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Category Archives: Death

Why don’t funeral directors just ask?

“This article is not going to endear me to many funeral directors but I’m willing to take the risk for the sake of the best care for the bereaved.” [the Author]

At a recent funeral service at one of my regular funeral homes I was working with a funeral director, who recently joined the team. We had a moment to chat and I asked him why I was not seeing any referrals or cases from him. It was very unusual because the other funeral directors on staff called frequently with requests for services. His answer was a bit shocking: “They don’t ask.” He meant the bereaved families don’t ask.

Well, when a funeral director takes the first call alerting him of a death, or when the family comes in for the arrangements meeting, they shouldn’t have to ask. Part of deathcare is asking the right questions and the religion- spirituality question”, or even “Would you like to speak to our bereavement chaplain about the service?” or “Would you like us to have our chaplain join us at the arrangements meeting?” are among the “right” questions.

Asking the right questions; giving the right answers.
The arrangements meeting.

The fact is, any funeral director should be trained and interested enough to ask all the right questions; after all, the family is coming to the funeral director to have him or her ask the right questions and give the right answers. I have never met a family facing the recent death of a loved one come in with a laundry list of Questions to Ask. Families don’t have a FAQs page when in the grip of acute bereavement! Wake up! You deathcare professionals — if I can use the term “deathcare” these days — need to re-join the care team.

Get it done and move on!

Reason No. 1: Time

One of the reasons for this conspicuous thoughtlessness and lack of real compassion is that most mortuary science programs don’t teach deathcare; they teach the business of funeral directing and how to pass the boards. When a graduate finishes his two-year course, he goes into a one-year residency program with a funeral home, where he again learns the “business.” He has to sell the funeral home’s facilities, their merchandise, the skills of the preparation team, and his time. Of course there are the other items like removal of the deceased, paperwork required by law and cemeteries, etc. But it’s all about the “product.” What the funeral director is selling is turnkey disposal of the deceased, and he’s doing that with time in mind. It’s a question of turnaround. Finish up this case, get back to the funeral home, get the messages and move on to the next removal. All of this involves time.

So the real reason most bereaved families don’t get spiritual, religious, or officiant services is because the funeral director does not ask. The funeral director doesn’t ask because such services are not part of what he sells; he has to get them from the outside, and he calls those costs “out-of-pocket” expenses, because either he has to pay them and get reimbursed or the family pays for them directly. He or she does not ask because a religious or spiritual funeral service takes time — it adds about an hour to the entire program. And those hours add up and translate into dollars, thousands of dollars for the funeral home. Keep the disposal time down to a minimum and feed the bottom line.

The regrettable fact today is that most funeral directors spend very little time with the family or the survivors, the bereaved. He probably receives the first call through a third party answering service, he makes the removal as quickly and cleanly as possible, he sits through the arrangements meeting with the family and showcases his services and merchandise, greets the family and mourners at the door, and stands by during the visitation hours (usually 3-4 hours at most), if any, and stands by and directs the final viewing and funeral (usually 2-3 hours). That’s it. The only direct contact with the family is perhaps 1 hour during removal and during the arrangements meeting. The rest of the 2-7 hours of visitation and funeral operations he’s standing by, ensuring that things go per script, and there’s little or no contact with the bereaved, much less any attempt at bereavement support. That’s the chaplain’s job but what if there’s no chaplain to do that?

Corporate and Factory Funerals Services.

The situation is even worse with the factory funeral services providers like Newcomer and Service Corporation International (SCI and their Dignity Memorial). These corporations work on volume and marketing. They offer “the lowest cost” in the area and then pick up the slack with factory-style services and nickle-and-diming the bereaved with the little “extras.” If your thought the small funeral home operator was on a tight schedule, you haven’t experienced the factory funerals. Because funeral homes work with a time-focus, they are likely to promote the easiest and quickest disposal methods to the bereaved, using the sales pitch that “it’s the least expensive” of the disposal methods: direct cremation or direct burial. Nothing between death and disposal. Grandpa dies, gets carted off and shipped directly to the crematorium, or he gets buried almost immediately. No frills, no time lost. After all, you have better things to do with your time than deal with death. Right? Funeral director gets back for the next case, and the relatives get on with whatever they think is more important than honoring their dead.

Reason No. 2:  Money

While time in the funeral services business may equate with money more than in other businesses, money and expenses factor into this dehumanizing equation.

While cutting quality of services.

But leaving the fact that time is money for a moment, a well-orchestrated funeral or memorial service can be complicated and involve additional costs. Of course, the funeral director does not have to pay those costs but he does have to persuade the family to agree to them and ultimately to pay for them. There was a time when the deceased was laid out for 2-3 viewings: the first was the family private viewing. The next evening would be the visitation viewing when friends and acquaintances would “pay their respects,” and offer condolences to the family. The third viewing, if there were one, would be a public viewing, perhaps with a prayer service, or it would be on the morning of the actual funeral either in the funeral home or crematorium chapel, or in a church or temple, followed by the procession to the place of final disposition. Those days are gone. History.

While all of this added time to the event and locked up the funeral home’s resources for the duration, such a funeral also required additional arrangements (time etc.), equipment (vehicles, transportation, etc.), personnel, and outside professionals (clergy), and even outside facilities (church, chapel). Today’s funerals are much different in terms of visitation and receiving friends and acquaintances: There may be a funeral home chapel service before processing to the place of final disposition. There may or may not be a wake or prayer service or even a public viewing the day before the actual funeral. In other words, the funeral home facilities have become one of the products sold and all other services have been cut to the absolute minimum, including any bereavement support and any spiritual or religious support.

In other words, by not asking or offering bereavement support in the form of spiritual or religious services, the funeral home is saving time and, hence, money. The funeral director saves time and effort by not asking if the family wants spiritual or religious support, and he doesn’t bring up the subject. He thus does not have to plan in the time for coordinating with the chaplain or clergyman nor does he have to tie up personnel and facilities and time for an in-house funeral service, much less an off-site church service.

The savvy funeral director is aware that if he doesn’t offer, the bereaved are unlikely to ask for spiritual or religious services.

There is an exception to this “rule:” Many funeral homes have close connections with a local church or several churches for a very special reason: when a congregation or parish member dies, he gets the body and the pastor gets the honorarium for the use of the church and for officiating at the funeral. This is the one instance where the pastor or the church administrator will promote the services of the funeral director and the funeral director ensures that the church gets the case. That’s why we most often see a funeral home sponsoring a church’s calendar and advertising in the church bulletin. Funeral director and pastor tend to partner and profit by this relationship. Funeral home gets the body and the pastor gets the honorarium. Works well for both. And at least the family gets the appearance of religion or spirituality but it’s just the appearance. We’ve all experienced the funeral service where the officiant clergyman has no idea who the person was but does the service anyway. That’s insensitive and unethical. But it apparently works for most everybody, however.

Reason No. 3: Ignorance

As I mentioned above, most graduates of mortuary science programs learn how to run a funeral services business, that is, the body disposal business. Most graduates leave the program with little or no understanding of spirituality or religion, or even of the psychology of grief and coping with bereavement. They go through the coursework and the motions but what they’re really interested in is the business. After all, it’s one of the only businesses that will always have a customer pool.

I have to ask: “How much can anyone learn about these fundamentally human aspects of deathcare in a mere two-year course that includes business studies, including business law and the legal aspects of deathcare, the basic sciences of death and post-mortem preparation of the deceased, cosmetology, etc.”

Truth be told, many young people go into the mortuary science programs with the best of intentions but then something ugly happens; they see what was once a noble profession from the inside. It’s like admiring a beautiful medieval tapestry and then looking at the back and seeing the ugly knots and strings. What’s more, at 18 or 21 years old, they generally lack the maturity to make good judgments and they have no life experience to fuel any sort of wisdom. They go in as sponges and come out saturated with misconceptions and deranged values. So now you are sitting across from an ignorant 20-something funeral director who is going to tell you all about death and grief! He could be your grandson!!!

Here’s my point: A professional chaplain will have at least a four-year undergraduate degree and then at least a professional degree at the master’s level (masters degree in pastoral studies, religion, theology, or the gold-standard professional degree, the Master of Divinity). For example, a very good friend of mine has a graduate degree in psychology with a degree in literature, and a master of divinity degree, plus formal healthcare chaplaincy training. Most masters degrees require only 12-30 credits of graduate level study; the masters degree in divinity requires at least 75-90, frequently up to 120 credits of graduate level study! In other words, the professional chaplain is likely to have as much training as a physician, and at least 2-3x more training than most graduate degree programs. A professional chaplain is also very likely better trained that the vast majority of so-called denominational clergy, most of whom get their credentials from a so-called denominational “bible school” or from some unaccredited school of ministry. The bible-school graduates are cheap but ineffectual; the real professionals are not all that expensive but are professionals and some ignorant business owners don’t like to get too involved with professionals.

So who do you think is the best qualified to provide acute, short-term, or long-term bereavement support?

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. Many funeral directors are very intelligent, skilled, and compassionate people who have chosen a very thankless, but very essential line of work. While there are some crooks and some very incompetent weasels among them as in any profession, most are very good at what they do: (1) serve the public in an essential role, (2) run a business, (3) participate in important community organizations and activities. From personal experience, I have worked with some saints but have also to admit that I have experienced some real ignorant sickos.

But today the bottom line is unquestionably business success, and that means turnover. Turnover is important in the short term because it provides the funeral director with a lifestyle; in the long-term it shows that the business can make money and, when it comes to retirement time, the funeral director wants to sell the business for as much as he can get. My point is that the funeral director is not trained to provide bereavement support or religious/spiritual support, or even to officiate or to design a funeral service; he’s trained in the business and technology of body disposal and running a funeral home.[1]

Reason No. 4: They don’t care.

While ignorance is not restricted only to the scope of training but can also be observed on the personal level in some funeral directors. It can come into play in other ways: a “not knowing” that results in “not caring” or indifference to the spiritual needs of the customer. Or, the funeral director has a more subtle agenda: he simply does not believe or does not have a connection with spirituality or religion, or he is simply anticlerical or anti-religion, and, paradoxically, he man not feel comfortable talking about the subject of death and spirituality much less even including it in their offerings. He doesn’t care what the bereaved believe, he doesn’t believe that is important.

And then you have the feminist funeral director whose main objective is to make an incursion into what was historically a male-dominated profession. Her self-loathing and hatred of being a woman blinds her to all else, including the needs of the bereaved. Like so many women who enter into previously male-dominated professions, they exaggerate everything, even the insincerity and unauthentic compassion they offer. They have an agenda, not a vocation. But that’s not limited to the funeral business.

That is a problem in many ways but the most insidious way is that they are promoting personal beliefs at the expense of individuals in a very vulnerable situation who might benefit from religious or spiritual support. Moreover, the funeral director in such situations in in a control and power situation vis-à-vis the bereaved, and is misusing that situation in an unethical manner. Again, ethics is not a hot topic in mortuary science curricula, unless it’s basic ethics to keep the potential funeral director out of legal hot water.

If a funeral director finds he does not believe or is anticlerical or anti-religion and, during the arrangements meeting finds that the family has a faith or belief tradition, whether they practice or not, he should refer the case to a colleague who can best serve that family. You can be certain that in the very policy-aligned corporate funeral homes (Newcomer, Service Corporation International, Dignity, etc.) this is not going to happen. It probably won’t happen even in a larger privately owned funeral home group.


This article was inspired by the statement of a funeral director, which in turn resulted in reflection on why an experienced deathcare provider would make such a statement. It is not my intention to indict any funeral director or to paint all funeral directors in the same color, but to make the point that regardless of the reasonable presumption that the funeral director is a business man and, for obvious reasons, must operate a funeral home as a business, there are some essential services that must be offered, even if the client does not specifically or explicitly request them, and which might require the funeral director to make the effort to ask directly, “Have you given any thought to a religious or spiritual service as part of the final arrangements?” or at least to review the death documents to ascertain whether the deceased had a religious or spiritual preference, and then proceeding on the basis of that information. It’s as simple as that.

