Saturday, October 30, 2010

Louisiana Funeral Home Owner Admits Fraud

The U.S. attorney in Shreveport says a funeral home owner in Vivian has pleaded guilty to defrauding 65 people of more than $400,000 in prepaid funeral and burial services.

Stephanie A. Finley says 63-year-old William James McGuire, owner and operator of McGuire Funeral Home, pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud.

She says McGuire would cash certificates of deposit meant to cover the prepaid services by telling the banks holding them that the person for whose funeral they were meant had died. She says he often provided phony funeral bills to back up his claim.

Finley says U.S. District Judge Donald Walker scheduled sentencing Feb. 3. Bank fraud carries up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.


Funeral Home Wins 2010 Pursuit of Excellence Award

Jones and Son Funeral Home recently was awarded the 2010 Pursuit of Excellence Award by the National Funeral Directors Association during its International Convention & Expo in New Orleans.

Only 166 firms from around the world and two from Mississippi received the recognition.

Pursuit of Excellence Award recipients raise the bar on funeral service excellence by adhering to the highest ethical and professional standards and providing service to families and communities.

To achieve the Pursuit of Excellence Award, NFDA-member funeral homes must evaluate components of their business against standards set forth by the Pursuit of Excellence program and demonstrate proficiency in key areas of the funeral service profession.

Participants are required to fulfill criteria in six categories of achievement that demonstrate commitment to: complying with state and federal regulations; providing ongoing education and professional development opportunities for staff; offering outstanding programs and resources to bereaved families; maintaining an active level of involvement within the community; participating and actively serving in the funeral service profession; and promoting funeral home services through a variety of marketing, advertising and public relations programs.

"Jones and Son Funeral Home's voluntary participation in the Pursuit of Excellence program reflects a clear determination to exceed the expectations of those they serve," said NFDA Chief Executive Officer Christine Pepper.

"For over 70 years, our family and staff have been honored to assist families at their times of great loss by assuring that the service for their loved one is a memorable, caring, and healing time," said Frank H. Jones, president.

The business has locations in Hattiesburg, Richton, Moselle and Beaumont.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Nebraska Prisons Bar Inmates from Funeral Outings

Nebraska prisons have stopped letting higher-security inmates leave their confines for temporary, guarded outings to attend funerals or visit critically ill family members.

Prisons director Bob Houston informed inmates in a memo.

He says safety concerns for unarmed corrections officers led to the change.

Houston says more people are dying at home, and he says the emotional scenes present a lot of unknown for prison guards.

According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Houston says prison guards are corrections officers, not law enforcement.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

James MacArthur Dead at 72

James MacArthur star of the hit the tv showed Hawaii Five-O who played dectective Dan Williams better known as Danno has passed away at the age of 72.

For 11 seasons Hawaii Five-O had millions tuning into see the latest crime adventure on the beautiful islands of Hawaii waiting to hear the famous popular catch phrase "Book 'em Danno" to end that nights island crime spree.

Detective Dan William's character was made famous by tv actor James MacArthur, and the actors death was confirmed by gossipcop earlier today. Details surrounding MacArthur's death and funeral have yet to be reported.

Before making the move to Hawaii for his most notable tv role James MacArthur previously starred in the family oriented drama's Swiss Family Robinson and Spencer's Mountain.

James MacArthur is the son of legendary actress Helen Hayes who also appeared on an episode of Hawaii Five-O in 1975 as Aunt Clara.

Ken R of Cincinnati stated "I remember watching Hawaii Five-O as a child and then my brothers and I work re -enact the show and we always, always said "Book 'em Danno" , but it was always a big argument about who's turn it was to be Danno."


Monday, October 25, 2010

Mourner in Funeral Procession Arrested

A funeral procession in Chicago turned violent when mourners assaulted a couple whose car accidentally crashed into the procession, police said.

Authorities said one funeral goer assaulted and punched the 63-year-old woman and 64-year-old man in the car that disrupted the Saturday procession in the Logan Square area of the city, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Another mourner hit the elderly man over the head with a bottle, police said.

One woman mourner was arrested and charged with two counts of battery.

Lateea Jordan, 28, was arrested after she turned herself in to police and was ordered held on $50,000 bail.

Jordan's attorney claimed she had only a "minor role" in the altercation, arguing with the couple before the fight broke out.

