Another family suffers ordeal of funeral home taking a body without permission

LargeFuneralWhat prompted our family to start this website was  an incident involving our 95-year-old mother, Holly Haliburton, and a North Vancouver funeral home after her death, which caused us great anguish and greatly prolonged our grieving. You can read the full story about what happened here.

The essence of the incident was that our mother’s body was taken without our verbal permission (written permission is required under B.C. regulations) from the morgue at St. Paul’s Hospital.

The North Vancouver funeral home, owned by the Texas-based Service Corp. International (SCI has faced more than one class-action lawsuit in the U.S.), later explained it was an honest mistake made by a junior employee. However, we filed complaints with Consumer Protection BC over the incident, which still upsets us to this day.

We recently learned that a family in eastern Canada suffered the same ordeal by yet another SCI-owned funeral home. The Ontario family, which doesn’t want their names used, contacted us and recalled almost an identical incident to our own: After contacting a funeral home to inquire about prices, the funeral home took their loved one’s body without permission.

Here is their story:

During the month of May of this year, my Grandfather was terminally ill. Aware that actions would be required after his death, some of the family members made inquiries to local funeral homes in order to get an idea of the services offered and the proposed prices. And so, my uncle (the son of the deceased) and his wife called the [name of funeral home deleted by request of the family]. While discussing the possible prices and services, the funeral home collected the name of my grandfather, his date of birth and the hospital at which he was expected to pass away.

 At that point, my uncle did not make any commitment with the funeral home. He had called in order to gather information for my aunt (the oldest daughter).

In the meantime, me and my wife had contacted  [a cremation services company] and gathered information from there as well.

Finally, my grandfather passed away late in the evening. He was 86. The family gathered around him, mourned together, and then went back home.

The following morning, we shared a breakfast and, as a family, agreed to go along with [the cremation service company] in order to take care of my grandfather’s remains.

However, what we did not know, is that while we were having breakfast, at 10:45 a.m., [the funeral home] sent a subcontractor to pick up our grandfather and to bring his remains into one of their transition centres….What apparently happened is that when my uncle called, a small data form was filled in with the little information they were provided and they kept the information to ease the process, should my uncle confirm that the family was indeed going to use their services.

However, this form made its way to a secretary with little experience and got confirmation from the hospital that my grandfather had indeed passed away and that he was ready for pick up at the hospital morgue. She then called a sub-contractor group that are typically used to help in urgent situations and asked them to pick my grandfather up, which they did.

 While my grandfather was already in [the funeral home’s] facilities, we called [the cremation company] and asked them to take care of our grandfather. They gladly offered their assistance, however, insisted that we diligently complete all the forms and papers before they would retrieve my grandfather’s remains from the hospital. Due to grief and distance, we could not process these papers until late afternoon of the following day. Once they they had the papers, [the cremation company] went to the hospital to pick up my grandfather around 5 p.m. It was finally at that time that we had confirmation that [the cremation company] had not picked up my grandfather as he had already been picked up by [the funeral home]!

We were outraged and surprised. The lady from [the cremation company] then followed up with the situation until we could finally pick up my grandfather’s remains at [the funeral home’s] downtown center and confide him to the care of our intended funeral home.

We then met with the funeral director responsible for the  funeral home and he explained how the error had occurred. This meeting lasted about an hour…and has been recorded.

 My family did request that I take this case further, and I will contact lawyers…in order to follow up with what has happened.

Many SCI funeral homes operate under the name Dignity Memorial. The company  is buying up many of the family-owned funeral homes in Canada, resulting in some B.C.  towns where consumers may think that the funeral homes have different owners, but in reality they all are owned by SCI.

Dignity_Memorial_New

The logo of Dignity Memorial, operated by Texas-based Service Corp. International

SCI.funeral.homes.mapThis map is from a website operated by Service Corp. International (Canada) ULC, which states: The Dignity Memorial® network of more than 1,800 licensed providers is North America’s largest and most trusted brand for your funeral, cremation or cemetery needs. Whether your need is now or you are making end-of-life final arrangements in advance, you can count on your Dignity Memorial provider for professionalism, quality and service excellence.

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Consumer Protection BC suspends licence of Vancouver Island crematorium

Consumer Protection BC has upheld a September 2012 decision to suspend the licence of Cowichan Valley Crematorium Ltd., effective on April 15, 2014, and the business was ordered to stop providing services by that date.

