Matthew Archer peers in the rear of his Jeep several times a day, hoping whoever stole the box containing his wife’s ashes will return it.
“She was just such a special person to so many people,” Archer said of his wife, Patricia, whom he called Trish. “Whoever has her, I’m sure she’ll touch you with how special she was and hopefully that will help you bring her home.”
Trish died July 30 at the Corvallis home she shared with her husband and two sons. Less than a week later, on Aug. 5, Archer called police to report that her remains had been stolen from his Jeep.
Why had he left the remains in the vehicle?
“I didn’t want to bring her in with the boys,” he said. “I didn’t know what their reaction would be.”
Archer and his sons, 6 and 10, had a slumber party the night before to comfort one another. On Saturday morning, shortly after 10, Archer went outside to see Trish.
“I woke up to come out to say ‘Good morning, momma. Please give me the strength for today,’” he said.
That’s when Archer realized the box of ashes, which had been labeled with Trish’s name and the name of the funeral home where she had been cremated, was gone.
“Once you saw what it was it would be obvious,” Archer said.
But he doesn’t think it was a malicious act. A pair of his jeans and a baseball were also taken from the Jeep, which has a soft top. Archer said a disability keeps him from being able to fasten the cover, so he left it open.
Archer and the police immediately began looking for the box of remains. They searched every bush, on rooftops, in abandoned houses, he said. Archer continues to check the yard every day and neighbors come by to say they’re also looking.
On Tuesday, the family held a memorial service at the Willamette National Cemetery in Portland. An internment had also been set to take place.
“That was very hard,” Archer said. “We both have a plot together. If her remains aren’t buried, our plans for spending our eternity together, it’s just going to be me in our joint grave.”
Trish, who was 33, died unexpectedly at home, he said. An autopsy revealed no known cause of death. The family is awaiting the results of a toxicology report.
“She was the most warm, caring individual I’ve had the privilege to meet,” Archer said. “Just to have her as a part of my life was just the most incredible thing I’ve experienced.”
The couple met while serving in the Oregon Army National Guard, Archer said. Trish had served two tours to Iraq with the United States Marine Corps and Archer had served a tour to Afghanistan with the National Guard. Both transitioned to rear detachment support at home in Oregon following their deployments, at which time they met. They married six years ago and both medically retired out of the service about three years ago.
Trish experienced depression and anxiety, Archer said. He suffers from a psychiatric disorder that affects his motor functions. They were caregivers for one another, monitoring the other's medications and helping address challenges, he said. A caregiver from the American Legion in Albany has been assisting Archer since Trish died, he said.
Trish had been looking forward to the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, Archer said.
“She just really wanted to see the power of God,” he said.
Linn-Benton Community College, where Archer is taking classes, will fly Trish’s burial flag on the day of the eclipse, Archer said.