If they don’t ask, you ask. Period.


This article is courtesy of Compassionate Care Associates, marriage celebrants and funeral and memorial officiants serving the Greater Capital District Area of Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Columbia, Ulster, Greene counties in New York. Visit the website at Compassionate Care Associates.


[1] I do know some clergy who are “working clergy,” that is, they are ordained by their denomination as clergy but work in the funeral services sector as “funeral directors.” Depending on the denomination, their “clergy” training may be minimal or it may be accredited by a national or international agency, but they are denominational clergy, that is, they are trained in a specific faith or belief tradition, and are bound by that tradition. They don’t bite the hand that feeds them. A professional interfaith chaplain may be ordained or licensed but he does not serve a specific denomination, and he is most likely adept in several faith or belief traditions as well as in non-religious traditions. That’s the big difference between denominational clergy and the interfaith chaplain. To ensure the best service, the best choice is the professional interfaith chaplain.

Furthermore, the interfaith professional chaplain likely specializes in a narrow field of expertise such as bereavement, crisis intervention, healthcare, etc. Beware, though, of the so-called “board-certified” log-rollers and club members; the board-certified chaplain is no better than the denominational clergyman; both serve a master and that master is not the bereaved or the client! The majority of “board-certified” log-rollers have little or no training in ministry, theology, pastoral care, or religious studies. If you hear the words “evidence based” you know they’re robots. Membership in an organization and that organization’s “certification” keeps the organization in business but doesn’t to a thing for the bereaved. Most are narcissists and incompetent. Same generally applies to most careerist clergy.

 

 

The Editor Chimes in on Riley’s Song: What have you become, America?

The Editor Responds: What have you become, America?

This is what we’ve become, fellow Americans. It’s nothing to be proud of unless you’re some sort of pervert[1], which most of you are; you like watching without revealing yourselves or speaking up. You like lurking and thinking no one knows your’re there. You like fake names, fake profiles, fake pictures. You like Facebook and fake friends. You like online porn and … well, I’ll stop there. Am I right? Well, now that we can agree on a starting point, here’s where you can give some thought to what you have become —
and whether there’s anything left worth redeeming.

  • On September 12, 2018, 1,464 people read the articlesRiley’s Song: Verse Two” and “Riley’s Mom Responds: A mother’s perspective.”
  • Since we posted “We are Reopening the Case” on September 7, 2018, to September, 13, 2018, we averaged almost 500 new readers a day with an average of almost 600 page views a day.
  • In the period from “We are Reopening the Case” (September 7, 2018) to “Riley’s Mom Responds: A mother’s perspective” (September 12, 2018) we had almost 5,000 new readers on Smalbany Blog.
  • We received a total of 18 comments of which 9 were from cranks with negative comments and 9 were from persons supporting Smalbany’s work on this one investigation.
  • Of the total of 18 comments, 6 were from a sicko calling him/herself “Smalbany is full of crap” using an email “smalbanyisfullofcrap@gmail.com.”  2 were from a weirdo calling him/herself “Douche” and using an email “dickhead@gmail.com ; ”  both of these dingleberries were trying to get a moment of cheap fame in their low lives by stealing from the real issue. The remaining negatives included 1 from a friend of Hagen’s (you can imagine what that one had to say).
  • The remaining 9 were from supporters: 1 from a close friend of Riley (JH), 5 from someone close to Riley, and a touching comment from Riley’s mom (which we published with her permission at “Riley’s Mom Responds: A Mother’s Perspective”). Two others were from a reader/commenter calling him/herself “Tompkins” and more concerned with the name of the road than with the subject matter of the article, and one kind “Keep up the good work” comment.

Do the math: That’s 0.0036% or 4/1000 or 1/250 meaning that only 1 out of every 250 readers got off their ass to make a comment one way or the other. As for the positive comments versus the negative comments, they were evenly divided 9:9. But only 0.0018 or 2/1000 or 1/500 = 1 out of every 500 readers left a comment pro or con.

We can’t believe that so many readers could have been so callous as not to even have left a condolence message for the family, or at least to have insulted Smalbany. Stated another way, we are at a loss that so few of the readers had the courage to have an opinion and share it!

We have to look at these figures and wonder whether Americans have become so dehumanized and so insensitive as not to have given a second thought to a terrible tragedy and a terrible injustice. Yes, readers, this is not only a terrible tragedy, the death of a young man just beginning his life, and a terrible tragedy for his family and friends, it’s a terrible stain on what we so facilely call a country of laws, a God-fearing people, a country founded on humane values, and a country that cherishes family values.

This tragedy is not just a personal tragedy nor is it a merely family tragedy, it’s a social tragedy, an American tragedy. Your responses tell us and everyone just simply viewing the Smalbany blog that Americans are all talk. This tragedy tells the world — Yes! The WORLD! These three articles have been read by people in Canada, France, Sweden, as far away as the Philippines and Dubai, and even in Texas! — this tragedy broadcasts to the entire world what hypocrites Americans are.

I wanna see the world with you
Come on and take me by the hand
Don’t even worry about it you’ll understand
I wanna see the world with you
The way you go out we follow
What’s better than us?
Better than us?
We don’t wanna to know

Riley’s Song[2]

Riley’s Song is a song about youth, love and future. It reminds us of the beauty of Riley “Jeremiah” Kern’s young life and saddens us that his has been cut short.

But our Riley’s Song is the tragic song of what America has become — or not become. Our Riley’s song is about injustice, incompetence, cronyism, cover-ups, infidelity, irresponsibility, lawlessness, favoritism. Our Riley’s song is about a society that has become so materialistic that it has lost all sense of morality and goodness but is so blind as not to even notice the weeping lesions all over its corrupt body.

Riley’s mom asked a question of one of our contributors just yesterday. It was a question about the Biblical prophet Jeremiah, so we had to pass it on to a theologian/clergyperson for a proper response. The fact that she asked the question had more to do with a completely different thought but sometimes things happen for inexplicable reasons. This is one of those things.

You see, she asked what we thought Jeremiah 22 meant. Jeremiah is one of the major Old Testament (First Covenant) prophets, a prophet who is revered as a major prophet by all three Abrahamic traditions: Christianity, Judaism — Jeremiah is so important that he has been made canon in Judaism—, and Islam. Not only is there a Book of Jeremiah, the Book of Lamentations is generally accepted as having been his work. Jeremiah is also known as the “Weeping Prophet,” because when you read his words describing and mourning the fall, capture and destruction of his beloved Jerusalem, and if you read Lamentations, you will hear Jeremiah’s anguish, and yes, tears, in his words. We even have an English word based on Jeremiah’s writings: “jeremiad,” a sad lamentation.

In his response, the Reverend explains:

Jeremiah sends a warning message:

“Doom to the one who builds palaces but bullies people, who makes a fine house but destroys lives, who cheats their workers and won’t pay them for their work, who says, ‘I’ll build me an elaborate mansion with spacious rooms and fancy windows and rare and expensive woods and the latest in interior decor.’” (Jer 22:13-14)

Woe, doom, to the one who takes wonderful care of themselves at the expense of others. Woe, doom, to the one who provides for their own luxuries or comfortable living at the expense of others who work for almost nothing.

We have become driven to get a good feeling without any effort — to make believe that everything is peachy.  Isn’t it right to try to get a good deal, to go where we can get the best deal for the lowest price? Isn’t it wonderful when we can cheat someone out of something and feel good about it, or get a new friend with a mouse click? We love to fool ourselves. When you get a compliment on that fake profile picture on Facebook, we often enjoy telling the story of what great bargain we are. Why is it, when we get something by cheating or screwing someone, we think we’re a smart? Why is it when we have so many virtual friends we actually think we are loved or liked? Is cheap and deceptive always better?

What if we would take a moment when purchasing an item to ask questions like “Why is this so cheap?” or when we accept a friend me invitation, ask, “I wonder who this person really is?.”

We, as a culture, are so absorbed in our consumption of things and entertainment, and even people that we ignore or forget what the actual cost is to ourselves, our own humanness, the rest of the world.  Think of this example, since we are a country that loves kids so much: Some countries are known to use and abuse child labor more than others, and those countries are big exporters to the USA, and Americans do love to get something cheap but they are less interested in knowing the history of the cheap; in other words, they suspend their condemnation of child abuse for a moment so they can enjoy their cheap.

We, as a society, find it very easy to suspend morality, values, ethics, humanity for cheap. But cheap is receiving the benefits without paying the cost involved.

This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. (Jer 22:3)

I hope that helps you to have at least a starter understanding of this great and sensitive prophet.

Somehow, the young man, Riley, picked up the nickname “Jeremiah,” and used it as his alter ego; it even appears on the cross, the roadside memorial, marking the place where he died. Now isn’t that something to think about?

Think of how this all began: In an article published on August 4, 2018, “Three Articles on New Baltimore Scandals: Pick One or Read All,” just days after Riley’s death, we added just a simple footnote. Just a footnote, asking the question:

Is this a cover up to protect a prominent Ravena family? Doesn’t the young man’s life mean anything or do we just sweep the whole thing under the carpet? We need to start asking questions. The 20-year old man is not just another raccoon, Mr Contento!”[3]

Putting all of this in a sort of perspective, most of our readers will recall a scandalous incident that occurred last March 2018, in the Village of Ravena, at Faith Plaza shopping mall. The incident involved two Coeymans police officers in two Coeymans Police Department vehicles harassing and running over a wild raccoon in full view of dozens of witnesses. The incident was videoed by a witness and appeared on Facebook and YouTube; it went viral and created an international uproar. Not only that, a petition was started called “Justice for raccoon killed by officers from Coeymans Police Department” which was signed by more than 110,000 people! The incident was addressed at the Coeymans Town Board Meeting on March 22 by no less than 5 angry citizens, some coming from as far away as Amsterdam, NY (about 50 miles from Ravena). The speakers were interviewed by local television and print media and the interviews broadcast on the evening news. The story was picked up by a large number of newspapers nationwide. It was a real scandal and it was about the inhumane treatment of an innocent wild animal.

Justice Demanded for a Raccoon. It’s a start.

Smalbany covered the story because it was just another nail in the Police Department’s coffin.

Perhaps we’re being unfair and perhaps we’re missing something. But if 110,000 people will come forward and sign an online petition and leave their comments demanding justice for a wild raccoon, and leave their comments expressing their outrage, what have we been missing in the Riley P. Kern case? Are we missing something or are we trying to avoid the perversion, the ugliness staring us directly in the face?

110,000 signatures, almost as many comments for a raccoon. Almost as many outraged comments. Coverage nationwide by numerous newspapers. Coverage by local print and television media with interviews. Outraged citizens appearing to make public statements at a public Town of Coeymans town board meeting on the record. What are we missing here?

We at Smalbany are not missing a thing, ladies and gentlemen. We are fully aware of what’s going on locally and in society. The real question is: “What are YOU missing?”

Perhaps this Smalbany blog, these articles on Riley, are in fact a jeremiad, bitterly lamenting the state of society and its morals in a serious tone of sustained invective, and even containing a prophecy of our society’s imminent downfall.

Perhaps the questions we are asking are going over your heads. Perhaps you are so far gone that you can’t even understand what we are pointing at and saying: “Wake up! This is a sickening state of affairs! Say, DO something!”

Riley Parker “Jeremiah” Kern is dead. Riley Parker “Jeremiah” Kern was a young human being, a young man, good, kind, handsome, talented, smart; he had a wonderful future ahead of him. Riley Parker “Jeremiah” Kern was killed under clearly suspicious circumstances in a freakish accident. Riley Parker “Jeremiah” Kern is crying out for justice, the justice that even a wild raccoon was able to obtain.

Riley Parker “Jeremiah” Kern has become a symbol full of meaning of what we are, have become, but can yet redeem as human beings.

Take responsibility.  Meet your obligations. Demand Justice.