Police did not release any information on the condition of the couple or if they were seeking other suspects, the Tribune reported.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Frazer Consultants Partners with Oki Data Americas to Provide Affordable Printing for Funeral Homes

Frazer Consultants entered into a partnership agreement with Oki Printing Solutions to provide funeral homes fixed cost per page printing.

Waunakee, WI., October 20, 2010 - Frazer Consultants a personalization, technology, and consulting company for the death care profession announced its recent partnership agreement with Oki Printing Solutions to provide affordable color printing to funeral homes. This partnership agreement is a key piece to their print-on-demand funeral stationery system.

Frazer Consultants print-on-demand system for funeral stationery utilizes blank-stock to provide client families with over 450 personalized stationery designs from which to choose. Each theme includes a layout for a register book, memorial folder, prayer card, acknowledgement, book mark, sign, dvd packaging, and a candle.

"Pairing our print-on-demand personalization software with an Oki laser printer, funeral homes will have a total personalized print solution available for almost one-third of the cost of standard printing," said Matt Frazer, a consultant with Frazer Consultants.

With two packages to choose from, Oki will provide a color laser duplex printer for easy, cost-efficient two-sided printing. Functioning like a leasing program, the printer is provided for a set monthly amount. It is networked so that Oki can detect when toner is low and automatically dispatch a replacement cartridge direct to the funeral home so there is no down time.

"Our objective was to provide a print-on-demand system that offers ultimate personalized funeral stationery at an affordable price," said Frazer. "The Tribute Center all-in-one-suite is a dream come true for funeral home clients across North America. You can now get rid of all your pre-printed stock (inventory) and only inventory blank-stock and print on demand what you need, when you need it. This not only makes your life easier with less inventory, but increases the value of your services to your client families through ultimate personalized funeral stationery packages. All completed in-house and with no extra effort. This new agreement with Oki is truly ground breaking and the solution to affordability - enabling our funeral home partners to print at a fixed cost per page and offer their families unlimited personalization options."

Frazer Consultants
Frazer Consultants primary products and services include interactive funeral home website design, funeral tribute video software, funeral webcasting, personalized funeral stationery, and funeral keepsakes. For more information, call 866-372-9372.

$400 Turnpike Toll on Soldier's Funeral

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority chairman decided to pay the toll for a soldier's funeral procession out of his own pocket after pressure from the Patriot Guard.

Private First Class Cody Board died when a roadside bomb exploded in Afghanistan.

His family wanted to bury him at Fort Sill.

Officials with the turnpike authority said they wouldn't stop each car and patriot rider, but they would bill the family for an about $400.

They said the law prohibits them from waiving tolls.

Then, according to a Dallas television station, the Patriot Guard stepped in and put pressure on officials with the turnpike authority.

Board's funeral is Saturday, October 16, in McKinney, Texas.

His final resting place will be Fort Sill National Cemetery in Elgin, Oklahoma.

According to his obituary, Board's maternal grandfather lives in Grove, Oklahoma.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tom Bosley Dead at 83

Tom Bosley, the actor who played mild-mannered hardware store owner Howard Cunningham on the classic sitcom 'Happy Days,' died on Tuesday, his agent confirmed.  Bosley was 83.

He had been battling a staph infection when he passed away at his Palm Springs home, according to reports.

Bosley's death comes just days after that of another beloved TV parent. Barbara Billingsley, who played mom June Cleaver on 'Leave It to Beaver," died this past weekend.

Bosley also starred in the "Father Dowling Mysteries" series in the late '90s, but he was best knows as Richie and Joanie Cunningham's dad, and Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli's landlord, on "Happy Days," which aired from 1974-84.

The show depicted middle-class life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the 1950s just as rock and roll was taking hold of the American consciousness.

Bosley's character was typically the calm at the center of the storm, often dispensing his reasonable advice from the comfort of his easy chair in the Cunninghams' living room.


Home-Based Business Offers Wide Selection of Urns

A Saanich woman's frustrating search for suitable funeral urns for the remains of her mother-in-law and family pet took her to the other side of the world and head-first into an unusual home-based business.

Teresa Westhead started importing decorative urns from Indonesia and Vietnam earlier this year to give people an alternative to what she calls the often bland and higher-priced urns provided by funeral homes and the containers used by animal hospitals.

