The sad but inspiring story about the life and death of John Shields

John Shields died earlier this year at 78. New York Times photo by Leslye Davis

The New York Times recently published a great story about the life and death of former B.C. union leader John Shields, who was tormented by an incurable disease.

It details how, with the help of his family, friends and his doctor, he choose to live and die. The NYT times story by Catherine Porter is here.

Shields was the former president for 14 years of the B.C. Government Employees’ Union, the biggest union in British Columbia, Canada.

Under his tenure, the union went from 20,000 members to about 58,000. He was also a former Catholic priest, social worker, civil rights activist and “the savior of a floundering land trust that included 7,191 acres of protected wilderness and historic properties,” the story said.

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Metro Vancouver woman furious after father’s body moved from Delta Hospital morgue by funeral home without family’s consent

Delta Hospital. photo credit: Fraser Health

Vancouver radio station CKNW recently brought another case to light of a local funeral home removing a body from the morgue of Delta Hospital without the family’s permission.

Sherry Smallwood told senior reporter Charmaine de Silva that she never hired Delta Funeral Home to take the body of her father, Tom Smallwood, who died June 16.

She says she just phoned the funeral home to check prices of funeral services and later got a call from the funeral home, saying “Oh we just want you to know that we’ve picked up your father from Delta Hospital from the morgue and he’s with us now.”

She’s was furious that the funeral home took her father’s body without the proper signed documentation.

Fraser Health Authority later admitted protocol wasn’t followed and apologized. The full story is online here.

Consumer Protection BC has laws and regulations concerning the operations of the funeral industry in B.C., including a law that a body cannot be removed from a morgue by a funeral home without a signed consent form.

To learn more about funeral and cremation consumer rights, go to



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You Could Pay Thousands Less For A Funeral Just By Crossing The Street, says NPR series

The NPR series detailed how Ellen Bethea, shown here at her home in Jacksonville, Fla., paid $7,000 for her husband’s cremation and funeral. She was unaware that the same company offered the same cremation services for much less.
Photo credit: Laura Heald for NPR

National Public Radio recently aired a two-part series on the U.S. funeral industry, finding that funeral homes often make things confusing for consumers by not listing prices for services online so people can shop around and compare prices.

This is despite the federal Funeral Rule, enacted in the U.S. in 1984, requiring funeral homes and related businesses to give consumers an itemized price list when they talk to them in person, and give them clear price information over the phone.

(It is also the law here in British Columbia — funeral providers must give customers prices for various services. For more info, go to or click here.)

“That culture of secrecy persists in what’s now known as the death care industry,” the NPR series concluded. “A kind of strategic ambiguity about prices is part of the business model.”

The series found a case where a person could pay thousands less just by crossing the street and paying for a cremation at another funeral home outlet.

One of those interviewed for the NPR investigation was Ellen Bethea, whose husband Archie died in November 2015. The couple had been married for almost 50 years. Beathea, when asked by the hospital what funeral home she wanted to use, knew of only one in town: Hardage-Giddens Funeral Home of Jacksonville. She knew it had a good reputation because some of her family and friends had used it.

After meeting with a funeral home staff member the next day, Bethea walked out with a bill of over $7,000, including $3,295 for Archie’s cremation. The NPR investigation found that the cremation price was more than twice the amount charged elsewhere in Jacksonville by the same company that owns Hardage-Giddens.

“The cremations are done in the same place and in the same way,” NPR reported, noting the funeral home Bethea chose was owned by Service Corporation International (SCI), based in Houston.

SCI claims 16 percent of the $19 billion North American death care market, which includes the U.S. and Canada. The company says it has 24,000 employees and is the largest owner of funeral homes and cemeteries in the world.

“In a months-long investigation into pricing and marketing in the funeral business, also known as the death care industry, NPR spoke with funeral directors, consumers and regulators,” NPR said.

“We collected price information from around the country and visited providers. We found a confusing, unhelpful system that seems designed to be impenetrable by average consumers, who must make costly decisions at a time of grief and financial stress.

