HARWOOD, N.D. — The remains of Francis and Eileen Kaufmann were buried together Tuesday, Oct. 27, at Fargo National Cemetery in Harwood, N.D.

A frigid wind buffeted the two dozen or so people looking on.

The couple have no known next of kin, so the fact Tuesday's ceremony garnered much attention at all was due in large part to Alison Webster and Jacques Boucher.

Webster, who works at the VA Health Care System in Fargo, was working what is known as death detail when Francis Kaufmann died at the hospital in 2016.

In such situations, it is Webster's job to alert funeral homes when the hospital has a death and, in the case of Francis Kaufmann, she phoned Boucher, a funeral director at Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home in Fargo.

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Francis Kaufmann's apartment was cleaned out shortly after and in the process the cremated remains of his wife, Eileen, who died in 2001, were found in a closet.

The Red River Raiders carry the remains of Francis and Eileen Kaufmann for burial ceremonies on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at the Fargo National Cemetery in Harwood. David Samson / The Forum
The Red River Raiders carry the remains of Francis and Eileen Kaufmann for burial ceremonies on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at the Fargo National Cemetery in Harwood. David Samson / The Forum

No next of kin could be found to claim the couple's remains.

Boucher could have had the Kaufmanns buried in a local cemetery at the county's expense, but he knew that Francis Kaufmann had made a dying request: That he be laid to rest in a veterans' cemetery.

However, there was a rub; important military records tied to Kaufmann's service in the Marine Corps from 1946 to 1948 were destroyed in a fire decades ago, making it difficult to find a veterans' cemetery that would accept his remains.

As he worked to find a solution, Boucher kept the Kaufmanns' ashes in a drawer of his desk at the funeral home.

Recently, Boucher decided to check with the National Cemetery Administration, an agency that maintains national cemeteries across the country, to see if the Fargo National Cemetery, which opened about a year ago, might accept the remains.

The answer turned out to be yes and on Tuesday Francis and Eileen were laid to rest together.

The ceremony was conducted by the United Patriotic Bodies of the Fargo-Moorhead area, an organization comprised of members from all of the veterans' groups in the area.

The event was attended by approximately two dozen members of the public, many of whom wore hats and coats signifying ties to the military.

Tom Linnertz plays taps during ceremonies for Francis and Eileen Kaufmann on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at the Fargo National Cemetery in Harwood. David Samson / The Forum
Tom Linnertz plays taps during ceremonies for Francis and Eileen Kaufmann on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at the Fargo National Cemetery in Harwood. David Samson / The Forum

When the ceremony concluded, a flag and other mementos were presented to Webster.

Webster said Boucher phoned her several days ago and asked if she would attend, adding that being singled out for special attention surprised her.

Nonetheless, she said she was happy to be a part of saying goodbye to the Kaufmanns, though she knew neither of them.

Little is known in general about the couple.

According to Jason Hicks, commander of the United Patriotic Bodies, information that has been gathered includes this: Francis Kaufmann was born in Illinois in February 1928 and died in December 2016.

Hicks said what is known about Eileen Kaufmann is that she was born in February 1922 in Indiana and that she died in April 2001.

Boucher said it has also been determined that the couple married in Los Angeles in the 1950s, but other than that not much is known about them.

The husband and wife will share a burial plot at the cemetery, according to Boucher, who said it was touching to see the number of people who turned out for Tuesday's ceremony.

And after caring for the couple's remains for four years, Boucher said he was content with how it all turned out.

"It was nice to see things through after all this time," he said.