Eternal Vessel offers hand-made marble, ceramic and bamboo-lacquer designs that are affordable and blend in with home decor, said Westhead. She carries more than 25 styles of cremation urns -- almost all of them selling for $99 or less -- about a third of the cost of funeral home urns, said Westhead.

She is currently marketing her products on the web at

"Our father had difficulty finding an urn that was not hundreds of dollars and something that would reflect our mother's taste and style," said Westhead, a former paralegal. "After sharing our story with many people, we discovered there was an ongoing theme of frustration in locating a suitable urn or vessel for people's loved one's remains.

"Our vessels hide their true nature and allow you to keep your loved one close without the nature of the vessel being obvious to others."

British Columbia leads all Canadian provinces in cremations at 78 per cent of all deaths, according to the Memorial Society of B.C. The national average is 56 per cent.

People are also increasingly providing funeral services for their pets, or at least having their remains cremated and stored in urns. A new pet funeral parlour is opening next month in Victoria providing various services, including cremations.

The death of Westhead's dog, Bitta, a rescued giant schnauzer who died at age 12, helped to spur her quest. When the family pet's ashes were returned in an animal hospital urn, "we were disappointed, to say the least," said Westhead. "The urn that was provided was not something we would place in our home. She sat hidden in our basement for several years."

Westhead said buying a funeral urn online can be helpful to families coming from different parts of the province, country or world. "They can all have a say in what's chosen before the funeral," she said.

Westhead is among a growing number of British Columbians opening their own small businesses.

A report being released on Monday by the provincial government shows more British Columbians received wages last year from small business than anywhere else in Canada. Annual earnings for B.C.'s small-business workers increased 19 per cent over the past five years, compared with an increase of 11 per cent for employees of larger businesses. Small businesses also provided nearly 57 per cent of all private-sector jobs in British Columbia, the highest rate in the country.

Small businesses, defined in B.C. as companies with 50 or fewer employees, also account for 32 per cent of the province's gross domestic product, above the Canadian average of 28 per cent.

Westhead will deliver the urns locally or via Canada Post. She can be reached at 250-885-5871.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Funeral Home Recycles - Donates Metal Prostheses to Charity

A funeral home in Victorville, California has joined a unique effort to turn artificial human remains into a blessing for others.

Desert View Funeral Home is the first funeral home to recycle metal prostheses such as rods and hip joints that remain after cremation and send the proceeds to the Unforgettables Foundation, a charity started in Redlands several years ago that helps families pay for the funerals of their children.

"We have metal parts that are left over after the cremation and they do not incinerate down," said Mitch Morales, funeral director. "We have to separate those out before we process the remains. In the past, they were put into a vault and interred in the cemetery."

That was until Tim Evans, executive director of the Unforgettables Foundation, officiated a service at the funeral home and asked about the prosthetic pieces that were left after the cremation process.

Evans suggested that the funeral home have the pieces recycled with the proceeds being donated to a charity.

Officials with the funeral home, including general manager Chris Dufrenne, co-owner Terry Harmon and crematory operator Aaron Bowden, supported the idea and searched for a recycling company that would suit the purpose.

They connected with Alternative Solutions USA, a San Diego County-based nonprofit that provides a cremation metal disposition/recycling service to funeral homes and crematories.

The group collects what remains in the crematory and ships the material out to be recycled, then, after costs, sends a check to a funeral home or crematory's charity of choice.

"All of a sudden, I get this phone call from a guy in San Diego saying you're going to be receiving a check of over $1,100 in the next couple of days," Evans said.

Evans said most families don't want to take the metal remains home. The foundation is a perfect fit, Evans said, because it is in contact with funeral homes every day.

Morales, who also is a board member for the foundation, said families of those with metal remains must give a funeral home or crematory permission to recycle the remains.

"On our cremation form it's clear as a bell, unless they want the parts back, this is what we do with them," Morales said. "We've had a very good response from the families, and they think it's great."

Jason Haddad, director of operations for Alternative Solutions USA, said that with some companies recycling metal remains for profit, many families and funeral homes weren't comfortable signing them away.

"We feel it's not dignified to make money off dead people," Haddad said. "Now we've introduced the nonprofit so (those who) want to recycle feel more comfortable because the money goes back into the community."

