The Case Of The Mystery Urn

Heather Faustin prepares the urn | Ron Mizutani photo

Heather Faustin sat quietly, holding a flower-laced urn close to her heart, as boat captain Earl Omoto carefully maneuvered his 19-foot vessel into place. A light trade wind was blowing off Oahu while gentle waves rolled past Koko Head toward Diamond Head.

It was quiet and peaceful. The morning sun was shining bright on the blue Pacific Ocean. It was the perfect way to say aloha to a friend.

The journey to this point started more than six months ago for Faustin. It was during a morning walk in January, when the popular local surfer and model found an urn floating near the shoreline at Diamond Head.

Faustin never questioned why she was the person who found the cremated remains. In her heart, she knew it was her responsibility to correct something that went wrong.

For the next six months, Faustin searched to find anyone who knew the person whose name was on the plastic urn: Betty Rhea Hilton Hauptman from Marina Del Ray, California. Who was this woman? And how did the urn get to Hawaii?

There were very few clues. Faustin found the urn four day after Hauptman was cremated in California. She later learned that the urn was released to the woman’s power of attorney. Sadly, Hauptman had no family in the United States. She was a travel agent in northern California who loved Hawaii. Her wish was to be buried at sea in Hawaiian waters.

Faustin says the power of attorney told her that the woman’s family in Israel was devastated and embarrassed. They thanked her for “going the extra mile to find her family.”

“He (power of attorney) said that he had arranged for the urn to come here and a catamaran went out to sea and it was supposed to be a dropped out at sea,” says Faustin. “He didn’t go into detail who they were, if they were family members, but he said that there were witnesses that it happened. He did mention, though, that they did arrange for it to be a biodegradable box.” But the urn Faustin found was plastic. She eventually received authority from the family to bury Hauptman at sea, as she had wished. Although she had never met Hauptman, Faustin felt a definite connection to the woman, a connection that went so far beyond that she had cared for her remains in her home for more than six months.

“One thing that I took away from this is you have to cherish the people who are in your life,” says Faustin. “We’re called to be kind, and we’re called to love above all.”

On July 27, Betty Rhea Hilton Hauptman was laid to rest in the waters off Maunalua Bay in Hawaii Kai. Kapolei resident Patrick Souza donated a biodegradable urn because he said, “It was the right thing to do.”

Omoto, the longtime harbormaster at Heeia Kea Harbor, who was touched by Faustin’s story and heart, volunteered to take Hauptman’s remains out to sea.

“I felt a definite connection,” says Omoto. “She deserved to be buried with dignity. It’s the least I could do.”

Faustin reached down and gently laid the urn onto the ocean’s surface and said good-bye to her friend.

“Aloha, sister!” shouted Omoto. And in less than a minute, the urn disappeared. All that was left were

flowers that scattered in the rolling surf. Omoto moved his boat forward. “One last circle,” he said. “The circle of life.”

After one final good-bye, the escort boat headed back to shore.

Faustin’s long journey was now over. She was at peace with the way it ended and sensed Hauptman was as well. A woman she had never met, yet it is someone who will always have a special place in Faustin’s heart; both women, forever connected by the ocean.