 


[1] Gotcha! You probably read pervert and went off on a tangent. Well, that’s only because you never got a good education. But that’s the subject of another article. Here’s what a pervert is and how we are using it here: A pervert is someone who has detoured from or altered from their original course, purpose or intendment, their meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended. Human beings were allegedly intended or created to be divine images of Good and Justice. Now can you admit you’re a pervert?
[2] Riley’s Song, Featuring VACAY, Alex Zaichkowski & Shane Harte. Album Songs From The Next Step, Season 3, Volume 1.
[3] Mr. Contento is Sgt Daniel Contento, acting chief of police in the Town of Coeymans. When we refer to a raccoon we are referring to an incident that became an international scandal: Two Coeymans police vehicles harassed and killed a wild raccoon in a public parking lot in full view of dozens of witnesses. We covered the incident in our articles “We are speechless! OMG! Coeymans Police Caught on Video Again!” and “Follow-up Report: Coeymans Raccoon Incident. We still have our doubts!, “ and two other follow-up articles: “Truth be Told: On the Heels of the Coeymans Town Board Meeting” and “Officer Identified!!! Coeymans PD Steve Prokrym Involved in Raccoon Scandal!!!

 

Riley’s Song: Verse Two – Update on Our Investigations.

There are too many contradictions, gaps, inconsistencies in the Riley Kern case to allow anyone with any sense of decency or any trace of compassion to rest easy. While we can’t answer all questions in such a tragic event we can at least try to be honest and thorough in answering those that are answerable. We can at least meet our obligations to come forward and speak the truth. We can at least do our best to connect the dots and minimize doubt and with doubt mistrust. None of this has been done in Riley’s case, at least as far as our investigations and informants have shown. Here’s where we are as of today.

They’re gonna getcha!

Riley Kern was 19 at the time of the accident. Riley Kern’s funeral was on his 20th birthday. Riley Kern, although just before his death, was living with his mother and sister in Kansas, was a local boy. Riley Kern grew up in the RCS area and even attended Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk high school. Riley Kern’s father, Paul Gumpher, still lives in Climax, New York.

A group of local young people loved and respected Riley to such an extent that they got together and made the trip to Kansas to pay their respects and say a last farewell to Riley at his funeral. For all we have to say about today’s young people, that gesture of loyalty and love struck at even our heart chords. There’s no words to say that would do them the credit they deserve but Thank you! You really did Good!

We are asking Travis Hagen: If you have nothing to hide, nothing to fear, do you go into hiding?

A local man, Travis D Hagen, 48 years old, formerly of Ravena, New York, now residing in the Greene County hamlet of Coxsackie, just south of Ravena, has all but disappeared from the radar. Hagen didn’t have the decency even to express his condolences to Riley’s family at the death of their son, a death caused or at least contributed to by Hagen. Hagen is even avoiding the insurance investigators in the case. This raises the obvious question of: If you have nothing to hide, nothing to fear, do you go into hiding?

Why are you hiding?

Travis Hagen, 48, was driving a 2007 GMC pick-up truck on State Route 143 at the junction of County Route 106 (Tompkins Road) in front of the Sycamore Country Club. We might ask what Hagen was doing out there in the early evening hours of Friday, July 27, 2018, so far from Coxsackie on a sultry summer’s evening. There’s not a lot out there at that time of day except perhaps some friends and some brews. Informants share with us that Travis does like his brew. More on this later.

The Terry Hagen Golf Tournament benefiting the Lustgarten Foundation

Informants also tell us that there is an annual Terrry Hagen Golf Tournament held at the Sycamore County Club, and that the elder Hagen , now dead, was a popular denizen at the country club and an avid golfer. Dots are starting to connect, aren’t they?

Well, the Terry Hagen Memorial Golf Tourny was held at the Sycamore Country Club on August 18, 2018, so it’s reasonable to suggest that Travis Hagen was at the Sycamore Country Club taking care of “business” over a couple of brews, planning or finalizing details of the golf tourny. Sound reasonable to you? Why else would anyone be in that desolate area on a Friday evening? Now, an investigator would certainly have to question the staff at the Sycamore about Hagen’s being there that evening and what he was doing. Doncha think?

One person killed, NO accident reconstruction, and NO police photos taken.

Riley P. “Jeremiah” Kern

The NYS DMV Police Accident Report (MV-104A (6/04) shows the accident to have occurred on July 27, 2018, a Friday, at 6:22 p.m. One person killed, no accident reconstruction, and no police photos taken. That’s a bit irregular. Although our research with the National Weather Service shows that July 27, 2018, was generally sunny/partly cloudy with a high of 86 and a low of 67, there is no mention of weather conditions in the police report. Wouldn’t you think that would be important? Not according to Patrolman Ian Foard of the Coeymans Police Department, the “investigator” at the scene.

Back to the Police Report: In the Accident Description/Officer’s Notes section of the report, Riley’s vehicle is referred to as V1 and Hagen’s vehicle as V2, in the extract of the Police Report below, we are transcribing V1 to Riley and V2 as Hagen . Foard writes:

“Riley was traveling around a curve at high speed and Riley lost control of the vehicle and laid his motorcycle down.[1] Hagen was traveling Northbound [sic] on Route 143 and as Riley came around the curve it (V1 or V2? Riley or Hagen ?) traveled into the Northbound lane in front of Hagen.  Hagen swerved to avoid impact and struck Riley. Riley was ejected and struck the rear driver side of Hagen’s vehicle. Riley’s vehicle traveled under Hagen ’s causing damage to the undercarriage of Hagen s vehicle and eventually ending up behind Hagen ’s vehicle. Riley did pass away from crash-related injuries at Albany Medical Center.”

According to Patrolman Ian Foard, he was the last official to arrive at the accident scene after the EMTs arrived. So where did he get all of this information? Foard’s entry in the form is undated but the report shows that it was “reviewed by” Daniel Contento (acting Police Chief, Coeymans PD) on August 7, 2018, eleven (11) days after the accident, not including the day of the accident! eleven days later. The accident occurred at 6:22 p.m. on July 27, 2018. Riley died at Albany Medical Center shortly after 10 p.m.

Typical cop fashion: Cover me!

Only one “eye witness” is given in the report (we’re withholding that person’s name for now), who was allegedly mowing his “yard” according to Foard. Our visit to the scene would complicate that witness’ claim to having been an “eye witness” because the only property near the scene is to the South and the site of the accident would have been impaired by bushes. But the eye-witness named in the Police Report by Foard and claimed by Foard to have been “mowing his yard” at the time of the accident, is a big problem. You see, the so-called eye-witness lives on Alcove Road — and we are assuming that’s where his “yard” is —, some 4 miles distance from the accident site!

The one eye-witness was, according to Foard, “mowing his yard.” The problem is, his yard is 4 miles away from the accident site!

But that’s the least of the problems with Foard’s very late report. In fact, New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law Article 22, § 605. Report required upon accident reads (in pertinent part):

“(a) 1. Every person operating a motor vehicle, except a police officer (as defined in subdivision thirty-four of section 1.20 of the criminal procedure law ), a correction officer, or a firefighter, operating a police department, a correction department, or fire department vehicle respectively while on duty, if a report has been filed by the owner of such vehicle, which is in any manner involved in an accident, anywhere within the boundaries of this state, in which any person is killed or injured, or in which damage to the property of any one person, including himself, in excess of one thousand dollars is sustained, shall within ten days after such accident, report the matter in writing to the commissioner.”

“2. Failure to report an accident as herein provided or failure to give correctly the information required of him by the commissioner in connection with such report shall be a misdemeanor and shall constitute a ground for suspension or revocation of the operator’s (or chauffeur’s) license or all certificates of registration for any motor vehicle, or of both, of the person failing to make such report as herein required.  In addition, the commissioner may temporarily suspend the driver’s license or permit or certificate of registration of the motor vehicle involved in the accident, or of both, of the person failing to report an accident within the period prescribed in paragraph one of this subdivision, until such report has been filed.  However, no suspension or a revocation shall be made of a license or certificate of registration of any police officer, correction officer, or firefighter involved in an accident while on duty for failure to report such accident within ten days thereof if a report has been filed by the owner of such vehicle.”

“(c) The report required by this section shall be made in such form and number as the commissioner may prescribe.”

The law is clear on the reporting requirement and the time for reporting. In fact, in the next section, it actually states at VTL § 606. Processing of required reports:

“The commissioner [the DMV], when processing reports of accidents filed pursuant to this article, shall give priority to reports involving serious physical injury (as defined in subdivision ten of section 10.00 of the penal law ) or death.”

The investigating officer, when making his report, is an agent of the Department of Motor Vehicles, that is, the “Commissioner” in the laws. Accordingly, if there is serious physical injury or death involved, the officer is to give “priority” to the report. But it took the Coeymans Police Department eleven (11) days just to get the report written and reviewed! No one is going to tell us that the Coeymans Police Department is that overworked and understaffed that it takes 11 days to fill out a form! Incompetence and indifference; criminal obstruction!

Not only is the police report late and in violation of the law, it is incomplete and inaccurate!

First of all, Patrolman Foard and Sgt Daniel Contento apparently can’t read or understand the clear labels on the form. For example, in the section “Vehicle Model” the form actually gives examples, such as “Mustang, Corvette” but Foard (Contento) insert “Motorcycle” for Vehicle 1 (V1, Riley) but “Sierra” for Vehicle 2 (V2, Hagen).

In the “Emergency Medical Services” the form requires times (in military notation; we are converting to conventional time notation here). EMS was  “Notified at 6:24” and “Arrived at the scene at 6:26 p.m.” The form shows that the EMS “Arrived (with Riley) at hospital” at 7:05 p.m. We don’t find those times to be believable.

First of all, any 911 calls go through the Albany County Sheriff’s Dispatch Center in Albany, who then take down the details and relay them to the appropriate First Responders. That alone should take several minutes. Then the First Responders have to get their acts together and get to the scene, which will take another several minutes, at least. But the accident, according to the report happened at 6:22 p.m. If we are to believe the accident report, the accident was reported after the accident occurred, naturally, that is, after 6:22 p.m., the 911 dispatcher contacted the local EMS, who then got all their information and gear, and personnel together and got to the scene at 6:26. That’s in less than 4 minutes!!! Do you believe that?

That raises yet another question: How long did it take anyone to make the 911 call once the accident occurred?

But it took them about 45 minutes to get the dying boy to Albany Medical Center! And that’s assuming the ambulance arrived at the very same moment as the EMS, which is unlikely because they were also busy trying to decide whether to medevac (Lifeline) Riley to the hospital, a decision that fell through the cracks due to “thunderstorms” in the area (Thunderstorms? No mention of these in the National Weather Service reports. Rain, maybe, but no thunderstorms in Albany County on July 27, 2018).

Back to the report: Patrolman Foard writes that the first point of impact on Riley’s motorcycle was at point 11, the left door. We weren’t aware that motorcycles, much less Riley’s bike, had left doors but maybe Patrolman Foard and Sgt Contento know more about this than we do.

Besides, if you are filling out a form, you’d indicate everything you need to indicate, wouldn’t you? It’s all done half-assed, as usual in Coeymans! We’ve always said, ”You pay peanuts, you get monkeys!”

And then you put them in uniforms and hand them guns.


Editor’s Note: New Law in New York: Serious Accidents to Trigger Mandatory Sobriety Tests in New York. The new law expands the responsibilities of police officers who are first responders to the scene of a motor vehicle accident if the collision either caused a serious injury or caused a death. Now, among the responsibilities that police have as they investigate the cause of the accident is a responsibility to assess whether the driver was in violation of state traffic law or not. Under the previous rules related to field sobriety testing, the laws in New York stipulated that it was up to the discretion of the officer to determine if a person should be tested for impairment. The new rule simplifies and streamlines the system and ensures that drivers don’t simple evade the law when a death or a serious injury happens.

