I’ve read stories about celebrity types feuding over a loved ones remains. Names that come to mind are: singer – James Brown, baseball great – Ted Williams, actor – Peter Lawford, singer – Ray Charles, and actor – Marlon Brando. Never in a million years, did I believe the same could happen to our run-of-the-mill family.
Dad had specific wishes, that when he died, we were to consult the United States Air Force Veterans Association. The military would provide body preparation and burial free of charge. My father didn’t want anyone spending a dime on his funeral. His way of looking at things, was that after 20 years in the service, that’s the least they could still do for him.
He specifically wanted to be buried at Fort Richardson National Cemetery in Anchorage, Alaska. Mom’s interned at Pioneer Cemetery in Palmer, Alaska. That was her choice.
After Mother passed, and before Dad died, my father’s new wife elected to sever all communication with our side of the family. Sadly, that happens more often than you think. This went on for almost seven years. When word came that he’d finally left this earth at the age of 88, there was nothing we could do to make sure Dad’s wishes were followed. My brother tried but was rebuked in the effort.
Jim and I were told that Dad’s body was taken care of by a local Henderson, Nevada funeral home, and that he was entombed at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder some ten miles away. Having no say in the matter, we were at peace believing at least part of his directive was followed.
Having a curious nature, my brother eventually called this military cemetery finding that our father wasn’t there. After more checking, Jim discovered that Dad had been cremated and his ashes were never mailed to the spouse nor picked up by her.
Trying to arrange transfer of the urn to us, Jim ran into a serious roadblock. To begin with, the second wife still had rights over it, and even worse, the mortuary holding the cremains, Hites Funeral Home and Crematorium, had been closed down by state officials for wrongful practice.
After many calls, Jim was finally able to locate a city employee that offered to help. Through this person, it was discovered that Dad’s wife was now mentally imbalanced, thus unable to make her own decisions. When it appeared my brother might finally get possession, another hurdle sprang forth.
A person with Clark County Social Services told him that Dad’s cremains had been placed into a vault containing ashes of 59 other destitute people. To say that was a shock is an understatement. Jim was given a location to the crypt and their hours of operation. By now, there was nothing we could do to have them removed without getting attorneys involved. Reluctantly, we agreed to wait things out.
Time turned out to be on our side. After Dad’s second wife died in 2022, Jim petitioned the city to let us have the remains. It didn’t take long before approval was granted.
Our next step is fly with them to Alaska and have the urn reinterred at Fort Richardson National Cemetery. That will fulfill Dad’s wishes other than the cremation part. As hard as we try, there’s no way we can change that.
Our father would be happy knowing “the boys,” especially Jim, fixed something that appeared to be unfixable. The “old man” had a dry sense of humor, and I use those words with reverence.
I visualize him gazing down with a smirk on his face. After all the mix-up that his spouse, funeral home, Clark County, and City of Las Vegas caused, Dad would’ve uttered the following,
“I’m not paying for that!“