Niagara Falls Police Detective’s Ashes Remain in Stranger’s Hands

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Jan Dal Porto was sworn in in 1986 as a Niagara Falls Police Officer.



Eerie dispute centers on who will pay for ashes of the late Jan Dal Porto


By: Frank Parlato


Here is a strange story,

It centers around the ashes of the late Jan P. Dal Porto, a former detective for the Niagara Falls Police Department. She was sworn in in 1986 and retired some 20 year later. Her retirement did not last long. Jan died March 3, 2013. She was 55. The cause of death was cancer.

Following her death she was cremated.


Jan is survived by two adult children – Christopher M. Seel, Jr., and Miranda Dal Porto-Warmington – the latter is also a Niagara Falls Police officer.

Jan is also survived by her mother, Theresa M. Jones, her father, George W. LaRocque, and sisters: Lynn Cummings, Bridget “Shelly” Schroeder, Paula Alexander, Debbie Dyson, Sue LaRocque, and brother, George W. LaRocque III.

Jan also had a boyfriend – Michael Kurdziel – who her family thought was her husband – at the time she passed away.


The cremation for Jan was performed at Mount Cavalry Cemetery and arrangements for this and other services were made by Daniel Smolarek Funeral Home of Cheektowaga.  The memorial services were held at Czestochowa Roman Catholic Church on March 7, 2013.

The Niagara Falls Police Department sent an honor guard. People gave sympathy cards. There was a memorial breakfast. And Jan’s ashes were placed in an urn – a black sealed box – awaiting a family member to claim it.

And that was the quiet end of the life of Jan Dal Porto – or so most who attended the services thought. There only remained to pay the bill to the funeral home — $4,849.83.


The boyfriend – who, again, the family thought was Jan’s husband – Michael Kurdziel – paid $1,700 toward the bill. He claims Jan’s family agreed to pay the rest.  The ashes were kept at the funeral parlor pending the payment of the balance of $3,149.83

Four months later – on July 16 – the bill was not paid. Smolarek Funeral Home sent a demand letter to Michael demanding payment of the remaining balance.

A woman friend of Michael’s – a Roman Catholic woman – who barely knew Jan –Diane Stephens- heard there were collection efforts being made and the ashes were sitting unclaimed at the funeral home.


Diane Roberts poses with the urn holding the ashes of Jam Dal Porto -a former Niagara Falls Police Detective and a certificate authenticating that these are her remains. Diane paid for the ashes and is publicly asking Jan’s family to reimburse her. No one asked Diane to pay for the ashes -which otherwise would have remained at the Funeral parlor or disposed of in due course for lack of payment.



On July 18, 2013, Diane went there – and without consulting any of Jan’s family – paid the bill – – for a near stranger – charging the balance of $3,184 to her credit card.

Diane collected the urn containing the ashes and expected to collect the money from Jan’s family.

Diane later became Michael’s wife and later they divorced.


It is strange, no doubt, that Diane should pay – and it was natural to ask her – ‘Why did you pay for the ashes of a someone you barely knew?’

Diane told the Reporter: “When I found out that her cremated remains were still at the funeral home, I was shocked! I wanted to know why this happened, so I went to there. It just hit me the wrong way when I heard Jan’s remains would not be released until someone paid the rest of the bill. It was stupid, I know, but at the time I felt horrified. I pulled out my credit card to get her out of there and paid the bill, and got Jan’s remains out. I never heard of anyone leaving a loved one in a funeral home and not putting them to rest!”


After paying the bill, Diane contacted family members. She contacted Jan’s son, Christopher, repeatedly, and her daughter, Miranda. She called Jan’s mother, Teresa of Lewiston, several times. She spoke with her father, George, of Murrels Inlet SC. She reached at least one of her sisters, Bridget, in Lewiston.

Evidently none of them were prepared to pay.

The Reporter spoke to Jan’s son and daughter. Both knew Diane had the ashes. Both thought Michael – who they thought was their mother’s husband – should pay. When contacted by the Reporter several months ago, Jan’s sister, Lyn, did not seem to know the ashes remained unclaimed, but said she would look into it.

Diane suggested that family members each contribute – two parents, two children, six siblings – – 10 relatives – a payment of $318 and claim the ashes.

All the family members contacted by the Reporter said they did not think it was right that Diane was making this public.


Michael is the man the family thinks should pay – for, after all, he married Diane, and they once thought he was married to Jan.

Michael told the Reporter that he and Jan were never married. And he did not marry Diane until well after Jan died.

Michael explained: “The agreement I made with Jan’s family at the funeral home was I would pay a third. The family said they would pay the other two thirds. I told them Jan and I had a commitment ceremony. But it was not a legal marriage. Perhaps they think I got money, but Jan borrowed against her life insurance. She was having financial problems. She owed the IRS money. The house we lived in was my house. There was no estate. She left me no money. When she was sick, I took care of her and there were a lot out of pocket expenses that the health insurance did not cover. I did not have the capital to pay it. In fact I wound up filing bankruptcy and had to refinance my house.”

A judge did not agree that the family should be forced to pay for the ashes. Michael sued Miranda in Small Claims Court to try to get her to pay the rest of the bill. He lost. The judge ruled that Miranda did not have to pay. But he made no ruling on the disposition of the ashes.


Today, Diane holds the ashes of a woman who was almost a stranger. She keeps jan’s ashes in an urn in her spare room. For the past five years, Diane has been the caretaker of Jan’s ashes.

Over those years, Diane has called, emailed, and texted family members. Recently she started distributing a flier telling the entire tale – from her perspective.

This has led some to express shock that the family won’t pay for the ashes. Others have said Diane is “holding Jan hostage” and that she should turn the ashes over to the family and forget about payment.

Still others say, that Diane should keep quiet. If the family does not wish to pay, she should keep the matter private and keep the ashes.

Diane remains adamant: She refuses to relinquish the ashes until she is paid and refuses also to keep quiet.

Jan DalPorto was a Catholic and sent her children to Catholic schools. Her daughter went to Niagara Catholic High School. Her son went to St. Mary’s High School.


On April 26, 2014, The Most Reverend Douglas Crosby, OMI, the Bishop of Hamilton explained the Diocesan Policy regarding the disposition of cremated remains: “Church teaching makes clear the necessity of treating the cremated remains in the same manner as the deceased human body.”


The Catholic Burial Service reads: FORASMUCH as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear sister here departed, we therefore commit her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust ; in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change the body of our low estate that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.


What are ashes worth?  ‘For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

It is her memory that counts.

and there are some who will claim this story should not have been printed.

Yet what would you do – if a stranger had your loved one’s ashes?

Would you pay or let it go – knowing that it is not ashes but the blessed memory of the departed that counts?

Last Christmas, Jan’s family placed a memorial ad in the Niagara Gazette, with a picture of Jan. The caption read: “We will always love and miss you and wish that you were here. Love, Mom & Sisters”.


The still grieving family of Jam Dal Porto places this memorial notice in the Niagara Gazette last Christmas.

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