According to New York State Senator Pamela Helming, who was one of the bill’s sponsors, indicated that” “Individuals need to be held accountable for their choices, especially when it leads to the death or serious injury of someone else.” Helming also warned: “Eliminating loopholes in the current law that allow drivers under the influence to escape prosecution at the expense of someone else’s life is a start.” With new evidence available to demonstrate intoxication after serious accidents, victims should be better able to pursue claims for compensation against those who caused collisions while drunk. A New York City car accident law firm can provide help to victims in taking action.

The bill was signed into law on December 18, 2017, and went into effect 30 days after signing.


Seems both Foard and the Sycamore Country Club have no clue where they are.

The accident happened on State Route 143 40 ft South of what Foard calls Tompkins Road. The roadway Foard is referring to, apparently, is County Route 106. Tompkins Road is not the roadway’s DOT real designation but is the street name used by locals and the Sycamore Country Club in its address, but then the Sycamore Country Club is located in the hamlet of Coeymans Hollow, not in Ravena! Seems both Foard and the Sycamore Country Club have no clue where they are. Foard can almost be forgiven, being from Mechanicville and given his history (see below, Editor’s Aside].

Annotated Police Report Sketch

The narrative text also states that Riley was “traveling around a curve at high speed.” How does anyone know that as a fact. Foard himself admits that he was the last to arrive on the scene, after the EMS. The eye witness named in the Police Report was “mowing his yard” and lives on Alcove Road. OK. Maybe Foard can explain how a guy mowing his lawn 4 miles away could see the accident? That guy must have one hell of a set of eyes! Or has Foard left something out? What’s your guess?

In the narrative (text) description of the accident, Foard notes that Hagen’s truck sustained “damage to the undercarriage of Hagen’s vehicle” but Foard does not indicate that damage in the diagram! This raises the question of whether Foard was able to crawl under Hagen’s vehicle to inspect it and on what grounds Foard determined the damage to be caused at the time of the accident. We don’t think that a part-time patrolman has that expertise. Do you?

Foard makes an interesting commitment as to the sequence of the events: He writes that Riley “laid his motorcycle down” indicating that Riley was actually in control of his vehicle and took the emergency measure of putting the cycle into a skid to avoid the accident. This in no way would indicate that Riley “lost control of the vehicle” as Foard speculates in his narrative. Foard was not there and given the situation, it’s unlikely that any witness would be able to state with certainly that Riley lost control of his motorcycle.

Foard then writes that Hagen “swerved to avoid impact and struck Riley.” This is the black letter written narrative that likely went through some editing and, if anything had to be changed before or after Contento “reviewed” and passed the report, that something would have been changed. As it now reads, Hagen struck Riley, not the other way around!

In this narrative the sequence continues: Riley was “ejected and struck the rear driver side” of Hagen’s vehicle. According to the damage diagram in the Police Report, Foard indicates in the Damage Codes for Riley’s vehicle: Point of impact 11 (left, driver side door), “Most Damage”: 8 (rear of vehicle), and Foard enters three other damage codes: 14, undercarriage; 5, passenger side door (or right side of vehicle), and 11, driver side door (or left side of vehicle).

Foard indicates Damage Codes for Hagen’s vehicle:  : “Point of impact 1” (left, front headlight/fender), “Most Damage: 8” (rear of vehicle), and Foard enters three other damage codes: “1”, (left, front headlight/fender); “”10”, driver side door (or right side of vehicle), and “12, driver side front panel (or left front side of vehicle). But this doesn’t seem right because the pictures taken by an EMS person do not show Driver-side damage at all!

Nothing in Foard’s report seems to agree. And it was reviewed by acting police chief Sgt Contento, and released to the Department of Motor Vehicles! How embarassing!

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(Photo Credits: Thomas Marra)

When asked about this, the EMS photographer/journalist explained that the only damage he documented was on the passenger door side, a dent, probably from impact (how else would you get a dent like that shown in the image?) When questioned further, the EMS photographer/journalist explained that if there were no damage he would not have photographed it; there was not damage on the left side, the driver’s side, of Hagen’s vehicle, according to this EMS photographer/journalist.

So this information, along with Foard’s statements in the Police Report actually damage any credibility of the Coeymans Police investigation, if there were any investigation at all, and contradict or rule out most of what Foard writes in his report!

Here’s some other information that creams Foard’s report. The manufacturer’s specs for the 2007 GMC Sierra driven by Hagen give a front ground clearance of 9.1 inches. The rear ground clearance for this vehicle is 12.1 inches, or an average of 10.6 inches along the length of the vehicle.

The 2008 Buel motorcycle driven by Riley has a width of about 29” and a length of about 78 inches. Given the condition of the motorcycle as shown in the pictures taken at the accident scene, and given Foard’s report saying that Riley’s motorcycle “struck the rear driver side” of Hagen’s pickup truck” and then “traveled under Hagen’s vehicle[,] causing damage to the undercarriage of Hagen’s vehicle[,] and eventuallyending up behind Hagen’s vehicle.” Given the specs of the two vehicles, you think the cycle would have been a mangled mess. It wasn’t — at least not until Burn’s Towing got their hands on it. (Click the link to view the insurance investigator’s photos.)

Insurance Investigator’s Photos

True to local scoundrel form, Burns + Sons Auto Repair & AAA Towing in Ravena (2537 US 9W Ravena, NY 12143 ) didn’t waste a minute getting their hands into Riley’s family’s pockets. We have learned that Burns charged the family more than $1800 ($300 for “towing” the motorcycle and $65/day for storage)! Good Lord! The cycle weighs only about 350 lbs and two men could lift it onto a pickup bed! Thank you! Burns & Sons Towing (Ravena) for confirming everything we have ever had to say about local crooks!

There’s more, much more but we won’t share it until we confirm and vet it. Stay tuned!

This is one of a long series of botched investigations that have become the hallmark of the Coeymans Police Department. It’s not only that they are incompetent and too arrogant to call in real professionals from the Albany County Sheriff’s Department or the New York State Police, their incompetence and arrogance has and is continuing to cause good people a lot of unnecessary suffering. On top of all that, we as taxpayers are paying for this incompetence and abuse! How stupid can it possibly get?!?


Editor’s Aside — Some Notes on Coeymans Patrolman Ian FOARD

It appears part-time Coeymans patrolman Ian FOARD comes to Coeymans from the Mechanicville PD, and he brings a bit of baggage with him.

At the regular meeting of the Mechanicville City Council on Wednesday, February 5, 2014. Mayor Baker and the Mechanicville City Council appointed Ian Foard to the position of full-time desk-officer at a rate of $13.47/h (Resolution #20-14)

According to the official minutes of the Coeymans Town Board Meeting of March 22, 2018 Mr. Foard was appointed to the position of Probationary Part-Time Police Officer effective March 26, 2018. Foard’s appointment was contingent upon Foard’s signing a personal services contract with the Town of Coeymans and his paperwork being filed with the Human Resource Clerk. According to the minutes, Foard would be compensated at the rate designated in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. (Resolution #063-18). At that same meeting, Sgt Daniel Contento was appointed acting Police Chief (Resolution #062-18).

The Albany Times Union reported on January 25, 2018, that Ian Foard was one of five Mechanicville police department employees who filed a multiple-charge complaint with the Mechanicville Human Resources Officer alleging multiple abuses by Mechanicville Mayor Baker. Foard alleges in the complaint that when Foard was dealing with a personal family matter, Mayor Baker allegedly told Ian Foard, that his father is “disgusting, weird” because he is transgender. Baker allegedly told Foard “every mistake you’ve made was because of your dad.”

The 5-page complaint was filed with the Commissioner of Accounts Kimberly Dunn who acts as the city’s human resource officer and city clerk. It was signed by Police Benevolent Association officers President Alexander Dunn, Vice President Matthew Dunn, Foard, the bargaining unit’s treasurer, and Rabbitt, the union’s secretary. Both Alexander Dunn and Matthew Dunn are the City Clerk’s, Kimberly Dunn’s sons; the rumor is that the Dunn boys were put up to the complaint by momma Dunn, who has her eye on the mayor’s office.

Later, on July 12, 2018, the Albany Times Union reports that the charges against Mayor Baker were dropped, and that Mechanicville Police Chief Police Chief Joseph Waldron “retired,” “retired” usually used to pretty up the fact of “resigned.”

Ian Foard subsequently resigned or was terminated from employment with the City of Mechanicville Police Department and was later hired as a part-time patrolman by the Town of Coeymans.

We have requested information from the City of Mechanicville relating to FOARD’s termination or separation.

See the extract from the complaint filed by FOARD and others, below.

This is an extract from the official complaint.


This is not an isolated incident with the Cold-Case Coeymans Police Department. We’ve been covering stories on a regular basis. Here are just a few of the most recent articles we’ve run about the a dysfunctional law enforcement mistake:

Dumbass Team: Coeymans Police and Albany DA Soares!
More on the Coeymans Police Department. Our Recent Investigations.
We are speechless! OMG! Coeymans Police Caught on Video Again!
Coeymans Police Turning Into Coeymans Gestapo Again?
Criminals Thumbing Their Noses to Law Enforcement? Why?
Local Law Enforcement Might Need Some Help with the Math: 2 + 2 = Stahlman!
Drive-by Shooting Arrives in RCS

We’re in control, Rye!
We won’t let you down.

Click this link to read Riley’s mom’s response to detractors of SmalbanyRiley’s Mom Responds: A Mother’s Perspective.


[1] Motorcycle accidents involving a laydown by the operator of the motorcycle means that when the motorcyclist experiences a sudden emergency and he decides to lay down the bike rather than collide with another object. Because of the suddenness of the hazard, the rider applies the brakes and the bike slides on its side.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2018 in 19th Congressional District, 19th Congressional District, 20th Congressional District, 20th Congressional District, 46th District, 46th Senate District, Accountability, Acting Police Chief, Albany, Albany County Civil Service, Albany County Coroner, Albany County Coroners Office, Albany County District Attorney, Albany County EMT, Albany County Sheriff Department, Albany Medical Center, Barbara Underwood, Burns and Sons Towing, Capital District, Civil Right Violation, Civil Rights, Coeymans, Coeymans Acting Police Chief, Coeymans Police Department, Columbia-Greene Media, Corruption, Craig D. Apple Sr., Daily Mail, Daniel Contento, David Soares, Death, Death Certificate, Death Investigation, Department of Motor Vehicles, DOT, Ellis Hospital, EMR, F.O.I.L., FaceBook, FOIL, Geico Insurance, Governor Mario Cuomo, Hudson Valley, Ian Foard, Informants, Insurance Fraud, Investigation, John B. Johnson, Lafarge, Lafarge-Holcim, Law Enforcement, Lawsuit, Mark Vinciguerra, Misconduct, Misdemeanor, Misdemeanor, Motor Vehicle Accident, Motorcycle, New York, New York State, New York State Department of Transportation, New York State Department of Transportation, New York State Police, New York State Police, NYS Assembly, NYS Comptroller Audit, NYS Senate, Obstruction of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, Office of the Comptroller, Paul Courcelle, Paul Gumpher, Phil Crandall, Police Dispatcher, Police Incompetence, Police Investigator, Public Corruption, Public Safety, Public Safety, Ravena News Herald, Riley Kern, Riley P. Kern, Senate District 46, Smalbany, The Daily Mail, Times Union, Travis D Hagen, Travis Hagen

 

We Are Re-Opening the Case: Riley Kern, Young Man Killed in Coeymans Hollow, Sycamore Golf Course

Just when they thought they got away with it!

(Follow this Blog to Receive Automatice eMail Updates when We Post New Articles — Use the Follow Sign-up in the Right Margin.)

The Facts are Pointing to a
COVER UP!!!