Consumer Protection BC initially suspended the licence of the crematorium in September 2012 as the operator did not provide the documentation needed to meet the requirements for a commercial crematorium licence, as defined in the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Regulation.

The business had requested and was granted a reconsideration of the decision, as was their right. The licence suspension was stayed and the business was allowed to continue providing services, pending the outcome of a court case between the crematorium and the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

The judge found that while the crematorium was allowed to operate for many years, it was not allowed under zoning regulations.

“Once the court made its ruling, we were able to start our reconsideration process,” Tayt Winnitoy, Vice President of Consumer Protection BC operations, said in a news release. “As we have still not been supplied with the necessary documentation, the business must cease providing cremation services.”

A backgrounder on cremation services in BC, as well as other tips, information and a list of licensed BC cremation and funeral services providers, can be found on Consumer Protection BC’s online site: www.funeralrightsbc.ca. All recent Consumer Protection BC enforcement actions are also online hereL www.consumerprotectionbc.ca.

Source: Consumer Protection BC

About Consumer Protection BC:
Consumer Protection BC is a not-for-profit corporation whose aim is to provide consumer confidence in the marketplace. CPBC enforces consumer protection laws and licenses and inspectes specific industries, including the funeral industry. It also responds to consumer complaints, investigates alleged violations of consumer protection laws and educates consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities. You can follow Consumer Protection BC on Twitter @ConsumerProBC, and read its blog for tips and resources.

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CBC Radio series airs tonight, examines modern death industry

Jennie.morrow.Halifax.Herald.Chronicle

Jeannie Morrow of Nova Scotia shown with a photo of her mother, Viola White. Jeannie was interviewed for the CBC Radio series Death Becomes Us, which airs on the Ideas program. Part 2 airs May 7. Photo by the Halifax Herald Chronicle

CBC Radio’s program Ideas airs a two-part series beginning today (Wednesday April 30) that examines how death has evolved into the industry it is today.

The series, Death Becomes Us, includes an interview with Nova Scotia resident Jennie Morrow, who had a bad experience with a funeral home after the death of her mother. Click here to read our earlier post, detailing what Morrow went through.

The series airs at 9 p.m. tonight (check local broadcast times across Canada here). You can also listen online any time by clicking here: http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/2014/04/30/death-becomes-us-part-1/

Part 2 is here: http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/2014/05/07/death-become-us-part-2/

Wednesday, April 30: DEATH BECOMES US, Part 1

Death is called the greatest of equalizers —  the greatest of mysteries. At one time we tended to our dead with home funerals and mourning rituals. Over the last century we pushed death further from our collective mind by outsourcing our dead to mortuary professionals. In recent years, there’s been a rise of death cafes, death doulas who help families tend to their dead, and the beginnings of a green funeral movement. IDEAS producer Mary O’Connell explores this growing trend.

Part 2 airs Wednesday, May 7.

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Holly Haliburton in 1946, when she was 29

This site is dedicated to the memory of our mother, Holly Haliburton.

 

 

 

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Funeral consumers have the right to ask for a price list

English.gravestone2Consumers have the right to ask for a price list from a funeral home. If the funeral home doesn’t provide one when requested, they are in violation of regulations of the B.C. Consumer Protection Branch. If a funeral home fails to comply with those regulations, the consumer also has the right to file a formal complaint with Consumer Protection B.C.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission reported last month that one in four funeral homes fail to comply with the FTC’s funeral regulation that allows consumers to pick and choose the funeral services a la carte. The rule was passed in 1984 to help empower consumers during their time of grief, and to reduce the possibility of funeral homes taking advantage of the situation by pressuring consumers to purchase more services than they want or need.

A recent story in MarketWatch (click here to read it) listed nine U.S. federal funeral rules that every U.S. funeral consumer should know before visiting a funeral home, including getting an itemized bill before the funeral takes place, so there are no surprises.

Four Milwaukee funeral homes, for example, recently agreed to make voluntary payments to the U.S. government in order to avoid lawsuits and thousands of dollars in potential penalties after they were caught in an undercover investigation by the FTC last year for failing to provide consumers with an itemized general price list.