Haddad said the group, which got started in April, donates to charities across the nation.

"We're sending out $100, $500, $1,000 at a time," he said. "It really depends on what we receive."

Funeral homes are required by law to ship some parts, such as pacemakers and defibrillators, back to the manufacturers.

Otherwise, the recycling program is perfectly acceptable, officials said.

"The only time we would get upset about that is if somebody was doing that without the permission of the family," said Russ Heimerich, spokesman for the state Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau. Evans said if the foundation can get more funeral homes and crematories to support the program, it would be a major help, because donations have been down recently.

And the economy has put a lot more grieving families in a tough spot, he said.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Barbara Billingsley Dead at 94

Barbara Billingsley, who gained supermom status for her gentle portrayal of June Cleaver, the warm, supportive mother of a pair of precocious boys in "Leave it to Beaver," died Saturday. She was 94.

Billingsley, who had suffered from a rheumatoid disease, died at her home in Santa Monica, said family spokeswoman Judy Twersky.

When the show debuted in 1957, Jerry Mathers, who played Beaver, was 9, and Tony Dow, who portrayed Wally, was 12. Billingsley's character, the perfect stay-at-home 1950s mom, was always there to gently but firmly nurture both through the ups and downs of childhood.

Beaver, meanwhile, was a typical American boy whose adventures landed him in one comical crisis after another.

Billingsley's own two sons said she was pretty much the image of June Cleaver in real life, although the actress disagreed. She did acknowledge that she may have become more like June as the series progressed.

"I think what happens is that the writers start writing about you as well as the character they created," she once said. "So you become sort of all mixed up, I think."

A wholesome beauty with a lithe figure, Billingsley began acting in her elementary school's plays and soon discovered she wanted to do nothing else.

Although her beauty and figure won her numerous roles in movies from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s, she failed to obtain star status until "Leave it to Beaver," a show that she almost passed on.

"I was going to do another series with Buddy Ebsen for the same producers, but somehow it didn't materialize," she told The Associated Press in 1994. "A couple of months later I got a call to go to the studio to do this pilot show. And it was `Beaver."'

Decades later, she expressed surprise at the lasting affection people had for the show.

"We knew we were making a good show, because it was so well written," she said. "But we had no idea what was ahead. People still talk about it and write letters, telling how much they watch it today with their children and grandchildren."

After "Leave it to Beaver" left the air in 1963 Billingsley largely disappeared from public view for several years.

She resurfaced in 1980 in a hilarious cameo in "Airplane!" playing a demur elderly passenger not unlike June Cleaver.

When flight attendants were unable to communicate with a pair of jive-talking hipsters, Billingsley's character volunteered to translate, saying "I speak jive." The three then engage in a raucous street-slang conversation.

"No chance they would have cast me for that if I hadn't been June Cleaver," she once said.

She returned as June Cleaver in a 1983 TV movie, "Still the Beaver," that costarred Mathers and Dow and portrayed a much darker side of Beaver's life.

In his mid-30s, Beaver was unemployed, unable to communicate with his own sons and going through a divorce. Wally, a successful lawyer, was handling the divorce, and June was at a loss to help her son through the transition.

"Ward, what would you do?" she asked at the site of her husband's grave. (Beaumont had died in 1982.)

The movie revived interest in the Cleaver family, and the Disney Channel launched "The New Leave It to Beaver" in 1985.

The series took a more hopeful view of the Cleavers, with Beaver winning custody of his two sons and all three moving in with June.

In 1997 Universal made a "Leave it to Beaver" theatrical film with a new generation of actors. Billingsley returned for a cameo, however, as Aunt Martha.

In later years she appeared from time to time in such TV series as "Murphy Brown," "Empty Nest" and "Baby Boom" and had a memorable comic turn opposite fellow TV moms June Lockhart of "Lassie" and Isabel Sanford of "The Jeffersons" on the "Roseanne" show.

"Now some people, they just associate you with that one role (June Cleaver), and it makes it hard to do other things," she once said. "But as far as I'm concerned, it's been an honor."

In real life, fate was not as gentle to Billingsley as it had been to June and her family.

Born Barbara Lillian Combes in Los Angeles on Dec. 22, 1922, she was raised by her mother after her parents divorced. She and her first husband, Glenn Billingsley, divorced when her sons were just 2 and 4.

