served in WWII, traveled the world and earned two Navy Crosses.

“He was in the Navy and he always wanted to be buried at sea,” she said.

Walter wanted to be cremated. He wanted his remains sent to the Naval base in Norfolk, Virginia, put on a destroyer and spread in the water. It would be his final resting place, a dying wish, before he passed away at 92 in November 2015.

“The funeral home was supposed to mail the ashes to Norfolk for me, so once he was cremated I never saw the ashes again,” Holly said.

Holly turned to Avatar Cremation Services in North Palm Beach. On Avatar’s website, it says, “We are experts at what we do and will care for your family member with respect and dignity,”

“I spent $924,” said Holly, as she opened her folder full of paperwork.

Holly still has the receipt from Avatar dated Dec. 9, 2015, but she says she never received confirmation her father’s ashes were delivered.

Holly says she’s been contacting Avatar trying to receive proof of delivery, but it never came. Months turned into nearly three years, and her frustration turned to guilt after a vivid dream about her father.

“I was walking along the beach and I walked up to him and I thought it was him and I said what are you doing here, and he just turned around really slow and looked at me and said, “Holly, I’ve been waiting here all this time,” she recalled.

Holly then contacted WPTV, and less than 24 hours after we called Avatar her father’s ashes appeared.

She was told they were found in a lockbox inside the crematory. WPTV was there as she picked them up the next morning as her arms clutched the clean white box, but she remains skeptical the ashes are really her father’s.

“I don’t want to keep thinking about them scooping up dirt in a box, because that’s what I have been thinking about lately,” Holly said.

WPTV went inside Avatar to press for answers, but a worker in the office would not answer our questions and escorted us out the door. The worker said to contact corporate.

Holly is now planning to fulfill her father’s dying wish, but she’s frustrated she was left in limbo for years.

“I feel like I just want them to know they can’t do this to people, it wasn’t right,” Holly said.

WPTV was in the office when Holly was told her father’s ashes were sent in the mail but returned to Avatar without any explanation given why. 

WPTV reached out to corporate, Stonemor Partners, multiple times but were told no comment. WPTV also contacted several labs to have the ashes tested, but experts said it would be nearly impossible to detect DNA and determine if they belonged to Walter.

Holly now plans to have the ashes sent to Norfolk, and have them spread at sea.