Funeral homes that commit price list disclosure violations face a lawsuit by the FTC and penalties of up to $16,000 per violation.

To avoid such lawsuits, the Milwaukee funeral homes agreed to enter a three-year training program called the Federal Rule Offenders Program, which is run by the National
Funeral Directors Association.

The FTC said it inspected 124 funeral homes in eight states last year and found 32 failed to disclose pricing information to consumers as required.

“Funeral services providers operating in B.C. are required by law to display a current price list of all the offered services and products,” says Consumers Protection BC. “This list must be accessible by the public and a copy must be provided to any consumer who asks for it.”

Funeral service providers also must advise you of your right to cancel a funeral contract; those consumer rights can be found by clicking here or going to www.funeralrightsbc.ca

Two years ago, Ralph Zentner, who co-owns the Cornerstone Funeral Home in Lethbridge, Alberta with his wife Faith, pleaded guilty to one count of fraud for overcharging about 50 clients for caskets and containers for cremation services.

Originally Zentner and his wife faced a total of nine charges, including committing an indignity to a body for allegedly cutting the finger off a body to remove a ring, but the other charges were dropped after Ralph Zentner pleaded guilty to one count of fraud; all charges against his wife were dropped.

The trial judge gave Zentner a conditional discharge and ordered community service.

Zentner admitted that between 2000 and 2010, some clients were charged for expensive caskets when cheaper ones were used, and on five occasions he received $50 to scatter ashes without doing so, according to a story by the Calgary Sun.

The newspaper reported that an appeal court was later highly critical of the trial judge’s ruling to impose a discharge, finding the judge erred. The appeal court imposed a $5,000 fine, in addition to the $5,000 charitable donation Zentner made as a condition of the trial judge’s discharge.

After Zentner pleaded guilty to criminal fraud, the Alberta Funeral Services Regulatory Board suspended the funeral director’s licence for 24 months. He was not able to re-apply until March of 2014.

The website of Cornerstone Funeral Home says: “Ralph looks forward to each and every day of work in the funeral industry and his tireless commitment to the families he serves [is] his ‘calling’ in life.”

In 2011, another Alberta funeral home market director was sentenced to 18 months in jail for defrauding a Calgary funeral provider of almost $200,000.

According to the court judgment, Gordon Corneilius Allert, then 52, pocketed the cash from Service Corp. International Canada, a division of SCI of Houston, Texas, which owns and operates funeral homes and crematoriums across North America, including many in the Vancouver area.

SCI began an investigation when it noticed an invoice for a repair to an elevator that didn’t exist. After he was caught, Allert repaid SCI Canada $66,500 and the trial judge ordered the remainder to be repaid.

Allert used $34,117 of the money to restore a vintage car: a 1965 Triumph TR4A. A psychological report explaind Allert’s spending spree as a “passive-aggressive…self-medicating” response to angry conflicts he had with his wife of 32 years.

Before moving to Alberta, Allert had worked for SCI in B.C. from 1984 to 2004. He is a graduate of Trinity Western University.

This site is dedicated to the memory of our mother, Holly Haliburton, who died last year in Vancouver, Canada.

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SCI settles L.A. class-action lawsuit for an estimated $80 million

Eden.Memorial.Park.photo

A class-action lawsuit against Texas-based Service Corporation International has been settled for an estimated $80 million, ending a jury trial in Los Angeles that alleged the Eden Memorial Park cemetery had disturbed hundreds of graves to fit more in.

The settlement was announced Feb. 28, 2014 in court documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

According to a story by the Associated Press, SCI denied wrongdoing but agreed to establish a $35.25-million settlement fund for plaintiffs, who alleged that managers at the Jewish cemetery knowingly broke as many as 1,500 buried concrete vaults between February 1985, when Eden Memorial Park was bought by SCI, and September 2009.

The lawyer for the plaintiffs, Michael Avenatti, estimated the total cost of the settlement will be closer to $80 million.

The plaintiffs alleged that Eden secretly discarded or lost human skulls and other remains in a “dump area” to make room for new graves. Click here to read the claims alleged in the Eden Memorial Park class-action lawsuit.

An estimated 40,000 people are buried at Eden Park, including comedians Groucho Marx and Lenny Bruce.

