The ashes were on an altar inside wooden urns, which in turn were inside a green backpack. The mourners left the Christ Episcopal Church for about 10 minutes on Saturday to prepare for the memorial service, when they returned, the remains of 74-year-old Marvin Hockabout and the backpack were gone.
"The motives for why someone would take an item like that are anybody's guess. Perhaps the thief didn't know what the contents of the backpack were. That is all speculation at this time," said Alameda Police Dept. Lt. Sean Lynch.
"My first reaction was horror as you might expect," said Christ Episcopal Church Rector Kathy Crary.
Crary has been on the job at the church for just three months. She said the family of Mr. Hockabout has been an inspiration.
"The comment from the widow is telling. She said he was not the man in the can, he was the man in our hearts and in the lives of those who had gathered. And I thought that was about as wonderful a statement as a widow could make in that situation," said Crary.
Police point out that the church is a hive of activity during the week. Today, the Alameda Food Bank used the facilities, there's also an outreach program and a Head Start school at the facilities. Detectives said many people are familiar with the layout.
Virginia Darrow is an Alameda Food Bank volunteer and a member of the Christ Episcopal Church congregation.
"The whole story just startled everyone in the congregation. To think that somebody would come in and take anything from a church is abhorrent to me," said Darrow.
Last Saturday afternoon the memorial service went on for Marvin Hockabout, even though the ashes of the guest of honor were nowhere to be found.