Her second husband, director Roy Kellino, died of a heart attack after three years of marriage and just months before she landed the "Leave it to Beaver" role.

She married physician Bill Mortenson in 1959 and they remained wed until his death in 1981.

Survivors include her sons, three stepchildren and numerous grandchildren.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Do Funeral Protestors Deserve Protection?

Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church protesters, now nationally infamous for waving hateful signs at military funerals, may sound crazy but they're not stupid. Not totally.

They've battled all the way to the Supreme Court for their right to be jerks at other people's funerals, but not in ways that obviously defy the law — even as they defy common decency.

Last week, the high court heard arguments in a suit brought against the Kansas-based church by the family of the late Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, at whose 2006 funeral in Maryland the Westboro members traveled more than 1,000 miles to protest. The family was awarded $5 million in damages from the church in district court, but an appeals court overturned that judgment.

Seven protesters at Snyder's funeral in Westminster, Md., waved signs with loathsome phrases like "You're going to hell," "God hates f--s" and "Thank God for 9/11."

Why do they do it? When you try to sort out the reasons given by this little congregation, mostly made up of Phelps' relatives, rational thought seems to take a holiday. They say they somehow think God is punishing troops for America's tolerance of homosexuality, even though Snyder was not gay.

When a Time magazine reporter asked Phelps why he goes after mourners, he said, "Because they need me." Right. Like the hole in his soul.

As a legal matter, the Supreme Court is largely left to judge the content of their speech — which, as bizarre and hateful as it sounds, does deal in its own perverted way with current social and political issues.

It is often folly to try to predict decisions by the Supreme Court, whose justices seem to delight in being unpredictable. The Constitution protects free speech and free thought, but somebody has to draw a line when free speech becomes a not-very-subtle form of personal assault.

E-mail Clarence Page at, or write to him c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Airline Pilot Dies Mid-Flight

Qatar Airways says the captain of one of its planes has died onboard a flight from the Philippines.

The carrier says the death occurred Wednesday on the Qatar Airways flight 645 from Manila to the Qatari capital, Doha.

The flight was diverted to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where it landed around 11:35 a.m. local time. A new crew boarded the plane and it left Malaysia for Doha less than two hours later.

Qatar Airways didn't say what caused the pilot's death or if the flight was ever at risk.

It says its priority "remains the comfort and safety of its passengers and staff."


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Yard Sale Skeleton Turns Out to be Real

A Florida man thought he was buying a Halloween decoration when he spent $8 for a box of bones at a yard sale. But when he and his wife got the box home, they realized it was an actual human skeleton.

"I got looking at it and thought, gosh, this is the real thing," recalled Judith Fletcher, wife of Mitchell Fletcher, the retiree who bought the box of bones.

The couple called the Hillsborough County, Fl. Sheriff's office. Detectives took the mystery bones to the medical examiner's office. Experts there determined it's a professionally prepared human anatomical skeleton, the kind used in college and university medical courses, like the example pictured here.

They estimate it's worth more than $3,000.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

My First Christmas Without My Dad

The Perfect Memorial Gift, A Holiday Remembrance Ornament

My father passed away in January of 2008 after a long struggle with respiratory issues which stemmed from years of smoking. He smoked when my sister and I were kids even when we begged him not to as we rode in the backseat of the car going on family vacations. He smoked when my Grandmother was in the hospital dying of breast cancer, from smoking. He smoked when he got up in the morning, when he cut the grass, after he ate dinner at night. It was hard to picture him at a time when he didn't have a cigarette in his hand, up to his mouth or just lighting up another one - even though he had yet to finish the last.

My Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1982. We were on a family vacation to Ireland and England when he first got sick. Five years later, and after a quarter of his right lung had been removed, my Dad was declared cancer free. But, the years of smoking had taken it's toll and would linger with him and cause many medical problems for the rest of his life.

The months after my Father passed were some of the most difficult of my life. Not only had my Father died, I had left a job I'd had for a dozen years, I had recently gotten divorced, and two of my beloved golden retrievers had died. Like most things in my life, when things get tough, I jump in and fight.

I needed a project -- something to keep me busy. I think better when I'm busy. Buying and renovating my home with my fiancé was probably what kept me sane during those difficult months after my Father's death. After six months of work, we finally were able to move in and planned to invite both families to celebrate Christmas day in our new home.

