RAPID CITY, S.D. — Forty years after Lena Booth White Hat was slain in South Dakota, relatives in her native England now know what became of her remains.
Her ashes are in a small box inside a storage drawer at a Rapid City funeral home, along with the unclaimed ashes of about 15 others, the Rapid City Journal reported .
Booth White Hat’s niece, Sharon Papen, 56, recently learned the whereabouts of the ashes while researching her family history but said her family can’t afford to have them shipped.
“All I want is my aunt to come home to my mum, her last sibling, as she has been waiting a long time,” Papen told the newspaper in an email from England.
Lena Booth was born into a nomadic family of the Roma ethnic group in 1940. She married Theodore White Hat, an American from the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, who was serving at a U.S. Air Force base in England, in 1972.
Papen described her aunt as “beautiful inside and out” but a lost soul.
“Life was hard at times and I feel she wanted a new life in America — a fresh start,” Papen said.
Lena Booth White Hat was killed in South Dakota in 1977 by a different man, John Thomas Martin, at Martin’s home in the Rapid City suburb of Rapid Valley. Court records say Martin, who had been under psychiatric care, struck Lena with a rolling pin, drove a pickax into her skull and strangled her with a belt.
Martin was convicted of murder and is still serving a life term at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls.
Papen said police informed them of her death but gave them little additional information. She said authorities told them that decisions about the remains would be made by Lena’s husband, Theodore White Hat.
“We never heard any more and presumed she was buried or cremated,” Papen wrote.
Records kept by Behrens-Wilson Funeral Home indicate that White Hat authorized the cremation but never took possession of the ashes. He died in 1979.
The current owner of the funeral home, Wade Wilson, said sending her ashes to England would cost about $1,500 because commercial shippers won’t take them, but airlines will. He encouraged donations on Papen’s behalf via the funeral home so her relatives can bring her home.
“Unfortunately, she has no one there,” Papen said. “She belongs back here with her family.”
Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com