SALISBURY — Coping with the death of her husband of 15 years last year hasn't been easy for Forest Road resident Linn Haddad.
But three young thieves recently added insult to injury when they stole her purse, which held a vial of his ashes she always keeps with her.
"I still have the urn with all his ashes at home," Haddad said yesterday. "It's the fact that a part of him could be lying in a ditch somewhere. And these people stole the ashes on our wedding anniversary."
Haddad was shopping Monday night at Walmart in Seabrook and had her purse in the shopping carriage with the rest of her purchases in the parking lot of the store when the thieves struck.
"I was putting the bags in my car, and one of the bags broke, so as I was picking things up, I was distracted," Haddad said. "That's when they walked by and snatched my bag right out of the carriage, I guess. I was right there."
When she realized her bag was missing, Haddad shot over to the Seabrook police station to report the theft and spoke with officer Keith Dietenhofer.
"The Seabrook police have been wonderful so far," she said.
But an understanding and responsive police officer doesn't take the hurt out of the loss. It isn't her money, cell phone, purse or wallet that has Haddad so upset she can't sleep. It's the loss of her beloved husband's ashes.
The pain of his death is still so fresh that tears are in her voice and never far away when she speaks of it. The couple — originally from Beverly and Lowell — moved to Salisbury less than two years ago.
"We bought the land on Forest Road, and then my husband (Robert "Wayne" Cooper) was diagnosed with cancer," Haddad said. "But he wanted to go ahead and build our house."
He died in June 2009 at age 65.
Haddad went back to Seabrook on Tuesday morning, dropped by the police station, then went over to Walmart to look around and see if the thieves had tossed away the pocketbook, perhaps with the small, silver vial of ashes still in it.
Seabrook officer Chet Felch went with Haddad to Walmart and was able to get a copy of the surveillance video from the store. It didn't take long to spot the threesome who stole Haddad's purse, she said.
"The officer said it isn't often they get such good color pictures in cases like this," Haddad said. "You can see the three young people, two guys and a girl. They were walking around the store for just a little while, then they left without buying anything. They walked by my carriage, grabbed the purse, got in their car — it was parked close to mine — and drove off."
According to Seabrook police, the surveillance tape has been sent out for enhancement, and the case is under investigation.
In the meantime, Haddad is hoping for the public's help in trying to locate her purse. The bag is a brown, backpack-type pocketbook, with a flap that folds over the top, and backpack type straps. It might have her distinctive faux green alligator leather wallet in it. The vial of ashes is about half an inch in diameter, an inch and a half long, with a small glass bottle inside holding the ashes.
"I hope no one thinks it's cocaine," Haddad said. "The ashes are gray."
Haddad is urging anyone with information to contact Seabrook police at 603-474-5200.
In the meantime, she's trying to get over the shock and think good thoughts. But it hasn't been easy.
"I guess there are just mean, mean people out there," she said.