Memorial service remembers those who died whose bodies were unclaimed

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times

AZTEC — More than a dozen people have died in San Juan County this year and had no one come forward to claim their bodies. But that doesn’t mean that no one will gather to remember them.

Megan Cullip, a chaplain at Basin Health Companies, has a list of 14 names that she received from San Juan County to read during the second annual Memorial for the Unclaimed.

Last year, the memorial was done at the First Presbyterian Church of Farmington, where she served as a pastor. Since then, she has switched jobs and works for Basin Health Companies. Basin will stream the service on its Facebook page,, and YouTube channel,, at 7 p.m. Dec. 21.

Scott Michlin and Mick Hesse talk during the 2019 Memorial for the Unclaimed at the First Presbyterian Church in Farmington.

Cullip said the service will coincide with the winter solstice, which is the longest night of the year.

This year’s service will be slightly different than the one Cullip arranged last year. She said this year there will be a remembrance ceremony for the people lost to COVID-19, many of whom died in isolation away from their families.

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Cullip initially had the idea for the service when she saw people coming to the Presbyterian church for food, clothes or just a place to rest to get out of the weather. She said there are a lot of people in the community who have no one to turn to.

This year everyone has had to face some amount of isolation as the world tries to limit the spread of COVID-19. New Mexico has lost more than 1,800 residents to the virus.

“The feelings of grief and loss are a lot more pronounced this year,” Cullip said.

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She said the memorial could provide a release of emotions for the community and a time of reflection.

“This year (grief and loss is) just right in front of our faces and everyone’s feeling the drag of how long this pandemic has gone on,” she said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at

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