“Funeral homes often aren’t forthcoming about how much things cost, or embed the information in elaborate package deals that can drive up the price of saying goodbye to loved ones.”

The first part of the NPR series in here and the second part is here.

The NPR series also provided this  Shopping Tips for Funerals:

As a consumer, you’re likely at a significant disadvantage, and it’s not just because of your emotions. Prices are seldom online and it’s hard to know what to ask. Based on NPR’s reporting and tips from Funeral Consumers Alliance and the Federal Trade Commission, here are ways you can help level the playing field:

  • Ask for prices of the specific items you want to buy. The federal government requires that 16 standardized goods and services appear on every funeral home’s general price list.
  • If a loved one is near death, start looking at options in advance, when you’re not under pressure to make a decision. Make calls to funeral homes or drop by and ask for a general price list.
  • If planning your own funeral, put your wishes in writing and discuss them with your family. Ask for itemized price quotes from the funeral homes you visit.
  • When visiting a funeral home, bring along someone trustworthy, who is not grieving.
  • Don’t disclose financial information about your inheritance or the size of your loved one’s insurance policy until you have settled on how much you will pay.
  • Know the boundaries of your relationship with a funeral director or salesperson. While they may be empathetic, their first responsibility is to their business’ success. Also, salespeople may be working on commission, so they may have an interest in your paying as much as possible.

NPR also provided these helpful links:


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Funeral director accused of embezzling ordered to repay $500,000

Baloney Funeral Home, right. Photo from the website of St. John The Baptist Parish.

Afuneral director in the New Orleans area, who was accused of embezzling more than $500,000, has been ordered by a judge to repay that amount to her brother — the owner of the funeral home.

According to a story published earlier this month in the New Orleans Advocate, Carmen Baloney, the funeral director, was ordered by a state district court to pay $500,000 to the Baloney Funeral Home of LaPlace.

“Carmen would take insurance checks to pay for funerals and cash them at a local grocery store,” Carl Baloney Sr., owner of the business, told the New Orleans Advocate. “The Baloney Funeral Home honored all of the pre-paid funerals where money was embezzled.”

After being confronted with evidence of her crime, Carmen Baloney signed an agreement to repay the money that she took from the company, but she did not make any payments. Her brother had to file a lawsuit against her to recover the money that she had promised to repay.

The owner said he didn’t press criminal charges because he didn’t want his sister to go to jail. It has been a very sad time for both him and his family, he said.

Carl Baloney pointed out that his sister not only stole from him, but also the customers.

The company’s website states: “Serving with honesty and integrity for nearly 60 years!”



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CBC Marketplace undercover hidden camera investigation of the funeral industry

Death isn’t what is expected in this CBC hidden camera investigation of the death industry:

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Cemetery owners face criminal charges — theft of customers’ money


Theodore “Ted” Martin Jr., 52.Photo source: Record-Courier, Ohio.


Arminda “Mindi” Martin, 42.Photo source: Record-Courier, Ohio.

A couple that owned a cemetery in Delaware, Ohio has been charged with dozens of counts of theft from customers, allegedly for taking money for grave markers and other services that were never provided.

Ted Martin and Myndi Martin were charged in a 54-count indictment last week, accused of taking money from at least 44 families and never delivering on their promises.

They owners of the financially troubled cemetery were previously investigated by tax authorities for failure to pay more than $120,000 in federal taxes.

According to ABC6 TV news, which began a year-long investigation after a complaint from an unhappy customer, the Martins pled guilty last year to income tax evasion for hiding income from the three cemeteries they owned.

“Myndi is currently serving her sentence. Ted is supposed to start his in August. They also face felony charges in Portage County and in York County, Pennsylvania,” the TV station reported last Friday.

The Martins owned the Fairview Memorial Park in Delaware, Ohio, Grandview Memorial Park in Ravenna, Ohio, and Suburban Memorial Gardens in Dover, Pennyslvania.

Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien told the ABC6 that the Martins victimized at least 44 families who pre-paid for grave markers, grave spaces and vaults which they never received.

“I can’t imagine anything worse than when a loved one dies, the loved one or those around them have taken the time to prepare for something like this and realize that you have to go through it all again and you have to come up with the money and you have to go through the picking out of all the casket and the grave marker and all of that again,” O’Brien told the TV station. “It’s just heinous.”

ABC6 reported that “during an exclusive interview earlier this month, Ted Martin blamed his troubles on the previous owner, whom Martin said had hid financial problems.” To take care of families, Martin admitted to “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” it reported.

The TV station began its investigation of the cemetery owners after a complaint from the family of Tom Murfield, who died two years ago. The Murfields had pre-paid for a permanent grave memorial decades ago but it was never delivered.

According to the Record-Courier newspaper in Ohio, a grand jury last year handed up a 24-count indictment against the couple in relation to  Grandview Memorial Park cemetery in Ravenna, Ohio.

The couple were charged in relation to that cemetery with “crimes related to the operation of the cemetery, including multiple counts of tampering with records; failure to establish a cemetery trust fund; failure to deposit sales proceeds into a cemetery trust; failure to appoint cemetery trustees; failure to file annual reports and affidavits and misdemeanor charges of failure to register a cemetery,” the Record-Courier reported.

The allegations against the Martins should remind customers to know where documents are located for pre-paid funeral services before a loved one dies so you can carry out their wishes without going through further grief and stress.

The funeral industry has billions of dollars worth of pre-paid funeral services, which are required by law to be kept in trust until the customer dies.

Also be aware of what services have been pre-paid for. Some funeral homes will try to “upsell” grieving customers into upgrading caskets and other services not originally contemplated.

U.S. funeral services consumers should go to the Funeral Consumers Alliance for more information.

Pre-paid funeral services are called “pre-need” services in British Columbia and are regulated under the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. The industry is also regulated under the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act.

Those laws are administered by staff working in the B.C. Consumer Protection Branch, which has a website informing cemetery and funeral service consumers of their rights:

The Consumer Protection Branch also has the power to impose fines against funeral service providers for violating regulations in B.C..

The branch recently imposed a $1,000 fine against a Chilliwack funeral service provider, McLean’s Funeral Services & Crematorium, and a compliance order that they abide by the law after finding McLean’s “provided funeral services without the written authorization from the person who, under section 5 of CIFSA [control of disposition of human remains or cremated remains] has the right to control the disposition of the human remains, contrary to section 8(1) of the CIFSA.”

That decision is online here.

Fischer’s Funeral Services & Crematorium Ltd., located in Salmon Arm, BC., was also recently fined $800 for violating consumer protection laws, and Arbor Memorial Inc. (doing business as Richmond Funeral Home Cremation & Reception Centre) was fined $500 for violating consumer protection laws.

Also, Squamish Funeral Chapel & Crematorium was recently fined $100 for violating consumer protection laws involving a pre-need contract and another $100 fine for “failing to include a space for the written acknowledgement by the consumer that the consumer had received the information required by section 35 to be disclosed, contrary to section 36 (1)(d) of the BPCP Act.”

This site is dedicated to the memory of our mother, Holly Haliburton, who died four years ago this month. We established this website after having a bad experience with a North Vancouver funeral home. You can read more here about what happened


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Another family sues B.C. funeral home, alleging mother cremated before memorial service


Kae Danylowich shortly before her death at age 90. The photo was taken during happier times at Kae’s lakefront home near Vernon, B.C.

Another B.C. family is suing a funeral home, alleging their 90-year-old mother was cremated against the family’s wishes before they could say goodbye at a memorial service and before an autopsy could be performed.