“We have every reason to believe that these morally despicable and fraudulent business practices were committed intentionally and have been ongoing for many years,” the plaintiff’s lawyer, Avenatti, said earlier about the civil lawsuit.

“We are very pleased to put this litigation behind us,” Lisa Marshall of SCI said in a statement. “While we do not believe the allegations represent the standard of care and service our professionals provide, it is in the best interest of our customer families, our shareholders and our associates that we move forward and focus on the work we do every day, serving families with respect, compassion and transparency.”

State investigators said in 2009 that they could find no evidence that Eden mishandled graves. But the next year, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the cemetery intentionally cleaned out the cemetery’s dump, where workers allegedly disposed of loose bones and broken concrete sections.

SCI was ordered to preserve evidence for the jury trial, which began earlier this year. Final court approval of the settlement is expected in May.

SCI agreed to a $100-million settlement for a similar lawsuit in Florida in 2003. That lawsuit alleged that two SCI-owned cemeteries buried people in the wrong places, broke open vaults to squeeze in other remains and, in some instances, tossed bones into the woods.

SCI is the largest funeral provider in North America, owning many of the funeral homes in the Vancouver area and across Canada. It owns and operates 1,644 funeral homes and 514 cemeteries in 43 U.S. states, eight Canadian provinces and Puerto Rico, according to SCI.

The purpose of this site is to educate the public about funeral providers and raise awareness about consumer rights in relation to funeral services.

Those consumer rights can be found by clicking here or going to www.funeralrightsbc.ca

The B.C. Consumer Protection Branch regulates the funeral industry.

If you wish to make a consumer complaint about a funeral provider, a form is available here: http://www.consumerprotectionbc.ca/images/content/inquiries/complaint%20form%20dec%202012.pdf

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Military man buried in wrong grave, wrong uniform

JOSEPH-MALVIN-CHAPMAN.fromWJLA.TVEverly.Funeral.Home

Often we entrust the bodies of our loved ones to funeral services directors and staff, and we often pay thousands of dollars for funeral and burial services. We expect them to get it right. Every time.

But last year in Fairfax, Virginia, a funeral home got it terribly wrong.

They buried the wrong man in a grave. And to make the body mix-up matter worse, the funeral home dressed the wrong man in the other man’s military uniform.

Once the family of the decorated military colonel Joseph Chapman realized the mix-up — and saw that it wasn’t their father’s body in the casket at the funeral home — their shock turned to anger and disgust.

Jim McLain, a Virginia resident, went to view the body of his father at  funeral home and immediately realized it wasn’t his 80-year-old dad.

“This just isn’t right. This should never, never happen. This is something you read in a fiction novel or see in a movie on TV,” McLain told WJLA TVlast December. (Click here to watch the TV news report.)

McLain says he told funeral home staff that it wasn’t his father’s body, but his complaint was initially dismissed.

But his dad’s twin, who had arrived from Tennessee at the funeral home, also insisted the man in the casket wasn’t his brother. They even held up a photo from the son’s phone beside the body to prove a mix-up had occurred.

Once the Everly Funeral Home finally realized its mistake, it explained that Chapman had been buried in the other’s man’s grave. And the man who was supposed to be buried was wearing Chapman’s military uniform.

Chapman’s family was told they would need to get a judge’s order to exhume the body.

Joseph Chapman’s son said his father was a decorated Army colonel — it had taken his dad 28 years to earn to earn the uniform.

“My dad’s uniform… that’s degradation beyond words for a military man,” McLain told WJLA.

The family was so upset that they initially called police, who explained that mixing up bodies inside a funeral home is not a crime.

It wasn’t the first time a funeral home had a bodies mix-up. We earlier wrote about the case of Jerry Moon, 72, who died late last year in a community outside of Seattle.

Moon had died at the same time, and at the same hospice in Washington State, as a 97-year-old man.

When Moon’s family opened the casket to say goodbye one last time, they were shocked to find the 97-year-old man’s body in the casket. With a plastic bag over his head.

Washington State regulators investigated and found the mix-up occurred after the two men died the same day at the same hospice. The Dahl-McVicker funeral home took both bodies from the hospice and was supposed to take Moon to the Brown Mortuary, but got the bodies mixed up.

Mr. Moon had been cremated against his wishes — he had a fear of cremation.

