Who Would Let This Happen………

Two stories that come together and both are downright disgraceful.  Are there humans that would allow this to happen under there watch?Is it just me or is this not the same as mass graves in Germany during WWII or more recently mass graves in Syria and Afghanistan? I’m not sure how someone in the funeral industry could allow this to happen.  When you went to the cemetery with a stack of bodies in the back of your vehicle, did you not think maybe you were doing something wrong? When I think of the people I graduated with from Mortuary School, I can not think of one funeral director that could allow themselves to get caught up in this situation. 10584060_696199337083459_466924987573999740_n The most recent article comes from The Boston Sunday Globe dated July 27, 2014. The article is front page above the fold. The article is long. 5 Pages of the truth.  There are numerous stories inside this story. 6000 immigrants have died crossing the border sense 1998. Out of those 44 % are unidentified. Identified or not all of theses bodies will have to be buried.  The disregard for dignity during death started when the dead were first encounter.  Lack of trained personnel, no medical examiner, and uncaring medical workers who did not follow procedures to help identify these people. 1508536_696199323750127_6328204985740668608_n This total lack of dignity is the  responsibility of so many. Lori Baker gets it right when she says “It’s a total system failure” Baker is in charge of the most recent dig in Falfarriers TX.  Bodies stacked in graves, some in body bags, some wrapped in sheets, multiple bodies in trash bags, all blatantly mishandled after being claimed by a funeral home. The actions of the funeral directors, funeral homes, and funeral home owners, are unconscionable. All involved  should be immediately suspended from any further business until a complete investigation can be conducted. The other article is here. I recently wrote a blog about the situation in Texas and SCI’s continuing trouble serving its families in a dignified manner.

Heads need to roll and someone needs to be held accountable.  The guy at the cemetery, yes. The guy at the funeral home, yes.  The owners of the funeral home, definitely. This is much bigger than an oversight or a poor decision by a single funeral director.  This is about folks in a multibillion dollar company thinking this is OK. Everybody in the organization knew about this. As a general manager of this company, I know first hand that they counted every dollar that came in the door and knew exactly where it came from.

This is pathedic. The fact that it is not the first time ensures that it will not be the last.

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“Rich Get Richer at The Expense of Mourners………”

It seems that Columbia, South Carolina is paying to much for its funeral services. The corporate funeral chains are continuing to purchase funeral homes and continue to limit the choices of the consumer. Keene NH is a local case in point.

Here is the article about South Carolina.

Here is another article which spells out how corporate funeral homes have  grown over the years. This article is lengthy but after reading the first few paragraphs you will get the just of it.

Mark Kenney Photo by Larry Holland


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How Many Strikes is Enough…………


After working in a corporate funeral home, I can believe what has happened in Texas. Here is a news report from the USA Today newspaper. It seems that a Baylor University anthropologist group were disinterring and identifying some remains of immigrants that were buried in a local cemetery. What they found was unbelievable.

The group from Baylor University was led by Lori Baker and Krista Latham, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Indianapolis, and a group of students worked as part of a multi-year effort to identify immigrants who’ve died in the area near the U.S.-Mexico border. They were tasked with 52 exhumations in the Sacred Heart Burial Park in Falfurrias, Texas. What they found was mass graves with bodies stacked on top of each other.  Some were in bio hazard bags, others in trash bags. Some of the bodies were in caskets. Most were not and some were in body bags carrying  the “dignity” logo.

Officials are still looking into this atrocity. This is not the first time that SCI has been part of cemetery scandles. Here is a article that gives a brief history on a few similar situation that have happened across the United States. If these were not so few and far between you might be able to blame it on the local providers. SCI is becoming a habitual offender of similar atrocities. As far as I can see, nobody from the corporation is going to jail.


DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH CORPORATE FUNERAL HOMES. In the Southern New England area there are 4.  Chester, Ludlow, Brattleboro, and Townshend all have corporate funeral business. Not sure who runs your funeral home?  Ask.

If you have a question ask me at mjkenney08@yahoo.com or on my cell at 802 353 0021.




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Inquiring Minds Want to Know……….