As you may recall, we wrote in a July article, “Three Articles on New Baltimore Scandals: Pick One or Read All,”, asking “Did you know?” about the case of a young man who was involved in a fatal motorcycle-pickup truck accident in Coeymans Hollow. We wrote:

Editor’s Sidebar: Town of Coeymans. We’ve received reports of a fatal pick-up truck — motorcycle accident that occurred during the evening hours of Saturday, July 28, 2018, on Route 143 in the Town of Coeymans. The operator of the motorcycle, a 20-year old man was killed; the operator of the pick-up truck was allegedly Ravena resident Travis Hagen. Strangely nothing has appeared in the local media about the accident. We have contacted the Coeymans Police for confirmation facts but have not received a response. A reader has informed us that he, too contacted the Coeymans Police acting chief, Daniel Contento, and was told only that there was an accident and the police investigated and reported it to the DMV. Is this a cover up to protect a prominent Ravena family? Doesn’t the young man’s life mean anything or do we just sweep the whole thing under the carpet? We need to start asking questions. The 20-year old man is not just another raccoon, Mr Contento!

This is Riley and a Companion.

Read more about Riley at
Ryan Parker Kern  August 4, 1998 – July 27, 2018 
and leave a note of support and condolence for his family and friends.

At the time, we were suspicious that the accident didn’t get a single word of coverage on any media, and we asked Why?

Since we published that very small bit of information, we’ve received contacts from people who have read the inconspicuous item and have contacted us with a huge amount of information and many, many questions.

In the meantime, we have received some information on Travis Hagen that points to a cover-up in the case of the young man’s death. At the very minimum, a number of people involved in the investigation of the accident and reporting the so-called “facts” are going to have to answer a lot of very unpleasant questions very soon!

Travis Hagen, 48, of Coxsackie. Driver of the pick-up truck.

There are still people in this community who think they are above the law

We are now re-opening the case and will be publishing the information as it’s verified for you, our reading public, to be sickened and outraged by what’s going on in the RCS community and what’s going on in the Coeymans Police Department. There are still people in this community who think they are above the law and can get away with trying to hide a crime. We’re here to make certain the truth gets out and they are brought to justice.

Click this link to read Riley’s mom’s response to detractors of SmalbanyRiley’s Mom Responds: A Mother’s Perspective.

Unconfirmed witness reports indicate that there are inconsistencies in the Police Incident Report. Is there a possibility that the driver of the pick-up truck was … !

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2018 in 19th Congressional District, 20th Congressional District, Accident, Acting Police Chief, Albany County Coroner, Albany County Coroners Office, Albany County District Attorney, Albany County EMT, Albany County Sheriff Department, Albany Medical Center, Barbara Underwood, Capital District, Chaplain Services, Civil Right Violation, Civil Rights, Civil Rights, Coeymans, Coeymans Acting Police Chief, Coeymans Police Department, Collusion, Columbia-Greene Media, Conspiracy, Corrupt Police, Corruption, D. W. Contento, Daily Mail, Daniel Contento, David Soares, Death, Death Certificate, Death Investigation, Department of Motor Vehicles, DOT, DOT, Driving under the Influence, Electronic Death Registration System, Ellis Hospital, Emily Kern, Evil, Geico Insurance, Greene County News, Hearst Corporation, Ian Foard, Immorality, Investigation, John B. Johnson, Johnson Newspaper Group, Law Enforcement, Lawsuit, Mark Vinciguerra, Misconduct, Monitoring, Morality, Motor Vehicle Accident, Motorcycle, New York, New York State, New York State Department of Transportation, New York State Police, New York State Police, News Channel 10, News Channel 13, News Channel 6, News Herald, Notice of Claim, NYS Assembly, NYS Comptroller Audit, NYS Senate, Obstruction of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, Office of the Comptroller, Paul Gumpher, Perp Patrol, Phil Crandall, Phillip Crandall, Police Incompetence, Professional Ethics, Professional Misconduct, Public Corruption, Ravena Coeymans Selkirk, Ravena Coeymans Selkirk Central School District, Ravena News Herald, Riley Kern, Riley P. Kern, Rye, Stephen Prokrym, Steve Prokrym, Suffering, Sycamore Country Club, Thanatology Café, The Daily Mail, Thomas Marra, Times Union, Times Union Blogs, Town of Coeymans, Travis Hagen, Uncategorized

 

The Greed and Insanity of the American Funeral Industry: Dissolving your dead.

Editor’s Forward

From Deathcare Professional to Disposal Professional

At some point in time, the American funeral director has gone from deathcare professional to disposal professional. It’s really gotten out of hand and it’s time the American people started thinking better about themselves and started telling the government and the corporations to stop treating us like so much municipal waste. This doesn’t happen without the involvement of legislators and government. If funeral directors are forced into providing an immoral but legal service, who’s to blame them? We can boycott them and refuse to use them, and send our loved ones to someone who can treat them with human dignity. It’s our choice and we’d better start thinking about it before someone else makes the choices for us. This new movement in the funeral industry is just disgusting!

The Editor


Excerpt from the article by
Republished with Permission of the Author
Rev. Ch. Harold W. Vadney, BA, [MA], MDiv
Interfaith Bereavement Chaplain/Thanatologist

Dissolve and Flush: Funeralized Alkaline Hydrolysis.

The Newest Technology for Disposing of Dead Human Beings.


In the West, interment, inhumation, entombment have been the traditional  methods of disposing of dead human bodies, that is, prior to the late 19th century with the revival of cremation as an alternative. Until about 1880, cremation was anathema, unless, occasionally, at times of extraordinarily large numbers or dead, such as during war time, during epidemics, or following natural disasters, mass graves or incineration of the corpses was preferred to avoid further catastrophe in terms of public health. Fire cremation was revived in the West as a quasi-pagan option attributed to non-Christian freethinkers and masons or simply to anti-social elements but then took a different tack by appealing to the public health and environmentally conscious elements in conventional society. Today, economic concerns both consumer and industrial take precedence. The dominant market economies in the industrialized West, particularly in the USA, UK, and some Western European countries, as well as the insatiable appetite of post-modern, post-Christian cultures for novelty and individualism, have left the door ajar for the entry into the funeralization professions of an industrialized process called alkaline hydrolysis (AH), an industrial process invented in the late 19th century as a way of dissolving in strong chemicals farm animal waste for use as fertilizer.[1]


“Omnes homines terra et cinis” Sirach 12:32
[“All human beings are earth and ashes”]

In a particularly beautiful description of how the pre-Vatican II Church thought of the human being, and in poetry that was possible only in a more sensitive epoch of human history, one reads:[2]

“The old Church holds on to her dead with eternal affection. The dead body is the body of her child. It is sacred flesh. It has been the temple of a regenerated soul. She blessed it in baptism, poured the saving waters on its head, anointed it with holy oil on breast and back, put the blessed salt on its lips, and touched its nose and ears in benediction when it was only the flesh of a babe; and then, in growing youth, reconsecrated it by confirmation; and, before its dissolution in death, she again blessed and sanctified its organs, its hands and its feet, as well as its more important members. Even after death she blesses it with holy water, and incenses it before her altar, amid the solemnity of the great sacrifice of the New Law, and surrounded by mourners who rejoice even in their tears, for they believe in the communion of saints, and are united in prayer with the dead happy in heaven, as well as with those who are temporarily suffering in purgatory. The old Church, the kind old mother of regenerated humanity, follows the dead body of her child into the very grave. She will not throw it into the common ditch, or into unhallowed ground; no, it is the flesh of her son. She sanctifies and jealously guards from desecration the spot where it is to rest until the final resurrection; and day by day, until the end of the world, she thinks of her dead, and prays for them at every Mass that is celebrated; for, even amid the joys of Easter and of Christmas, the memento for the dead is never omitted from the Canon. She even holds annually a solemn feast of the dead, the day after “All Saints,” in November, when the melancholy days are on the wane, the saddest of the year, and the fallen leaves and chilly blasts presage the season of nature’s death.”[3]

The Church of bygone days frequently used prose poetically and quoted liberally from the Church Fathers and even from the ancient philosophers and historiographers like Plato, Seneca, Socrates, Cicero many of whom, though pre-Christian, did not eschew the notion of the immortal soul.  St Augustine writes, “We should not despise nor reject the bodies of the dead; especially we should respect the corpses of the just and the faithful, which the Spirit hath piously used as instruments and vessels in the doing of good works…for those bodies are not mere ornaments but pertain to the very nature of humankind.”[4]

Cremation made an occasional appearance in isolated periods of Western history or in outlier regions where Christianity had not yet attained dominance; cremation was largely associated with non-Christian, pagan cultures.

In the East, in places where Hinduism and Buddhism had a firm foothold, cremation was and continues to be the norm. In some geographical areas such as in parts of Tibet, where the ground is unfavorable to interment and wood is a scarce and valuable resource, exposure of the corpse or dismemberment of the corpse and consumption by carrion-eating birds, so-called sky-burial or, in its form where the dismembered corpse is cast into a fiver for consumption by fishes, water burial, is practiced.

A similar practice of exposure is found in Zoroastrian communities in Iran, in the so-called towers of silence or dakhma, where the dead are brought, exposed, and consumed by vultures; the skeletal remains are then later collected for disposal.

While isolated instances of cremation are reported both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, burial or entombment was conspicuously the norm. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, burning of a corpse was a final act of abomination, reserved for only the worst elements of society.

One of the common misapprehensions of the Church’s aversion to or discouragement of incineration of the human body as a routinely available option for final disposal is that it was associated with pagan or freethinker practice, or with attempts to dissuade believers from faith in a bodily resurrection. While this might have some historical substance and may be represented by some early writers, it is but a minor hypothesis.

Ancient flame cremation practiced by the ancients.

As Eusebius describes early Christian aversion to flame cremation in a statement that still holds plausible, “” they (the Pagans) did this (cremated) to show that they could conquer God and destroy the resurrection of the bodies, saying, now let us see if they will arise.” In other words, cremation was a challenge to the belief in bodily resurrection as taught and believed in the early Church.

Furthermore, no less a figure than Cicero advances the notion that incineration was of ancient practice in Rome, and suggests that inhumation was a practice that predated the Roman practice of cremation. In fact, some noble Roman families never permitted their bodies to be burned, and Sulla is said to have been the first Roman who ordered his body to be cremated after death, lest his bones should be scattered by his enemies.[5] The pontiffs of pagan Rome would not acknowledge a funeral to be complete unless at least a single bone cut off from the corpse, or rescued from the flames, had been de posited in the earth.

Ancient Greece and Rome did practice cremation at various points in their histories but the ultimate disposal of the remains continued to be burial; either a part not consumed by the flames or the “bones” of the cremated corpse were ultimately buried in the earth. Cremation was by no means consistently the norm or the preferred method of disposal in Greece or in Rome.

Pope Boniface VIII forbade all violent modes of disposing of the dead as savoring of barbarism. “The respect due to the human body requires that it should be allowed to decay naturally, without having recourse to any violent system;” so says Grandclaude. A forcible argument against cremation is also found in the Catholic custom of preserving and honoring the relics of the Saints and putting their bodies or portions of them in the altar. It would be no longer possible to have the most important relics of future Saints if their flesh were to be consumed by fire.

That brief sampling of ancient teachings and beliefs regarding the question of incineration of human remains, arguably a “violent system” of disposing of human remains, should suffice to provide a background for the remainder of this discussion. For a more detailed discussion, I refer the reader to the Reverend Bann’s article cited above.

It was only in the late 19th century that a cremation movement came into being, and then only owing to the deplorable conditions in the cities which were rapidly outgrowing their boundaries due to immigration from rural areas, and the resulting encroachments on the previously outlying churchyards and, with population growth and densification, poor sanitation, and high mortality rates, consequent overfilling of existing cemeteries literally to the point of overflowing.

The urban slums of the Industrial Age.

Such were the conditions that gave rise to the public health concerns of reformers who claimed that the dead in the cemeteries were evil, that their miasmas leached out into the water and the spaces of the living, causing disease, suffering, and death. It was the evil dead rotting in the earth and their juices that were public health enemy No. 1. The open sewers and living conditions of the larger cities, and the putrid waters of the rivers flowing through them, of course, were not to blame.