Last month, there was a similar story of two women whose bodies got mixed up after they both died while on vacation in St. Maarten. One was supposed to be sent to Barrie, Ontario, the other to New Jersey. You can read the Toronto Star story here.

This site is dedicated to the memory of our mother, Holly Haliburton, 95, who died a year ago. You can read about what happened to our mother after she died by clicking here.

Holly.1946.she.was.29

Holly Haliburton in the 1940s, when she was 29

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Nova Scotia woman upset by funeral costs and pricing

Jennie.morrow.Halifax.Herald.Chronicle

Jennie Morrow of Nova Scotia holding a memory box and a cup with a photograph of her mother
Photo by Herald Chronicle, Halifax

Two years ago, Jennie Morrow of Nova Scotia had two tragedies strike months apart. First her sister Wanda died of lung cancer. Then her 89-year-old mother passed away in her sleep.

While Morrow felt her sister’s funeral was fairly priced, she was shocked at the price of her mother’s funeral, feeling she was forced into a “package deal” that contained many unnecessary extras that she didn’t need or want.

Her mother’s wishes were to have a funeral mass and burial at the Catholic church near her childhood home. Morrow and her brother Joseph contacted a local company, Jayne’s Funeral Home, which sent a hearse to collect the body.

The only problem was, the company only sent one person to pick up the body at the senior’s home where Morrrow’s mother, Viola White, had lived.

“The women who had cared for my mother in the senior’s home had to help carry her body out to their vehicle. I found that very unprofessional,” Morrow recalled this week.

“My mother died early Saturday morning but my brother and I weren’t able to meet with the funeral director until late Monday morning. In spite of the fact I had talked to one of the funeral directors a few times on the phone over the weekend regarding her obituary, there was no mention that Jayne’s only sold packages.”

Morrow said she asked to see a price list for funerals, but the funeral director of Jayne’s, a division of Service Corporation International of Houston, Texas, refused and instead insisted the family had to buy a package, which started at $9,099, not including taxes or the cost of the funeral mass or reception.

It had been two days since her mother had died and she thought about going to another funeral home at that point, but decided not to “because the obituary had already been sent to the newspaper (although not yet printed) announcing the details of the funeral and many people had been notified by phone. By the time we knew that they would only allow us to buy a package it felt like it was too late to switch to a different funeral home,” Morrow said.

“At the meeting to arrange the funeral, and again at the funeral itself I was pressured to set up an appointment for ‘after care,’ ” Morrow added. “I asked what ‘After Care’ was. I was told that it was when they provided us with the Death Certificate, filled out the Death Benefit forms and the Notification of Death Forms, returned the photographs that were used for the funeral display, the bill, etc. I told the funeral director that I had been incredibly busy caring for my mother before her death and did not want to make another trip for this. She offered to come to me for it and I said no. I suggested that I would prefer to take the photos home with me after the funeral and have her send the other paperwork to me in the mail.”

Morrow also said she didn’t need someone from the funeral home to fill out the Death Benefit forms or the Notification of Death forms. “I had already done them a few months earlier when my sister had died and it wasn’t difficult,” she recalled.

After the funeral, Jayne’s sent a two-page bill for $10,172, including $499 for an online obituary, a $375 “Dignity Tribute Burial Memorial Package,” which Morrow said was a black box with thank-you cards and other items, a $199 compassion helpline, a $299 “after-care planner,” $99 for estate protection, $1,065 for transportation, $595 for attending the church ceremony, $395 for “other care and preparation,” $295 for registration and documentation and another $1,948 in professional staff and service fees.

The funeral home had initially  quoted a higher price, but when Morrow became upset, the funeral home knocked $1,100 off the price.

But when Morrow was actually sent the “bill,” as it was referred to by the funeral home, Morrow noticed it was actually a “purchase agreement” for “Goods and Services Selected.” There was an arrow pasted on the two-page contract, asking her to sign. She noticed it was back-dated to before the funeral.

The date that they had put next to where I was supposed to sign was for before my mother’s funeral, making it appear that I had been shown all these prices and had chosen all these things voluntarily,” Morrow said.

“I was so angry after reading the fine print (which I suspect doesn’t usually get read when the papers are presented in person at the after-care meeting) that I stopped payment on the cheque that I had given to the director at the funeral.”

She also noticed there was a notation at the top of Page 2 saying “Part Two of Three Parts.”