The civil lawsuit was filed last summer in B.C. Supreme Court by John Danylowich, and his sisters Jo-Ann Dabbs, Carolyn Clark and Lynda Chilton. Their lawsuit alleges Service Corporation International Canada, which operated the Pleasant Valley Funeral Home in Vernon, B.C., was negligent and contravened the Cremation, Internment and Funeral Services Act.

Below is the story in The Vancouver Sun last year, which details how things went horribly wrong for the family of Kae Danylowich:

“The family claims they were told by the funeral home that they could dress their mother, Kathleen (Kae) Danylowich, in her best clothes and keep her there as long as possible while an autopsy and toxicology report was done as part of a wrongful death suit they were considering against the Interior Health Authority.”

Although the family had planned to eventually cremate Kae, they said they were surprised it was done before the autopsy or even a service was held.

“The whole thing is so bizarre,” John Danylowich told The Vancouver Sun. “With no service, none of us got to see her. She was transferred to Armstrong in her pyjamas … a woman who took such good care of herself.”

The situation was exacerbated, the family added, when then-funeral home general manager Doug Sharpe allegedly passed Danylowich and Clark an envelope with a $300 cheque and promised them an “urn of their choice.” They refused and later rejected an offer of $600, according to the statement of facts filed in court.

“We were robbed of a proper goodbye and that our mom was not given the honour or dignity she deserved,” the court document stated.

The siblings say they have suffered anguish, sleeplessness and anxiety, and are seeking compensation and general and punitive damages, not only from the funeral home but from Interior Health and Dr. Allen Hignell, for what they allege was the wrongful death of their mother.

None of the allegations have yet to be proven in court.

In an email to Postmedia News, Service Corporation International said: “Out of respect for the privacy of the families we serve, we are unable to share any details regarding this situation.” Interior Health also declined to comment because it has not been served with notice of the lawsuit, said spokesman Karl Hardt.

Kae, a cancer sufferer with minor dementia, had been slated to spend a few weeks at Kelowna’s Cottonwoods Care Centre, run by Interior Health, while Danylowich, her main caregiver, was in the U.S. on a business and pleasure trip.

Danylowich gave strict instructions to staff: His mother must maintain her daily routine — including exercise on a stationary foot-pedal bike — and not change her medication without his consent. She was also not to take Aspirin or Tylenol because she was extremely sensitive to those drugs and would sleep all day. His sisters would check in constantly.

“My mom had been challenged with cancer but we had it under control,” Danylowich said. “She was doing fabulous, she was enjoying her life.”

The family claims they were assured their care plan would be met. But shortly after being admitted on June 29, 2014,  Kae’s health rapidly declined, the family alleges, and, two weeks later, she wouldn’t eat or drink and was barely responsive, spending most of her time in bed in a fetal position.

When Dabbs allegedly found out from a nurse that Kae had been given extra-strength Tylenol, the family immediately moved her to a private care facility in Lake Country, where she started to recover, the writ states.

However, Kae died on July 27, 2014.

“All of us knew our mom really well,” Danylowich said. “She didn’t even have an Aspirin or she would be out for the day.”

The suit against Interior Health and Hignell alleges everything from flagrant disregard of their mother’s care plan to egregious changes to medication without approval, drug overdosing, neglect and breach of trust. It also alleges Hignell showed reprehensible misconduct, breach of duty and failing to follow through regarding symptoms.

The family says they had to fight to get Kae’s medical records and allege that their mother, who weighed only 80 pounds, was prescribed 10 times the morphine she had initially been taking.

“Who really is watching the doctors with these people who are marginalized, the seniors?” Danylowich said. “There are no measures in place.”

His sisters say they suffer feelings of anguish and devastation, and don’t feel they’ve had a chance to properly mourn their mother. Danylowich said Kae had enjoyed living on the lake, where she would use her foot-pedal machine daily and reward herself with a rum and cola in the afternoon.

“Sometimes I think that’s lost in the big care picture, that this is a person who has a family,” he said.

(This website was created to boost consumer awareness about the funeral industry and to try to educate consumers when dealing with the death industry.)


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