And so, an alternative method of disposal of the dangerous and filthy dead had to be found, one that did not threaten to gobble up valuable real estate, and one that could be justified in the face of Church and religious objections. Cremation was the most obvious answer for purifying the unclean corpses. After all, since time immemorial fire was the great purifier.

In the beginning, therefore, the initial impetus was the miasma theory of pestilence, and corpses were to blame. Then, around 1880, the germ theory of disease was born. It debunked the established miasma theory of disease, and stated that disease was caused by specific organisms, germs. No problem for the cremationists, who were quite agile in dropping the miasma theory and accepting the germ theory but corpses were not yet off the hook, so to speak.

If germs were the cause of many of the diseases afflicting the population, wouldn’t the putrid rotting corpse be germ heaven? And if you have all those corpses lying about doing nothing but what corpses do, that is, rotting and defiling the air with the aromas of putrecine and cadaverine. Those same rotting corpses were breeding grounds for pestilence and a simple hole in the ground was not very likely to contain the little vermin. Cremation, the great sterilizer, would be the cremationists’ next slogan. But it didn’t last long.

The interests of the economic-minded would carry the day both in terms of the environment and the economy, and that campaign agenda is with us to this day. Basically, the dirge goes: “Why allocate so much valuable land to the dead when the living can profit by it?” Land for the living! After all, as corporations like StoneMor can confirm, cemetery real estate and the real estate occupied by the cemeteries represents a vast fortune. Someone has to tap into it.

The countries of Europe afflicted with the spirit of rationalism had no problem dealing with cemeteries; they just overruled the Church and legislated that the state had ultimate control of the citizen in life and in death. The Church could fall back on canon law but ultimately had to acquiesce to the state’s overwhelming power, and so the cemeteries were secularized. Once secularized they were emptied and their occupants relegated to ossuaries or catacombs en masse, and anonymous in their tens, even hundreds of thousands. In many instances, their eviction from the cemeteries and relocation to the quarries was done under cover of night, in order not to offend the living or present an obstacle to commerce.

France was one of the first Western nations to desecrate consecrated ground and defile the dead.

In countries where the Church, Roman Catholic or mainstream Protestant dominated, the faithful were expected under established sanctions, to obey the doctrines of their faith. For most mainstream Christians, and for all Orthodox Jews and Muslims, cremation was an abomination, and burial in the earth or entombment were the only acceptable methods of sepulture. And so it remained until 1963, when the Roman Catholic Church relieved it’s ban on cremation and, while not encouraging cremation, did not censure those who opted for incineration as their preferred method of disposal. Upto then, those choosing cremation were pro forma classified as apostates, atheists, pagans, free-thinkers, or Masons.

The 1960’s was a decade of revolutionary reform in practically every aspect of life: politics, religion, morals, education, all of which ultimately found expression in attitudes towards life, death, dying and after-death.

Alkaline hydrolysis (AH)[6], aquamation[7], resomation[8], biocremation[9], call it whatever you like it all literally boils down [no pun intended] to taking a dead human body, placing it into a pressure cooker, adding water and chemicals, heating, cooking, draining, rinsing. The dissolved flesh and organic matter is then flushing into the sewer system. What is left is bones and any metallic or synthetic material in the body (artificial joints, pacemakers, sutures, etc.). The metal such as artificial joints etc. will be recycled or “repurposed.”  The bones will be dried and ground up into a sandlike powder and returned to the family or otherwise disposed of.

The actual patented process, alkaline hydrolysis (AH) is a process developed for waste disposal. “Waste disposal” is the actual term used in the patents. AH was developed for disposal of infectious or hazardous waste by dissolving it into a “safe and sanitary” end-product. In fact, the actual wording of one of the patents is: “it is an object of this invention to provide a system and method for safely treating and disposing of waste matter containing undesirable elements, such as infectious, biohazardous, hazardous, or radioactive elements or agents.”

AH was developed for dissolving, liquefying organic matter into a disposable liquid that can be recycled as a fertilizer or simply flushed down the drain. It’s actually a technology that was developed in the late 19th century for disposing of animal waste, and which was developed in the mid-20th century for disposal of farm slaughter waste and for elimination of medical school cadavers, is now being promoted as the new eco-friendly take on cremation. Alkaline hydrolysis a.k.a. water cremation a.k.a. biocremation —  in reality just using a Draino®-like chemical to dissolve the dead human body and flush the remaining human sludge down the drain into the public sewer system — is the new rage in technology. Some funeral homes in about 14 states, where the process is now legal in the United States are now offering it as an alternative to cremation. It’s disgusting and will be a hard sell, since it will be acceptable only to the really bizarre element out there. I hope to clarify some of the issues in this article.

This is not how human beings should be treating their dead.

Download the complete article here:
Dissolve and Flush_article draft


Notes

[1] See also History of Alkaline Hydrolysis by Joseph Wilson. Wilson is the chief executive officer of Bio-Response Solutions, one of the first companies involved in the industrialization and marketing of alkaline hydrolysis for the disposition of human bodies. Joseph H. Wilson, The History of Alkaline Hydrolysis, e-pub, September 2013, 3, http://www.goodfuneralguide.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/History-of-Alkaline-Hydrolysis.pdf last accessed on October 29, 2017). The original patent filed by A.H. Hobson, U.S. Patent No. 394982 (1888), describes the process as a “… process of treating bones, which consists in digesting the bones in an alkaline solution in the presence of heat, then separating and concentrating the solution, thereby forming glue, gelatine, or size, in then digesting the remaining hone in a strong alkaline solution, so as to completely dissolve the remaining nitrogenous matter, and bring-the same into a more readily assimilable form…” (Claim 2), and as “certain new and useful improvements in the treatment of bones and animal waste or refuse generally for the purpose of rendering the same more suited for fertilizing purposes, and for obtaining gelatine, glue, and size…” (https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/pdfs/US394982.pdf last accessed on October 28, 2017).

[2] By way of precluding any possible suggestion of supercessionism, I would like to state from the outset that I am citing Roman Catholic writers in much of this discussion not because I am so biased but because I would rather use as my foundation a more systematized, mature, and stringent authority, which, if necessary can be attenuated or mollified mutatis mutandi in further arguments, rather than a more loose, liberal, or permissive approach as represented by the more progressive Protestant or post-Christian denominations. Although I practice as an interfaith chaplain, I am steeped in a more classical tradition than many of my contemporaries, and I ask that my readers take that subjective proclivity into consideration when reading my statements.

[3] Brann, Rev. H.A., DD, “Christian Burial and Cremation.” American Catholic Quarterly Review, Vol. X (Jan-Oct 1885). Philadelphia: Hardy & Mahony. p. 679. Reverend Brann provides a rather comprehensive background and discussion of Roman Catholic sources and thinking on cremation, which, in my reading, is remarkable in its tolerance, given the sociopolitical climate in which it was written (1885-6).

[4] De Civ. Dei Cap. XIII, p. 27, Vol. 41, Migne’s Patrologia.

[5] Desecration by scattering of one’s bones appears to be a thread running through much of ancient human history. Compare Sulla’s concern with the Biblical account (I Kings 31:12) of the incineration of the bodies of Saul and his sons to prevent desecration by the Philistines.

[6] US Patents 5,332,532, 6,437,211, 6,472,580, 7,183,453, 7,829,755, and U.S. Patent No. 7,910,788 (method).

[7] “Aquamation: A Greener Alternative to Cremation?” By Marina Kamenev/Sydney, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010 (http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2022206,00.html, last accessed on October 28, 2017)

[8] “Innovation in sustainable end of life choices” the slogan of the Scottish company Resomation®(http://resomation.com/, last accessed on October 28, 2017).

[9] “Biocremation. A Natural Choice.” (http://biocremationinfo.com/consumers/what-is-bio-cremation, last accessed on October 28, 2017)

 

A Response to Lorin Marra. re: Office of the Albany County Coroners

We published an article “Politics, Power, Patronage and Conflicts of Interest: The Albany County Coroners Office” on September 13, 2017, about the office of the Albany County Coroners, and how the office is obsolete, tainted, and chock full of local funeral directors. The politics of the coroners’ office is as corrupt as it can get, and is a product of the nepotism and favoritism that has plagued Albany politics from within the mayor’s office to the police department to the office of the county coroner.


In the preparation phase of the article, we did extensive research both on the history of the office of coroner in general, including scholarly articles discussing the office of the coroner, and published professional journal articles comparing and critiquing the office of the coroner and the office of medical director. In addition to our research of public information and education material and the scholarly and professional journals, we also filed demands for the production of documents and information with Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer and Green Counties for information on their respective coroners or medical examiners.

Seal of the County of Albany, NY

Overall, personal contacts with the Albany County Office of the Coroner were very open and informative. The demands served on the counties of Schenectady (medical examiner), Rensselaer (medical examiner), and Greene (coroners) under the NYS Freedom of Information Law were less than open and honest. Rensselaer is in violation of the law by not having responded at all; Schenectady and Greene county, while responding, were evasive and off base. Why all the defensiveness? They’re not so defensive when asking for funding but then, in our culture of death denial, who really keeps tabs on them anyway? WE DO!

We received an interesting comment from Lorin Marra, who is somehow associated with the Marra Funeral Home and with Paul Marra, the “owner/operator” of Mara Funeral home in Cohoes and an Albany County Coroner. When we received Lorin’s comment we were a bit taken by its defensiveness and it only later occurred to us that it’s an election year and Paul Marra is running for re-election as an Albany County Coroner. Having made that connection, it was not surprising that a Marra family member would come out and defend Paul Marra, the candidate.

But wasn’t it a bit cowardly, a clear lack of integrity for someone running for public office not to personally respond in a comment and have his daughter respond for him. Maybe Paul left his cojones in the autopsy room, at one of the allegedly “1000” autopsies he claims to have attended (but no one in official circles knows about). Did anyone see that pig flying by just now? Wanna buy a bridge?

According to Lorin Marra, pigs really do have wings!

.It should be noted that Ms Lorin Marra doesn’t comment on any of the many facts and figures given in the “Politics, Power, Patronage and Conflicts of Interest” article but hones in only on the name “Marra,” which is mentioned in only the most neutral of terms: strictly factually. But, as we state in our response, “Where there’s smoke (or “defensiveness”) there’s gotta be fire.” What do you think?

Marra’s Campaign Sign
flanking those of opponents Simmons and Lockridge.

For those of you who have read our article “Politics, Power, Patronage and Conflicts of Interest: The Albany County Coroners Office,” you’ll certainly have to ask yourself Why? is Lorin Marra so upset. Have we touched a nerve? The fact is, Paul Marra is barely mentioned in the article, and not negatively in any sense of the word. Maybe one of our readers can help us out with this one. We’re republishing Lorin Marra’s confused comment together with our responses. [In the following text “Ed.”: is a note inserted by the Editor]


In reply to Lorin Marra:

We have approved your rant only to illustrate the fact that where a commenter becomes as defensive as you have, there must be something going on that needs further attention. As the saying goes: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

We’d like to make it quite clear from the outset that the article is not about Paul Marra nor about the Marra Funeral Home operation; the article is about the office of the coroner both in Albany County and in general. Mr Marra is mentioned, along with others, in the article because he has voluntarily stepped forward and has received the approval and support of the Albany county Democrats and their political machine to have been elected to be an Albany County Coroner. Mr Marra, his office, his associations, and his keepers, therefore, have made Mr Marra a public figure and that visibility is open to comment. Mr Marra, his interests, his associations, his performance and all other aspects of Mr Marra are subject to comment because of his status as a public figure. Period.

Lorin Marra writes:

This article is completely false…

We Responded:

That having been said, we can respond to your diatribe by saying that the information we provided in the article came either from official sources and based on what those sources, that is, the Office of the Albany County Coroner, provided in response to our demand for documents and information under the NY Public Officers Law. If any of our information were incorrect, it is because it was provided by the custodians of that information as public officers and public employees. So let’s put that part of your comment to rest and redirect your misdirected hissy fit to the proper target: the County of Albany.