Morrow demanded the funeral home send the missing third page. “When I finally did receive it, it contained 12 terms and conditions. Number One was: ‘You agree that the Funeral Home shall not be liable for loss by theft or otherwise of any clothing, jewelry, or articles of any nature whatsoever.’ “

The missing page also stated: “You acknowledge that you were offered a copy of the current price lists.”

For the sake of closure, she and her brother went over the bill, adding up the things that they thought were reasonable and made the funeral home an offer, “which we considered to be more than fair,” Morrow said. “They accepted it.”

Morrow maintains she was never shown a price list and first complained to Jayne’s, which tried to negotiate a lower price, then filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia Board of Registration of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, alleging shady practices.

Two months later, the board responded by saying it was not going to intervene in the settlement of an outstanding bill.

“What is the role of the Nova Scotia Board of Registration of Embalmers and Funeral Directors if not to respond to complaints?” Morrow asked.

Since her mother died, tragedy struck a third time: Her brother Joseph died. “He died 9 months later, so I lost three members of my family within 13 months,” she recalled this week.

Morrow intends to pursue her complaint about the way she was treated by Jayne’s Funeral Home. She plans to take the matter up with her local Member of the Legislature, feeling there needs to be better regulation of the funeral industry.

Fortunately for B.C. residents, there are laws and regulations that funeral providers must abide by or face fines.

“Funeral services providers operating in B.C. are required by law to display a current price list of all the offered services and products,” says the B.C. Consumers Protection Branch. “This list must be accessible by the public and a copy must be provided to any consumer who asks for it.”

Funeral service providers also must advise you of your right to cancel a funeral contract; those consumer rights can be found by clicking here or going to www.funeralrightsbc.ca

Under B.C.’s cemetery and funeral services law, you also have the right to supply your own casket for interment or cremation as long as it meets certain requirements, and you have the right to supply your own container to hold the cremated remains of your loved one.

Funeral homes can often convince people to spend far more on a casket or cremation urn that they planned to spend, mainly because they are grieving and vulnerable to “upselling.”

It is always advised to read the fine print of all contracts before signing, and getting a friend or relative to have a second look and advise whether the costs seem reasonable.

This site is dedicated to our mother, Holly Haliburton, 95, who died a year ago this week. This is a photo of Holly from 1946, when she was 29:Holly.1946.she.was.29

Holly was born in Blackland, New Brunswick. Her mother and father’s families were from the Isle of Arran in Scotland. They were given land in Canada (what is now New Brunswick) to reward them for fighting in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 with Lord Nelson. Her great grandfather was Daniel Nichol, born 1787 on the Isle of Arran. He died in 1863 in New Mills, New Brunswick. He entered the British navy in 1803 and was on the ship HMS Victory when Lord Nelson was killed in battle. Daniel came to Canada in 1829. When Holly was 10, she wrote this poem about her great-grandfather and recited it in her final days:

“My great-grandfather was with him/ upon that fatal day/ when Nelson lost his life/ and there was great dismay.”

Holly’s grandfather was Donald Nichol, who married Mary Stanley in 1881. Her father James Nichol married Sarah (Bertha) Hamilton. Holly was one of 13 children.Isle_of_Arran_OS_OpenData_map Original_Grant_Map.Blackland.New.Brunswick

Daniel.Nichol.headstone Donald.Nichol.headstone James.Nichol.headstone

By the way, we noticed Jennie Morrow is an artist. We looked at her website (www.jenniemorrow.com) and liked this painting, called Dieter’s Clothesline, because it is peaceful, comforting and reminds us of our mother growing up in the Maritimes:Dieter's.clothesline.painting.by.Jennie.Morrow

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Another family’s funeral nightmare

English.gravestone2Since our mother’s death one year ago, we’ve heard all sorts of funeral nightmare stories. The following is one of the worst:

Jerry Moon, 72, who lived in the Seattle area, was terrified of being cremated. After he died, his family decided to have a closed-casket service. But they wanted to say their final farewells before burying him. When they opened the casket after the service to see him one last time, they were shocked to find it wasn’t Jerry but another dead man, wearing Jerry’s clothes.

The funeral home had also put a plastic bag over the 97-year-old man’s head, which shocked the family even more.

