Parents of Wheaton missionary in dispute over who should get her remains

  • Meghan Liddy, formerly of Wheaton, had been living and working in Africa for nearly five years and was planning to adopt sisters Priscilla, left, and Rhoda when she died of malaria. Now her parents are in a dispute over her cremated remains.

    Meghan Liddy, formerly of Wheaton, had been living and working in Africa for nearly five years and was planning to adopt sisters Priscilla, left, and Rhoda when she died of malaria. Now her parents are in a dispute over her cremated remains. Courtesy of the Liddy family

Updated 2/7/2019 6:16 AM

In the days after Meghan Liddy's Nov. 2 death from malaria she contracted in Ghana, her parents, David and Mary Ann Liddy, met with their son in a Warrenville restaurant to discuss what to do with Meghan's cremated remains.

According to a lawsuit filed in DuPage County, the divorced couple agreed Meghan's ashes would be split evenly between them and interred with each of them at the time of their deaths.


Now that agreement seems to have fallen apart.

The 25-year-old former Wheaton resident first visited Africa with a church mission to Uganda when she was 18. When she came home, she immediately began working to go back. Five years ago, the 2012 Wheaton Warrenville South High School graduate returned.

About a year later, she moved to Ghana, where she co-founded an organization that helps find funding for children to have medical procedures they otherwise would not be able to afford.

She also began fostering two young orphan sisters, 11-year-old Rhoda and 8-year-old Priscilla.

On Nov. 2, she succumbed to an intense malarial infection.

Now, three months later, questions have arisen about who should have her remains -- and there are no immediate answers in sight.

Half her remains are buried next to Mary Ann Liddy's mother in Omaha, Nebraska. The other half are in the Wheaton law office of David Libby's attorney.

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"It's a tragic situation all around because, by all accounts, Meghan was an extraordinary person," attorney John Pcolinski Jr. said. "There was no will or written direction from Meghan. If you think about it, what 25-year-old does have that?"

According to the lawsuit filed by David Liddy, Mary Ann Liddy violated the original agreement by making arrangements to have all of Meghan's remains sent to her sister Trisha Hume-Steele, also in Omaha, with the ultimate intention of eventually having them buried there with Mary Ann.

Mary Ann Liddy responded Wednesday calling the suit a "pathetic situation" and vowing to ignore the litigation.

"His daughter and him didn't have contact for the last eight to 10 years. And in the end, he's going to sue me for the ... ashes, half of which got left in Africa and there was only a quarter left anyway?" Mary Ann Liddy said Wednesday. "I've spent so much time ... in a courtroom post-divorce that the last thing I want is to hire a lawyer over something that would just be a long, drawn-out battle."

Within a week of David Liddy's filing suit to have half the remains returned to Wheaton, Hume-Steele, through her attorney, agreed to do so and sent a portion of the ashes to Pcolinski.


But Mary Ann Liddy has refused to sign the same agreed order, preventing Pcolinski from giving the ashes to David Liddy.

"We have not served the former Mrs. Liddy, and she has, despite having notice, indicated through her sister and her sister's counsel that she has in no way any intention to participate," Pcolinski said Wednesday.

Mary Ann Liddy confirmed that Wednesday.

"I haven't even opened the paperwork, nor will I. Honestly the whole thing just disgusts me," she said.

In the interim, the ashes sit in Pcolinski's office.

"Right now, I'm currently in possession of half of the cremated remains of Meghan, and I'm waiting for a court order that allows me to dispose of them. And I can't do that until I get the defendant served a summons and she defaults."

Pcolinski said the case could be closed immediately if Mary Ann Liddy signs the agreed order.

"It'll be a cold day in hell before I sign anything. He can do anything he wants to me, but they can all burn in hell," Liddy said.

"My daughter would be repulsed that this battle even went on."

Pcolinski said he ultimately will seek a judgment from DuPage County Judge Paul Fullerton.

"It's an unfortunate set of circumstances. Hopefully what will happen is we'll get Mrs. Liddy served and she'll continue to ignore it and it will be resolved," he said. "I'd like nothing more than to have it resolved amicably. And if I have to get her served to get that done, well, that's fine. If she was willing to sign an agreed order, the case would be closed."

Liddy says it's not what her daughter would have wanted.

"He has the ashes. What am I supposed to say? I'm never going to sign something that says this is OK," she said. "None of this is going to bring my daughter back."

Hume-Steele's attorney, DeAna Shaffer, was not immediately available Wednesday.

The case is next scheduled to be called at 9 a.m. March 4 in Courtroom 2005.

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