Widow of Minn. Ebola Victim Trying to Bring his Ashes Home

Updated: 08/07/2014 7:37 AM
Created: 08/06/2014 3:54 PM
By: Josh Rosenthal

Patrick Sawyer will never return home, but his widow hopes his ashes will.

"I'm hopeful that I'm going to get them," Decontee Sawyer said Wednesday. It's been nearly two weeks since Patrick, a Minnesotan of Liberian descent with a wife and three young daughters in Coon Rapids, succumbed to Ebola in Nigeria.

For Decontee, that's two weeks full of grief. Also, it's two full weeks of phone calls to the Liberian government, who Patrick worked for, and more recently to the U.S. government.

"I would be able to, to feel like, at peace," she said.

Decontee thinks she's a little closer to getting her husband's ashes back than she was just a few days ago. Minnesota Sen. Al Franken is now involved in the process. He sent 5 EYEWITNESS News a statement saying, "My heart goes out to Decontee and her children. This is a tragic loss not just for the Sawyer family, but for Minnesota's Liberian community. We need to get Patrick's remains home to his family, and I've directed my staff to work with Mrs. Sawyer to get this resolved as quickly as possible."

That isn't Decontee's only hurdle, though. As much support as she's gotten on social media, she's also encountered a lot of fear.

"Just afraid of getting Ebola here, which I get," she explained. "I'm afraid of getting Ebola here, but the truth is, it's not going to come with Patrick's remains."

The World Health Organization backs that up. They told 5 EYEWITNESS News "there is no risk," saying the Ebola virus can only survive in blood, not ashes.

Also, more importantly than anything else, Decontee says her search for Patrick's ashes isn't about her, and it's not even about Patrick: it's about their three young daughters.

"Liberia had him in life so, you know, let them have him in death," she said.

Decontee is especially hopeful that she'll get Patrick's ashes by Sept. 27. That's when there's a memorial as well as an awareness and fundraising campaign being held in Coon Rapids in Patrick's honor.

Minneapolis/St. Paul

85° | 64°
  • Feels like: 72° F
  • Wind: W 7mph
  • Humidity: 64%