I knew the first Christmas without my Dad would be tough. But, I didn't really know exactly how I would feel or what would happen. All I knew was I was that fifteen people were coming for dinner and I was cooking.

Thoughts ran through my head. Christmas Day. A home my Father never lived to see. The hours of labor I had put into it with him looking down on me were over. Now it was time to celebrate the holiday, with my family. In the back of my head I kept expecting to see him, for him to just show up, to tell me Merry Christmas, and to say what a great job we did with the house. But, at the same time, I knew different.

As we opened the presents, my Mother handed me a box. Just something for the tree, she said. I unwrapped and opened the box and felt the tears start burning down my face. My fiancé had been in the other room. Walking in, he was startled to see me so upset standing in front of the tree with my Mother. What's wrong? All I could do was to hand him the box. Inside was an ornament with the words: Dad, January 13, 1928 - January 3, 2008.

My Mom had found a poem and had carefully typed out part of it on a small card and enclosed it with the holiday ornament. The card read: Have a Merry Christmas and Wipe away that tear...Remember, I am spending Christmas with
Jesus Christ this year.
Holiday Remembrance Ornaments are a wonderful way to remember a loved one or even a beloved pet who has died. Frazer Consultants personalization software gives death care professionals the ability to quickly and easily, create in-house, a personalized holiday remembrance ornament. For more information, or to request a sample ornament, please visit or call 866-372-9372.

Woman Tosses Urns at Man Robbing Funeral Home

A Morristown, Tennessee funeral home owner said his daughter drove off an armed man during a robbery of the family business by throwing empty urns at his head. Police said 32-year-old Teresa Mayes was opening Mayes Family Services on Friday morning and found a man armed with a knife waiting for her.

Her father, Buddy Mayes, told The Knoxville News Sentinel that the robber demanded money and she responded by throwing urns from a display. He said one of them obviously landed because the urn was smashed.

The man got away with some cash, but his daughter was not injured.

Mayes said the man may not have realized it was a funeral home, saying "a robbery is a little unusual for us."


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Funeral Employee Steals Burial Check

A Bridgeport,CT man who formerly worked at a Norwalk funeral home was sentenced to 18 months in jail Wednesday for stealing $9,300 from a life insurance check earmarked for the funeral expenses of a 47-year-old man.

Michael Balcombe, 28, of 441 Garfield Ave., Bridgeport, pleaded guilty in Stamford court to a reduced charge of third-degree larceny and admitted he violated his probation stemming from a 2006 conviction for sales of a controlled substance.

The violation of probation charge could have sent him to jail for as many as three years, the length of the suspended sentence he received when he was convicted of the sales charge in 2006.

Balcombe, who appeared with his attorney Mark Phillips, declined to say anything before Judge Gary White sentenced him to a three-year sentence, which was suspended after 18 months and followed by three years probation.

Balcombe was arrested in February after Downer Funeral Home in Norwalk called the dead man's 70-year-old mother and asked if she could pay the $9,289 bill for her son Curtis Wilson's funeral, which took place in July 2009, his arrest affidavit said.

Wilson's mother, Orabell Jenkins, said she was stunned by the request because Balcombe had just come by her home to drop off a check for $702, the remainder from her son's life insurance policy after the bill was paid.

After getting the request for payment from Downer, Jenkins called Global Life & Accident Insurance Company and asked them what happened to her son's insurance check. She was told the policy had been cashed out and sent to Downer's address.

When police obtained a search warrant for Balcombe's bank account, they discovered the insurance check was deposited into his bank account in late July 2009.

White ruled that Balcombe must make restitution of $1,800 in two weeks and pay the rest of the $7,500 loss to Downer before he completes his probation.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Youngest Undertaker in Britian - Just 17 Years Old

George Simnett, 17, set up his own funeral business last month.

He currently runs his company, GE Simnett and Family Funeral Directors, from the premises of Charnwood Funeral Services in Loughborough, Leicestershire, where he learnt his trade.

But he plans to buy his own offices as soon as he finds somewhere suitable.

Hailing from a farming family in Coleorton, Leics, he broke with family tradition exchanging livestock for corpses.

He said: "I went to agricultural college after leaving school and I had 150 sheep but I wasn't earning enough from them to make a wage so I had to get rid of them.