You are terribly clouded in your perspective of reality if you represent, as you in fact write in your comment, which, as written is a bit unclear, “[M]ost coroners are in fact funeral directors nor [sic] for a political agenda but…” (the rest of that sentence does not contribute to a better understanding of your rather strained thought process). We do not propose in any way that funeral directors are funeral directors for a political agenda. Where you pulled that one out of is beyond us but if you take the time to actually read the article with your eyes open, you’ll actually see what we’ve written. To deny, particularly in Albany County, that the office of the County Coroner is politically tainted is tantamount to claiming that a 3-dollar bank note is legal currency in the US. How naïve? can you possibly be or How devious? might be a better question.

Lorin Marra writes:

…a coroner does not get paid enough by the state [Ed.: Paul L Marra is an Albany County official but is civil service, and gets his check from NY state. Currently he gets $$20,836 a year.] to actually make a living off of just being a coroner. Most coroners are in fact funeral directors not for a political agenda but because they have the knowledge and experience dealing with the deceased. Marra funeral home is in fact OWNED by Paul Marra.

We Responded:

We don’t give a whit whether Paul Marra “OWNS” (your caps!) Marra Funeral Home. But that confirmation by you certainly bolsters our statements about conflicts of interest.

Lorin Marra writes:

Coroners are NOT allowed to use their position to gain business in their personal funeral homes [Ed.: “Not allowed…” is true; what you seem to glance over is that they DO abuse their positions! It’s a human weakness.] Do you realize how many calls a coroner must go on during their respective shift? If they actually claimed all those funerals [Ed.: They don’t have to claim “all” the funerals, just some.] they would be a multi-millionaire which is not the case for any coroners [Ed.: But may be true for some funeral directors.]. The funeral home business tends to be a hereditary business, most people do not wake up in the morning and decide HEY I’M GOING TO WORK WITH DEAD PEOPLE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE, they [Who do?] tend to go into the business because a previous family member has and so on.

We Responded:

We agree, though, that ethically “Coroners are NOT [again your caps!] allowed to use their position to gain business in their personal funeral homes.” What we don’t quite get is your point. Whether they are “allowed” has no practical or real effect on whether they do misuse their positions. One point you seem to have missed [again!] is that they can garner political and professional capital even if they don’s use their own “personal” funeral home. Think about that for a minute and if you don’t get it, please let us know and we’ll walk you through it.

Again, we agree with you that many funeral homes may be what we properly call “family funeral homes,” or funeral homes that stay in a single family’s hands for a couple of generations. That is changing and, if you read our articles with the intent to understand what is actually written rather than what the voices in your head are telling you to see, you will find that we are ardent champions of the family-owned, local funeral home as opposed to the multi-state factory funeral service corporations. But you likely would have missed that point. [Ed.: You may want to see our articles: “Birds of a Feather? Lying down with dogs? The Politics of Funeral Corporations….” and “Bring Out Your Dead! A Monty Python Prophesy“.]

Lorin Marra writes:

The fact that coroners can’t make a living off of just being a coroner (less than $30,000 a year) should prove that this article was a waste of time.

We Responded:

You have failed to disguise your arrogance, though, when you state that “coroners can’t make a living off of just being a coroner” [Oh! Your grammar is painful!] No, I wouldn’t think that they’d be able to do anything by just “being a coronoer,” I’d expect they’d have to actually do something besides just being an anything. But the City of Albany and the County of Albany have literally dozens of “employees” and “appointees” who make good money by just “being” a something and not necessarily doing anything. Besides, many people, perhaps not in your privileged group, have to make a living and even support a family on “less than $30,000 a year”. Get a grip, Lorin, and join the real world. (Your Mercedes is showing!).

Lorin Marra writes:

Also, Paul Marra has been a coroner for 29 years and has been a board cerified medi legal death investigator for over 15 tears. He has take n charge of over 5000 death investigations and attended well over 1000 autopsies. He also has trained for over 600 hours with the State association of County Coroners. [Ed.: Lorin Marra seems to keep better records and statistics than the County of Albany. Wonder where she got her figures?]

We Responded:

Has Paul Marra actually seen what’s behind this door?

The fact that “Paul Marra has been a coroner for 29 years and has been a board-certified medi [sic] legal death investicator for over 15 years” again supports everything we have written in the article you appear to be disputing. While we are struggling to identify what a “board[-]certified medi legal [Ed.: The word Lorin is struggling to get right twice (!) is “medicolegal.” Is she really a Siena graduate?] death investigator” might be, we would like to ask the glaring question that emerges from your statement: If he has been a coroner for 29 years but certified to investigate deaths for only 15 of those 29 years, how many mistakes did he make in the 14 years when he was not “certified?” The fact that he has been a coroner for 29 years, elected every 4 years, simply proves that too little scrutiny goes into the office of coroner and further supports the fact that in Albany County, once you’re in you’re in for life.

You state that Paul Marra has “trained for over 600 with the State [A]ssociation of County Coroners.” We’re not in the least impressed by that statement. Here’s an example: In one summer, a contributor of ours trained in a major hospital for over 500 hours to earn just one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education credit towards his qualifications. I repeat, that was 500 hours in one summer for one credit! We assume that you’re referring to 600 hours for Mr Marra’s training over a number of years. That’s not impressive in the least, especially when you consider the years of training that a real medicolegal death investigator must do to qualify and then the continuing education required just to keep the pathologist’s licence! Please, don’t talk to us about Mr Marra’s paltry training record!

Lorin Marra writes:

Please do your research next time.

We Responded:

The article, dear Lorin, clearly states the facts as provided by official sources, in particular the Albany County Coroner’s Office, and information from public access sources and published articles. Our facts are true, complete and correct, which is more than we can say about your subjective and clearly biased remarks about your relative, Paul Marra.

Furthermore, the professional and scientific literature abounds with one single conspicuous observation: The office of the coroner is obsolete and, since its very beginning in the 12th century, has been political and corrupt. Nothing has changed since then. Furthermore, until very recently, with the deployment of the Electronic Death Registry system in New York State, recordkeeping documenting coroners’ activities and cases was deplorable.

Lorin Marra writes:

Also legislation has just passed that requires coroners to have more training.

We Responded:

The only legislation that we are interested in is legislation to eliminate the office of the coroner and replace it with a competitive system that would employ specially trained medicolegal personnel for death investigations. Those professional death investigators may be assisted by a subordinate assistant with appropriate training. The current coroner system is inadequate, unqualified, ignorant, and obsolete. If that’s not enough reason to eliminate it, please add to that list the fact that it is politically tainted and corrupt.

Lorin Marra writes:

Please do your research next time.

We Responded:

We did extensive research for the article and stand by our facts as written and represented. We do suggest, however, that you be tested for dyslexia as soon as possible by a qualified professional. Your reading comprehension or your cognitive processing appears to be severely impaired.


Coroner’s Office Just as Dead

If you’ve made it this far, you deserve a bit of humor and entertainment. Here’s one of our favorite scenes from Monty Python’s In Search of the Holy Grail. Enjoy!

Obviously, Ms Marra was not interested in the facts and figures we very conscientiously researched and published in our article; instead, she was more interested in demonstrating her inability to read the English language. If her dyslexia is shared by Paul Marra, Albany County Coroner, it’s no wonder that their records and available information is so scanty and incomplete. The fact that Ms Marra came up with figures that the Albany County Coroner’s Office couldn’t produce does shed some light on the fact that either Ms Marra’s figures are phoney or the Albany County Coroner’s Office doesn’t want to share some embarrassing information with the public, or the information is simply unavailable because of the Albany County coroners’ poor record keeping practices. Maybe the answer is “all of the above.”

The fact is, our information is good as 24 karat gold. All of it comes from reliable sources. The fact that Albany County has poor record keeping practices and the County doesn’t consider it important enough to update their software is a problem voters might want to address. The fact that Schenectady County (medical examiner’s office) and Greene County (coroners) dragged their feet for months and only produced a fistful of information or no information at all, or just excuses made by the county attorney, is at the very least a black eye for those counties. The Rensselaer county attorney should be brought up on charges for refusing to provide any information on the Rensselaer County Medical Examiner’s office. If that’s democracy at work and freedom of information…

Make Your Vote Count!
Big Choice! They’re All Dems!!!
Be Informed!

Demand Accountability

P.s. If you’re interested in the current candidates for coroner this time around, don’t be surprised that they’re all Democrats, you can go to the Vote411 site. Click here.

Here’s some additional information on medicolegal death investigators. According to the ABMDI, The American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators, FAQs page, the medicolegal death investigator doesn’t need any special training or education.

  1. What is a Medicolegal Death Investigator?
    The role of the medicolegal death investigator is to investigate any death that falls under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner or coroner, including all suspicious, violent, unexplained and unexpected deaths. The medicolegal death investigator is responsible for the dead person, whereas the local law enforcement jurisdiction is responsible for the scene. The medicolegal death investigator performs scene investigations emphasizing information developed from the decedent and determines the extent to which further investigation is necessary. Medicolegal death investigators should have a combination of education and skills encompassing areas of medicine and law.
  2. Who can become a Medicolegal Death Investigator?
    There are no formal requirements to become a medicolegal death investigator. Each coroner and medical examiner office has different hiring practices. A medicolegal death investigator must be knowledgeable of local, state and federal laws. In addition, a medicolegal death investigator must be the most medically knowledgeable person at the scene of the crime to determine if further investigation is necessary.
  3. Do I have to have a degree?
    There are no formal educational requirements specifically for medicolegal death investigation. Any degree program dealing with Forensic Science, Natural science, Anthropology, Nursing, or any other medically related field would be useful. There are several established training courses available throughout the country that teach the basic information needed in order to perform a thorough, competent medicolegal death investigation.
  4. How much money will I make as a Medicolegal Death Investigator?
    An investigator’s salary will be determined by the jurisdiction and amount of experience the medicolegal death investigator has. Salaries and benefits vary throughout the United States.

[Source ABMDI FAQ page, http://www.abmdi.org/faq, last accessed on October 9, 2017]

Bottom Line: There are no special education requirements or degree requirements to be a so-called “medicolegal death investigator.” But the fact that “a medicolegal death investigator must be the most medically knowledgeable person at the scene of the crime” is very disturbing because most funeral directors have only a two-year degree in mortuary science, and that degree has very little to do with any “medical knowledge.” Furthermore, a degree in mortuary science or, more accurately, in funeral home operations, is not generally considered a medically related field.

Now doesn’t that information make you feel more comfortable about who is making decisions about a human being’s death at a possible crime scene?

 

Hello. County Coroner? We’ve got a body here.
[Ha, ha, ha!]

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2017 in Abuse of Public Office, Albany, Albany County Coroner, Albany County Coroners Office, Albany County District Attorney, Albany County Executive, Albany County Supervisor, Albany Mayor, Arthur Fitch, Babcock Funeral Home, Benjamin Sturges, Bill Loetterle, Bob Freeman, Bring out your dead, Bureau of Funeral Directing, Capital District, Charles Smoot, Conflict of Interest, County & Municipal Employees, County Legislator, Dan McCoy, Daniel McCoy, Death, Death Awareness, Death care, Death Certificate, Death Education, Death Investigation, Deathcare, Democrap, Democrats, Dick Touchette, Dignity Memorial, Elected Official, Elections and Voting, F.O.I.L., Favoritism, Francis Simmons, Frank Commisso, Frank Simmons, Freedom of Information Law, Funeral, Funeral Home, Greene County, Greene County Attorney, Greene County Coroner, Greene County District Attorney, Greene County Sheriff, Hudson Valley, Human Service, Hypocrisy, Investigation, Jack Flynn, James Cavanaugh, Joe Stanzione, Joseph Stanzione, Kristin Gillibrand, Lorin Marra, Magin & Keegan Funeral Home, Marra Funeral Home, McLoughlin & Mason Funeral Home, Monitoring, Nepotism, New York State Funeral Directors Association, Newcomer Funeral Home, Newcomer Funeral Services Group, Newcomer Funerals and Cremations, Nicholas J. Facci, Nick Facci, Nick Facci Facebook, NYSDOH, NYSFDA, Office of the Professions, Paul Marra, Professional Ethics, Public Office, Rahmar Lockeridge, Ren Newcomer, Rennselaer County Attorney, Rensselaer County, Rensselaer County Medical Examiner, Richard Touchette, Rick Touchette, Robert J. Freeman, Schenectady County, Schenectady County Medical Examiner, Service Corporation International, Shame On You, Transparency, William Loetterle

 

Does your funeral home provide customer service or human service?

