Friday, April 18, 2008

Funeral home refuses to bury couple's son

While I'm sure most of Chicago is talking about the earthquake this morning and the resulting aftershocks, I want to get back to earth and not jump on that wagon right now. Let's talk about a family that's having some trouble burying their child. From the Sun-Times today...
The family wanted something simple for John Mendoza -- the chance to see the 16-year-old one final time and then to say goodbye.

But two Chicago funeral homes told the grief-stricken Mendozas this week they couldn't help, and a third offered only an abbreviated service -- all because John Mendoza had been beaten to death and the funeral homes feared gang retaliation, the Mendozas say.

"It's crazy," said Jose Mendoza, 48, the dead boy's uncle. "Here we are trying to bury our poor nephew so he can rest in peace, and these people are being boneheads."

John Mendoza was found bludgeoned to death in a South Side alley Monday morning. Detectives haven't ruled out gang involvement, but the Mendozas insist the 16-year-old wasn't in a gang and had in fact recently changed schools to avoid being sucked into that life.

Representatives of the three Chicago funeral homes either wouldn't discuss how they handled the Mendozas' funeral request or disagree with what the family says happened.

Richard Modelski, owner of Modell Funeral Homes, denied that the Mendozas were refused service.

But any time someone dies violently, Modelski takes precautions, he said, including requiring a $2,000 fee to pay for extra security.

Wakes are often scheduled in the morning because "most gang violence occurs in the evening under cover of darkness," Modelski said. "Unfortunately, that's the society we live in."

But the Mendozas say their son wasn't in a gang.

"Most families aren't going to be honest with you," Modelski said. "Most families don't know what their children do."
There is some good news on this front, the family finally found a funeral home. Apparently there is a way to handle this and perhaps the homes in question didn't handle this well. It seems even a longtime funeral director and former president of a funeral home association seemed to have question about their handling of this.

I should also mention. I've been to the funeral of a couple of people who died violent deaths and their funerals were organized by black-owned funeral homes. An important industry in the black community is the funeral home. I would sincerely hope tho I've not seen it, that our funeral homes wouldn't behave in this fashion.

I think the funeral homes this family went to might have been a little fearful in an irrational way. That's unfortunate.

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