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Remains return home, thanks to Anaheim police

Spend enough time around the Anaheim Police Department, and you’ll hear plenty of inspiring tales of heroism.

For example, in December, on his second-to-last shift before retiring, Sgt. Tom Mathisen saved the life of a drowning baby. It was a remarkable last chapter to a distinguished 40-year career.

But it’s not just police officers who go above and beyond the call of duty to serve the public.

Nicole Rapp spends much of her time booking property and other evidence into the department’s warehouse.

Not too long ago, she ran across an unusual item – an urn filled with the cremated remains of a woman. The protocol? Dispose of them.

That didn’t feel right – so Rapp played detective.

The urn arrived at the police department following the death of Anaheim resident Robert Harshbarger, who didn’t have any survivors.

Rapp found paperwork that said the remains belonged to Dorene Hollinger, his former girlfriend. She had died in 2009. Sorting through the paperwork, she saw that Hollinger had a brother in Joplin, Mo. She reached out to the Joplin police department, which dispatched an officer to the brother’s house.

A week later, Rapp’s phone rang. The brother, Leo Winchester, 93, said his sister always wanted to be buried in Missouri. Rapp arranged to have the urn sent to Missouri.

A few months later, Rapp received a package from Missouri. It included photos of Hollinger, her final resting place and a note of appreciation, which rests on Rapp’s desk.

“It reminds me of the difference one person can make,” she said. “And why I love my job.”

Rapp isn’t the only employee to receive a letter of appreciation recently. Police Chief John Welter shared with employees a letter from a 14-year Anaheim resident, thanking him for the work his employees do.

“When I see your presence in front of Canyon High School in the mornings, I smile, knowing that you are keeping our kids safe. When I see you slowly driving along a local neighborhood street, I feel protected. When you whiz past me – sirens blaring – I know that you are rushing to the aid of someone who desperately needs it. … Thank you for contributing so much to our community and most of all, for providing us all with a safe, secure environment.”

Visit the story on OCRegister.com.

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