It turns out that Jerry Moon had been cremated against his wishes and the other man, who had wanted to be cremated, was almost buried in Mr. Moon’s grave plot, which had been pre-paid for by Moon.

“This makes me feel like he was treated as a number, not a person,” the man’s daughter, Cheryl Moon, told KIRO TV last year. Click here to read the story.

State regulators investigated and found the mix-up occurred after the two men died the same day at the same hospice. The Dahl-McVicker funeral home took both bodies from the hospice and was supposed to take Moon to the Brown Mortuary, but got the bodies mixed up.

Last month, there was a similar story of two women whose bodies got mixed up after they both died while on vacation in St. Maarten. One was supposed to be sent to Barrie, Ontario, the other to New Jersey. You can read the Toronto Star story here.

It’s important for people to put a funeral plan in place in case death ensues from a tragic accident or sudden medical emergency, especially while on vacation in a foreign country.

Two Vancouver women, Laura Fines and Glenda Leznoff, have written a new book, Exit: The Life and Death Planner, to help people prepare for their loved ones. The book has a form to let your loved ones know what you would like done after you die, with sections to record whether you have pre-paid for a funeral, a burial plot or a crypt.

More information about the book is here: http://www.theexitplanner.com

We mentioned earlier that in B.C., the Consumer Protection Branch has regulations and laws pertaining to funeral providers. For consumer tips or to find a licensed funeral provider, go to Consumer Protection BC’s website at www.funeralrightsbc.ca.

People should also be aware that funeral homes you might think are independent and family-owned are actually part of a big corporation. One of the biggest is the Texas-based Service Corp. International (SCI), which owns many of the funeral homes in the Vancouver area.

SCI is controlled by Robert Waltrip, a Texan who was a big financial contributor to the campaign of President George W. Bush and a personal friend of Bush’s presidential father. SCI reportedly made an operating profit of $363 million last year and has billions worth of pre-paid funeral contracts.

In this 60 Minutes segment from last year, Anderson Cooper probed the funeral industry and SCI’s past:The transcript of the segment and related videos are here.

For readers in the U.S., the Funeral Consumers Alliance provides good information about the industry and some great consumer tips. Its executive director, Josh Slocum, warns consumers to carefully read the fine print of any pre-paid funeral contract. He says companies like SCI use high-pressure sales tactics.

In Washington State, there is also the People’s Memorial Association, whose website is here. The non-profit organization was founded in 1939 to help Washington State residents avoid the confusion, sales pressure and high expense often associated with cremation and burial arrangements. The lifetime membership fee is $25. It has more than 200,000 members.

In B.C., there is the Memorial Society of B.C., a non-profit organization formed more than 55 years ago to help its members to plan funerals that are simple, dignified and affordable. It has more than 200,000 members.

There is regulation of the funeral industry in Canada. Last month, Ontario’s funeral industry  watchdog suspended the licence of two Toronto area funeral homes owned by a woman who was previously stripped of her funeral-director licence for falsifying embalming records and lying to cover up her actions. The story is here.

This site is dedicated to our mother, Holly Haliburton.

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A headstone near Oxford, England.
Photo by funeralwatchdog.com

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In memory of Holly Haliburton

Holly.at.87

Holly, then 87, and her daughter Jackie

Funeralwatchdog.com is the new website started by the family of Holly Haliburton, who died a year ago today. We wanted to draw attention to the funeral industry after the bad experience we had with a North Vancouver funeral home, which took our mother’s body from the morgue at St. Paul’s Hospital without our permission.

The Vancouver Sun did a two-page story about what happened. You can read the story by clicking here.

We made a formal complaint with B.C.’s Consumer Protection Branch, which is investigating. The branch regulates the funeral industry in B.C. We also reported the matter to Vancouver police.

The reason we initially contacted the North Vancouver funeral home was because Holly had bought a membership in the Memorial Society of B.C., a non-profit society which offers discounted funeral arrangements.

We mistakenly contacted the North Van funeral home because of the phone number listed on the Memorial Society membership card — the number had been for a funeral home used by the society. But the funeral home had been sold — we later realized that the First Memorial funeral home had no affiliation with the non-profit society. We believe many people have made the same mistake and we want to make the public aware that the funeral home is owned by the Texas-based company Service Corp. International, known commonly as SCI. Bloomberg did a story on SCI last year, which you can read by clicking here.

