Emily Allain has a thing for old picture frames.
That’s why her fiance, Brian Barrieau, didn’t find it unusual when she came home from the Moncton Value Village with a $4 purchase a year ago.
But Allain felt that throwing out the black-and-white picture inside the wooden frame would have been disrespectful.
“She felt bad so we kept it,” said Barrieau in an interview on Monday.
And although having a perfect stranger in the house was a conversation starter for company, to them, it was just another antique.
That was until this past weekend, when Barrieau got a little overzealous pulling out the kitchen chair, causing the frame to fall.
“When it fell the frame busted open and the frame ended up being hollow,” he said.
Hidden inside the frame was a tiny bag full of ashes. But there was no indication whose ashes were hidden inside.
For both Allain and Barrieau, it was a little unsettling.
“We put it right back where we found it because what do you do with that information?” Barrieau said.
Allain had the bright idea of posting a picture of the frame and their strange story on Facebook.
She hoped to track down someone who may have recognized the frame, possibly donated by a loved one who never knew or forgot the ashes were hidden inside.
On Monday, that decision paid off.
The woman in the picture is Phyllis Clooney, originally from Montreal.
The Moncton resident passed away in the mid-’90s.
Clooney’s niece, Mindy Charlton of Summerside, PEI, spoke to Global News.
She said they were alerted to the frame after a family member saw the story online.
“I was floored,” said Charlton in a phone interview.
“I was like, what? And even to [find] out that there was ashes in the frame — we were all floored.”
The family believes the ashes may be Clooney’s baby, who died.
Charlton said her family plans to meet with Allain and Barrieau to pick up the family memento soon.
Allain said her heart is “so happy” after the turn of events.
“It was very clear that Phyllis was so well-loved, and her family was so shocked to hear that the photo had made its way to a thrift shop,” she told Global News.
“I’m very glad to be able to return a piece of precious history back to its rightful place.”
Until that happens, the photo and the ashes will remain where they’ve been over the past year — safe and sound, and no longer a mystery.