"I always wanted to be an undertaker, helping people at difficult times.

"I think I'm a caring person and I like caring for families. Preparing the body and getting it right for when the family sees it is very rewarding."

He said: "We clean up and prepare the bodies. We wash them, wash their hair, dry them, put make-up on their faces, cap their eyes and sew their mouths up to make them look like they're asleep.

"They look like ghosts when they come in here but there's a big difference before and after. And the families are so grateful."

The teenager says his mother Wendie is keen to get involved in the business too, helping with providing flowers for services.

"My mum will do the flower arranging when I get my own office," he said.

Nor were his friends surprised by his unusual choice of career.

"They probably expected it because I get my hands into anything," he said.

"They love talking about it though. It's one of those subjects that people want to learn more about."

Rachael Ryan, 15, reportedly said in August she wanted to become Britain's youngest undertaker.

But although she had helped out with the family business already, the teenager from Newport, south Wales, was waiting to finish school before signing up full-time.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Hearse Gets Parking Ticket at Funeral

Death is sometimes called the final summons, till a Milwaukee parking checker tries to sneak in one more.

A hearse parked outside a funeral Sunday was nailed with a $35 parking ticket.

"Never in my experience have I had a parking ticket for parking a hearse out in front of a church or anywhere we were having a service," said Marti Daniels, a manager at Church and Chapel Funeral Service with more than 20 years in the business.

In the city's defense, this particular service happened to be at a downtown beer hall rather than a church. But still. How clueless would a parking checker have to be to whip out the ticket pad at a funeral and start papering vehicles, including the shiny black unmistakable hearse?

The checker can't argue that she didn't know it was a funeral. People told her, but she didn't care. Too bad, so sad, on what was already a sad day.

This occurred at the visitation for Bill Penzey Sr., the patriarch of spices, who died a week ago. Bill was a neighbor of mine, and my kids have worked at Bill and wife Ruth's spice shop in Wauwatosa over the years.

I was there when the grim parking reaper showed up at Best Place, a banquet hall at the re-emerging Pabst brewery complex. There's a touching reason why the service was held there. The Penzeys' daughter and son-in-law, Patty and Tom Erd, had booked Best Place last weekend to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. The party was called off and the room was filled instead with family and friends for Bill's sendoff.

One of those friends, John Tillison, stepped outside during the service and spotted the parking checker in action along N. 9th St. just south of Juneau Ave.

"You are not ticketing a hearse, are you?" he said.

"It's parked illegally," she replied.

"This is a funeral, for God's sake. You can't be serious," Tillison said.

She was serious all right. She ticketed the hearse, another funeral director car from Church and Chapel, and some vehicles belonging to mourners.

The hearse driver, a retired sheriff's deputy, also tried to talk sense to the checker, but she was having none of it. Tillison went back inside and made an announcement to warn people. "Real nice at a funeral," he said sarcastically.

It's true that the hearse was in a no-parking zone. The neighborhood, where a lot of MATC students park, is a favorite target of parking enforcement, according to an article in this newspaper Monday.

But it was a Sunday afternoon and the old brewery area was like a ghost town. Plus, did I mention it was a funeral?! You want the hearse close to the front door so you don't have to roll the casket down the block.

The Penzey family was more amused than angry. Bill "would have gotten a huge laugh out of it," Ruth said.

In fact, they asked Church and Chapel for the ticket as a scrapbook souvenir.

As you can guess, it took me just one quick phone call to the parking enforcement office to get all the tickets voided. They, too, could not remember another time when a hearse got a parking ticket at a funeral.

Neither could Scott Peterson, executive director of the Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association. He compared parking leniency for hearses to funeral processions being allowed to go through red lights. "We're used to working closely with law enforcement," he said.

Thomas Sanders, parking enforcement manager for the city, said the checker should have listened to the explanation from people on the street. Funerals are supposed to be given extra consideration.

"Some checkers are overzealous. They're trying to do their jobs," he said.

I asked if checkers get paid on commission.

"No one is paid more because they write more, or less if they write less," Sanders said.

Daniels at Church and Chapel was relieved to hear he wouldn't have to pay $70 for the tickets on the two funeral vehicles.

Let it be known, he said, that the expense would not have been passed along to the family.

So at least there's that much compassion left in the world.