Since last week’s article in The Vulture- “Williams River Services: The Truth About Corporate Funeral Homes”, the ice has been broken. The elephant in the room has been introduced and everyone wants to know about the funeral industry.elephant

I thought most of the questions would be about the gore and unusual cases.  There is an understandably morbid fascination of what really happens before the funeral. “What’s the worst thing you ever had to do?”  “Did it smell?”  “Did you have to do that?” I enjoy these conversations. Most of the time it is a healthy curiosity; the questions are manageable. I always end by telling them it is all part of the job. But surprisingly, since the article, all the questions have been about corporate ownership of local funeral homes.
People have heard that corporate funeral homes exist but never thought they were this close to home. Recently there have been more than a few national stories about corporate funeral companies.  None have been very flattering.  Here in Vermont, SCI, the world’s largest funeral corporation owns businesses in Chester, Ludlow, Brattleboro and Townsend all have corporate funeral homes. In New Hampshire, the choices are even smaller.  In Keene, SCI also owns 2 homes that are less than 1/4 mile from each other.  What happens if you are not happy with the funeral home you have chosen? If you leave to take your business elsewhere you could be walking into the exact same business.  The funeral homes will have different names.  They will have different furniture. Prices will vary just slightly. If you met with John at the first funeral home, you will met with Edward at the next.  But in truth, everything is identical.
However, there are huge differences between family owned businesses and those that are run by corporations. Recently there have been multiple national stories about corporate funeral companies.   Corporate funeral homes are run by the bottom line.  They are in it for the profit. They train their staff to  maximize profits and cut cost at the expense of the families. They have corporate retreats where they spend hours training their staff to get the most money out of you as they can. The early days of the local funeral director have been replaced with the money driven corporate giants who are quite happy with the rich getting richer and the poor staying poor. Sounds familiar.Corporate-Training-A
I am really enjoying my role as funeral consultant. I continue to pass along all the knowledge I have gained over the years and offer assistance to families that just are not sure what to do when the time comes. If you have a question, contact me at anytime. I can be reached by email at mark@williamsriverservices.com or cell 802-353-0021.

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Do You Have a Exit Strategy?

Another interesting blog about death. This blog is written about one persons awakening after his sisters death. She died of brain cancer at a young age.

“Visualize the end to better live the present.”It is not unusual that someone uses art to help with there grieving. Artist Motoi Yamamoto uses salt, a funeral material in Japan, to create artworks that help him heal his grief. Here is a short video that explains his journey.



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“I’m basically the Grim Reaper to them…….”


Wow, what a great article.  There is so much info here that I have read it 3 times and still am not sure that I have grasped all of it.

embalming 3

Number 5 about the embalming process is right on.  I wish I could tell you that it is a gentle practice. Remember embalming is not required in most cases. If your loved one has been embalmed and you did not ask or approved of the operation, your funeral director has broken the law. Filing a complaint with your state is the best place to start. My advise, get a lawyer and document everything. Every phone call, meeting, and any other interaction you have with the funeral home. In most cases its the funeral director who has broken the law and not the funeral home.

Number 3 points out that the funeral home is not impressed with the recent up swing of hospice assisted home deaths. As the hospice movement continues to grow, so will the stark reality that funeral directors have got to find better ways to deal with home deaths.  Most houses are not built with the funeral director in mind. People want to be at home in there final days. I do not want to die in a hospital. I don’t want to spend time in a morgue waiting for a funeral home to pick me up. From my experience, most churches are not built with a funeral in mind. I guess when planning to build a new church, they don’t think any of there followers are going to die. carry-the-body-of-amy-winehouse-outside-her-house-in-l

Lots of good info here.  If you have a minute take a look. If you are put in a situation where the death is unexpected, dont call the funeral home first.  Call a friend or clergy member.  Take your time and ask for help. The Funeral Consumer Alliance is a great source of free information to get you started.


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It pays for consumers to pay attention.


Great article on Funeral Consumers rights.  In lieu of a bad situation, below is a list of general tips offered by The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs.


The state office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation also provides some general tips on purchasing a funeral:

  • Shop around. Check with more than one establishment.
  • Don’t sign any documents or contracts until you have read them carefully and understand clearly what they say.
  • Before you decide on particular services or merchandise, make sure you receive an itemized price list from the funeral director.
  • Other than a required basic services fee, you have the right to select only the items you want to buy. Under federal law, this fee must either be listed as a separate charge with a description of what it includes, or included in the casket prices and identified as part of the casket price. If legal requirements mean that you must buy something for which you did not ask, the funeral director must explain the reasons why you are required to buy that additional item in writing.
  • Except in certain circumstances, embalming is not required by law.
  • Recent changes in Massachusetts law allow you to rent rather than buy a casket if you so choose.
  • Make sure that you receive an itemized statement of the prices for the goods and services you actually agree to buy. This statement should identify the actual or estimated price for each separate item of merchandise or service to be provided, to the extent that that price is known at the time, and must be signed by the funeral director. This statement must be provided to you at the time you finish making the arrangements, or prior to the funeral service itself.

It pays for consumers to pay attention. The national median cost of a funeral in 2012 was $7,045, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. If a vault is included, the median cost is $8,343.


Talk about your arrangements with your family today. Research your option. Find a provider that can accommodate your wishes at a reasonable cost. Eco friendly options are out there. Green burials are coming to a cemetery near you. If your not sure what to do first, ask for help. Below is a list of good places to start.

Funeral Consumer Alliance

Home Funeral Alliance


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