68-year-old Phil Hollenbeck was passing through San Francisco in his 1997 light blue Honda Civic on the way to the Oregon Coast from his home in Taos, New Mexico. In the trunk: The ashes of his late wife, held in two flowered boxes wrapped in shopping bags. She died of cancer in January, and her last wish was to have her remains scattered into the Pacific Ocean.
Also in the car were many of his wife's writings, including diaries and poetry. That's not all, either. Hollenbeck's only copies of 45 years worth of musical compositions, he plays and writes for a double-sided North Indian drum, were in the car along with the drum itself.
You know where this is going. The Chronicle reports that Hollenbeck's car, parked near the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Cabrillo Streets, was stolen. According to police the incident occurred on the 29th
“The car seemed OK on the street — it’s a nice neighborhood,” he said. “I thought I had been towed, and I called all the towing people in the city. Finally, I just went down to the police station.”
“There’s nothing of any great value to anyone else in that car, but these are my most priceless possessions,” Hollenbeck said. “All my work, all her work. My whole life was in that car.” Hollenbeck and some of his friends have posted to Craigslist in hopes that his car might be returned.
Such crimes are all too common. In the first two months of 2015, there were 959 car thefts, representing an 18 percent increase over the same period last year.
But there is a little justice in the world. Catching wind of the story while off-duty, a police officer later checked up on the status of the vehicle, running the plates to discover that the car hadn't been towed or impounded. According to Officer Albie Esparza, the officer returned to the scene of the theft and discovered that the car was actually quite nearby on the 300 block of 3rd Avenue. Though Hollenbeck's notebooks with all those prized writings along with the drum and the title to the vehicle were gone, his wife's ashes were there, right in the trunk where he'd left them.
Related: Car Burglaries And Thefts Are Way Up Over Last Year