Ashes to ashes: How a Moncton thrift store purchase brought a family heirloom home

Click to play video 'Antique frame contains hidden relic of the past' Antique frame contains hidden relic of the past
WATCH: A Moncton couple has discovered a mystery in their kitchen. They picked up an old picture frame at a thrift store about a year ago, but recently found something inside. Shelley Steeves reports. – Dec 16, 2019

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.

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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.

The antique frame containing a photo of Phyllis Clooney. Emily Allain/Facebook

And although having a perfect stranger in the house was a conversation starter for company, to them, it was just another antique.

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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.

READ MORE: Family heirlooms stolen from Abbotsford, B.C. home left vacant after death of owner

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.

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The woman in the picture is Phyllis Clooney, originally from Montreal.

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The Moncton resident passed away in the mid-’90s.

Clooney’s niece, Mindy Charlton of Summerside, PEI, spoke to Global News.

A bump of a chair revealed a hidden secret in the photo frame holding a picture of Phyllis Clooney. Emily Allain/Facebook

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.

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Charlton said her family plans to meet with Allain and Barrieau to pick up the family memento soon.

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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.”

“We’d like to scatter the ashes over [Clooney’s] grave… in Montreal,” said Charlton.

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.