We have come to learn that SCI settled to pay $100 million in a $200-million lawsuit claim, and now faces a $500-million class-action lawsuit (click here to read about that lawsuit, which was settled in 2014), plus numerous complaints about its business of handling funerals and burials for people who are grieving and at their most vulnerable. We’ll tell you about some of those controversial stories involving SCI and other funeral providers in the days ahead.

But today we are remembering Holly, who died on Feb. 17, 2013. She was wonderful woman, loved by many. Here was Holly’s obituary from last year:

Holly Margaret Haliburton
Dec. 13, 1917 to Feb. 17, 2013
We are saddened to announce the passing of our dear mother at the age of 95. She was predeceased by her loving husband of 53 years, Jack Haliburton, who died in 1998, her parents, James Nichol and Sarah (Bertha) Hamilton, and 11 of 13 siblings. She is survived by her brother Bill Nichol and his wife Joyce of New Brunswick; her daughter Jackie (Neal), her son Jim, and her adult grandchildren Eli (Negar), Rachael, Becky and Jeremy.
Holly was born in Black Lands, New Brunswick. She skipped three grades in school and was a teacher by the time she was 15 at a one-room schoolhouse. During the war, she worked as a civilian for the military in Moncton, where she met Jack at a dance, a young Toronto-born officer who was teaching pilots how to fly. They married in 1945, six weeks after they met, and after the war moved west, first to Calgary, where Jack started his own real estate firm, Campbell & Haliburton, and founded the Alberta real estate board. After the birth of their two children, Jackie & Jim Haliburton, they moved to Edmonton for five years and then to the Glenmore area of West Vancouver, where Jack built many homes and started a mergers and acquisitions business.
During the 1950s, Holly could be seen driving the kids to soccer and band practice in her pink 1957 Chev convertible, with the radio turned up too loud, embarrassing her children. After Jackie graduated from school in 1965, she attended Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, and the family soon followed, settling in Encino, where they were next-door neighbours to Michael Jackson and his family during the Jackson 5 heyday.
Holly loved entertaining in those days, when hundreds of neighbours would flock to her Christmas parties, where she would hand out a gingerbread likeness to each guest. She loved and embraced people, without judgment, and was always a positive person right to the end.
Jack & Holly returned to West Vancouver in the early ’80s, when Holly began working in Jackie’s store, Angel, at the age of 60. She worked at the store for 30 years and became a part of the lives of Angel customers, who treated Holly like a surrogate mother. She called everyone “Dear.”
She lived life to the fullest and had no regrets. Her positive attitude was an inspiration to many who knew her, especially Laurie Haliburton of North Vancouver, Ann Danton of England, who was like a daughter to Holly, Dr. Rob Scott of West Van, Lynn Thomas, and Joe Diblasi, both of California.
Holly spent the last two weeks of her life in the Heart Centre at St. Paul’s hospital after a major heart attack, with her family and friends by her side, including Ingrid, Linda, Wayne, Ruby, Regina and Barb. Special thanks to Linda & Ingrid for their many hours at the hospital. She put up a valiant fight to live, cracking jokes days before she died, but her time eventually ran out. She died in her sleep in hospital, with Jackie at her side and Jim on the phone. The family would like to thank all the doctors and nurses at St. Paul’s for the great care they gave Holly in her final days. Holly is greatly missed by all who knew her.

The Haliburton family also wants to boost awareness that the Consumer Protection Branch has regulations to protect the rights of consumers, including the requirement “for all funeral services providers to clearly communicate consumer cancellation rights information in pre-need contracts exists to protect consumers at a time when they may be making difficult end of life decisions.”

For consumer tips or to find a licensed funeral provider, go to Consumer Protection BC’s website at www.funeralrightsbc.ca.

Consumer Protection BC recently issued a $5,000 penalty against CARE Funeral Services (Vancouver Island) Ltd., a funeral services provider based in Victoria, BC, for two violations of a previously issued Compliance Order.

Last year, CARE Funeral Services was ordered to include consumer cancellation rights information in its pre-need contracts, as required by law. A follow-up inspection uncovered new pre-need contracts that did not include this information.

You can read the press release about this enforcement action by clicking here. You can also click here for more details about your pre-need contract cancellation rights.

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