TOLEDO, Ohio — Editor's note: Hanson told WTOL 11 Thursday the ashes have been returned. He said he's happy the people who took them did the right thing. His friend will be put to rest as planned.
Waterville resident Parker Hanson is asking for the return of his friend's ashes after he said they were stolen right out of his car Tuesday at the Glendale Garden Cafe in south Toledo.
Security footage at the restaurant showed someone passing by his car, which was obscured by another vehicle, pausing for a few minutes, walking to the bus stop and getting on a TARTA bus that drove away.
Hanson, who was left in charge of the ashes by his friend's family, said he reached out to TARTA and searched bus after bus. But so far, nothing has turned up.
The theft has left him devastated because he wasn't just supposed to keep the ashes safe, they were part of a final promise to a dying friend.
"Mike Niles was my best friend," Hanson said. "I knew Mike for 40 years. I'm in the classic car business and I can credit Mike with getting me into that business."
But four months ago, Niles called Hanson with heartbreaking news: he had stage five lung cancer.
Niles wanted to give all his possessions to Hanson. But in the weeks leading up to Niles' death, Hanson decided those possessions should instead go to Niles' son, who he hadn't seen since the boy was an infant.
Niles said he likely lived in Luddington, Michigan, a city north of Grand Rapids on the coast of Lake Michigan. But Niles had no way of knowing if he was still there.
Hanson, without the knowledge of Niles, reached out to the Luddington Sheriff's Office, who eventually got him in touch with the boy and his mother.
Hanson explained to the now 17-year-old that his father was dying. He wanted to reconnect before it was too late.
The two were eventually able to meet in Willard, Ohio, about 5-and-a-half hours away from Luddington.
"I have a picture from that meeting, and a lot of tears," Hanson said.
Niles passed on Jan. 15, but he made Hanson promise to take his son out to a pier on lake Michigan where he grew up, take him fishing and spread his ashes into the water.
Hanson took the promise very seriously and picked up the ashes on Tuesday. But after lunch at the Glendale Garden Cafe to discuss crime prevention with former mayors, he was met with a shock when he returned to his car.
"The box was gone," Hanson said.
Despite the box clearly being labeled cremated remains, security camera footage from the restaurant seemingly showed someone taking the ashes out of Hanson's vehicle.
Now, Hanson said he's received an anonymous text asking for $300 dollars for the ashes. And while he's not certain if it's the actual thief, he said he will do almost anything to fulfill his promise to his friend.
"We need that for Mike so he can be laid to rest the proper way," Hanson said.
Hanson asks that anyone with information on the ashes call or text him at 419-654-3323. He said there will be no hard feelings and no questions asked.