An Op-Ed Republished with Permission


As a provider of psychospiritual care to the bereaved, as a professional bereavement chaplain, theologian and thanatologist, I firmly believe that some things just have to be delivered locally and face-to-face; these include sex, making friends, spiritual care, funeralization services. Not necessarily in that order or priority ranking.


Grief work is not achieved in three days nor with an online consult. That’s purely and simply idiotic.

The saying goes thus: “Death is the great equalizer.” We are all equal in death. Presidents, kings, supreme court justices, movie stars, athletes all die, all decay, all go the same way as the homeless man on the corner. But would you think of direct burial or direct cremation for a president, a queen, Mohammed Ali? So why skimp on grandpa? We celebrate the deceased’s achievements in life, not the fact of his or her being dead. And we do it with pomp, ceremony, rites, ritual, tradition, dignity and respect. Virtual mourning is none of the above and the grief work is not achieved in three days nor with an online consult. That’s purely and simply idiotic.

Furthermore, a death is a social, political and community event. The emotions involved in the acute grief experience are far too complex and idiosyncratic to be amenable to one method, one technology, one dose. As a social, political and community event death care requires real community involvement, hands on, and that means a local group understanding the local cultures, a “neighborhood,” if you prefer. This is a physical community, complex, deep, involved, alive; not a virtual make-believe, conjured up community.

One more thing: We have to stop giving Jessica Mitford and her estate post-mortem kudos for a book and a sequel book that was not only self-serving and conflicted in its interests, but a masterpiece of biased muckraking appealing to the titillation lust of the masses and their denial of death anxieties. Mitford couldn’t attack Death itself nor could or would she attempt to attack institutionalized religion, so she went after the next best thing, the funeral services industry. I’ve cited Mitford several times on my various blogs so I won’t waste bytes on her here.

I place Mitford in the same category as Kübler-Ross in that neither of them can claim any objective or scientific credibility but their main contribution to Western, particularly American society, was to get people talking about death and deathcare services. That, my friends, was a big step in a society frozen in preadolescent fascinations, psychosocial pathological denial, anxiety and narcissism, steeped in materialist humanism and addicted to corporate-fed consumerism.

It’s progressively gotten worse with the public health problem of Internet Addiction Disorder and the pathological subset, Facebook Addiction Disorder, and the emergence of the multistate funeral services groups like Newcomer Funeral Services Group, Service Corporation International and their alter ego Dignity Memorial, and StoneMor, who have all added greed and indifference to the corporate mix of tastelessness and deception of the consumer public. and their dead Again, I’ve commented extensively on these ghouls of the funeral services niche so I won’t waste time or words on them here.

Newcomer, SCI/Dignity Memorial, StoneMor
Ghouls of Corporate Death Services

They want your money not your brains!

Like it or not, death is inevitable for every mortal creature from cockroaches to presidents and kings. No matter how you define or think about it, you will have to some day deal with death so get a grip. How you deal with the death of a significant other in your life, whether that loved one is a pet or a parent or a child–or your own death is a matter of what I will term befriending death. No, I don’t mean the superficial, make believe, virtual “befriending” most of you are addicted to on Facebook and other social media. I mean the kind of be-friending that involves learning about, nurturing an intimacy with, even trusting, welcoming into your world, and frequent contact. Being at ease with, acknowledging, being aware of death is key. That may sound a bit bizarre so let me explain.

Technology has evolved faster than we as human beings have done. We lag far behind technology in our understanding of it and our ability to wisely and prudently steward it. In fact, technology has overrun us and has taken over our lives; this can’t be denied. This fact has been used to the level of Dr Strangelove proportions by corporations and big business, and even by individuals with pathological ambitions like Donald Trump on Twitter and Mark Zuckerberg with the Facebook phenomenon. The medical, psychological and ethics journals are full of reports on the so-called Internet Addiction Disorder, which was described back in the 90’s, and now there’s a subset of that disorder termed the Facebook Addiction Disorder and the Internet Gaming Disorder, which all share the same symptoms as alcoholism and street drug addiction like heroin or the like. Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it, just go to Pubmed and plug in a couple search terms and you’ll get all the proof you’ll ever need of this fact.


Editor’s note: For those of you who are not familiar with Pubmed, it is the database and search engine maintained by the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health; it provides access primarily to the MEDLINE database of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics. (Access Pubmed here. )


You have to admit you have a problem when you need Facebook to help you grieve!

The stimulus for this editorial, however, is not Newcomers or SCI. Nor is it Twitter or Facebook. The funeral service corporations and the social media and networking evils do figure in the theme of this communication, however.
If presidents and perverts have discovered social networking and social media, neither of which are social in the benevolent meaning of the word but serve a more sinister, asocial purpose of getting people hooked and then controlling them, just as the word “service” is used deceptively when used in conjunction with such greed mills as Newcomers or Service Corporation International.
The stimulus for this commentary is, in fact, an article that appeared in Forbes online, “Customer Service In Deathcare: How The Funeral Home Industry Cares For The Living” (contributed by Micah Solomon, MAY 26, 2017).—

Mr Solomon describes himself as a “customer service consultant” and “consumer trends expert,” — he doesn’t say how he got those credentials, though — catchy phrases but a bit too catchy to inspire any confidence or credibility. I’m a bit at a loss not at the What? but at the How? when Mr Solomon then goes on to say:

While some of my own work with the death care industry as a customer service consultant and consumer trends expert has been on innovation in the deathcare customer experience (methods for serving today’s far-flung bereaved customers by using connectivity, videoconferencing, and recording technologies to allow them to take part in memorial/celebration of life service) most of the work I do in this industry and that matters the most, in my opinion, is simply aimed at improving the customer experience, which, of course, is for the living.

Likewise unclear is Solomon’s terminology “far-flung bereaved customers” and “connectivity, videoconferencing, and recording technologies” to involve them in the “memorial/celebration of life service“. Maybe it’s Mr Solomon’s sense of compassion that is represented by his use of the term “far-flung” to describe the unfortunate mourners who are separated by distance from the event. Describing the bereaved as “customers” further chills the atmosphere he’s creating. Technical jargon like “connectivity, videoconferencing, and recording technologies” somehow put a damper on my sense that this guy has any clue about the nature of bereavement, acute grief, mourning, tradition, spirituality, cultural sensitivity, or even the characteristics of the vocation of funeral director. I’m therefore at something of a loss how he, with his frigid and disconnected technospeak, can improve the customer experience! This he leaves to the funeral directors he’s interviewing. Wisely so.

But even more poignant ar the three phrases caught my attention in that unimaginitive and deceptive title: “customer service,” “deathcare,” “funeral home industry.”

We alone, as moral agents and social actors, are responsible for what we do and how we do it

Inserting a bit of Kantian deontology that I’d like you to keep in the back of your mind while reading this, I’d like to say that we are not measured by what the other guy or gal does, but by what we do; we alone, as moral agents and social actors, are responsible for what we do and how we do it. It’s the quality of our values, morals and ethics that govern our behavior. As moral free agents we alone are responsible for what standards are used to guide our conduct.This applies not only to our inner forum, our conscience and how it guides us, but to the external forum, the community in which we live, work, and may disinterestedly interact.

Human service becomes “customer” service when an goods or services transaction forms the basis of the interaction

Customer service is at its most basic human service, service to human beings, human interaction, relationship building. By human services, I mean a broad range of interdisciplinary services whose commitment is jointly and individually to improve the overall quality of life in diverse populations through guidance in meeting basic human needs and support remediating real or perceived social challenges.  Human service becomes “customer” service when a goods or services transaction forms the basis of the interaction but it is still a subset of human services. Accordingly, customer service cannot separate itself from the humane aspect, the relationship aspect of its nature. The problem I have with the Forbes article is that, true to the materialist consumerist interests of Forbes, the article defines customer service purely in terms of selling and purchasing relationships but in the context of the so-called, malapropism, funeral service industry. Customer service must be human service, especially in the funeral services professions. Human service and hence customer service in this framework is near impossible on a corporate or industrial scale for reasons I’d be happy to substantiate in another article, if required.

Try doing this on Facebook or in cyberspace!

The second term that raised my suspicions is “deathcare.” We can defined death care as the care given to the dead or as post-mortem care. This would involve respectful and dignified custodianship and preparation of the dead body for whatever funeralization rites and rituals are appropriate as defined by the deceased individual during his or her life or as requested by the survivors. We must not oversimplify deathcare with the deathcare services businesses and industries that commonly provide services related to the dead body and death traditions, that is, preparation of the dead body (removal, embalming, cosmetology, etc.), funeral rituals, disposal (burial, cremation, etc.), and memorialization. The deathcare business includes for example funeral homes and their operations, including transporation services; containers like caskets, coffins, urns; accelerated decomposition services such as alkaline hydrolysis, cremation, etc.; cemeteries and burial plots, and headstones, markers, etc. What we most neglect in the discussion of deathcare services is psychospiritual care, and here we must include the professional bereavement chaplain and some but not most clergy.

The phrase that most raised my hackles is “funeral home industry.” First of all, the funeral home is not an industry. It may operate like a business but it is a professional operation requiring very specific training and licensure in most places. Most states require a trained and licensed funeral director to at least oversee the operations of a funeral home. The term “funeral home industry” is grossly misleading and deceptive because it creates an image of the traditional funeral home with all of its warmth and amenities together with the dignified and compassionate professional funeral director at its helm. Nothing could be farther from the truth if one looks at the funeral services industry, the more correct designation for the funeral services groups and corporations such as Newcomer Funeral Services Group, Service Corporation International (Dignity Memorial) or StoneMor, who operate more like waste disposal business than funeral homes. Remember corporations operate according to policies, procedures, protocols and most of all the bottom line and shareholder satisfaction. No room here for stuff like compassion, empathy, much less “human service”.

Their focus is twofold: dignified care of the dead and compassionate care of the living.

The traditional, community funeral home is a hub of interdisciplinary teamwork.

The role of the funeral services provider, more accurately the funeral services team, is just that: to provide human services. Those human services are provided by a team of specialists that range from the funeral home cleaning and maintenance person(s), to the housekeeper, the groundskeeper, the funeral home assistants, the behind the scenes professionals (the cosmetologist, the hair stylist, the embalmer), to the front of house staff (the assistants, the funeral director(s)), to the psychospiritual care provider (the funeral home chaplain or associated clergyperson). Their focus is twofold: dignified care of the dead and compassionate care of the living. The human services aspect persists far beyond the care provided with the first call, the removal, the arrangements conference, the chaplain visit and consultation, the visitation or the funeral; what happens at any of these milestones significantly affects the survivors during, immediately after the services, and well into the future, perhaps for years. That’s what the funeral services industry, the large groups, the corporations can’t provide but what the local family-owned funeral home pride themselves in: the human side of funeral services. So be clear on this point: once you start talking “industry” you are not talking “human”. Period.

So far I’ve taken issue only with three phrases that occur in the title of the article alone. But what about the remainder of the so-called article at issue? Well, there’s not much to say about it because the bulk of it is made up of questions put to three selected funeral directors and their responses. Their responses are totally acceptable in terms of the language, and to be honest I can’t find much with which I’d tend to disagree. The funeral directors seem to have their acts in order and say the right things. They are in a highly competitive business and have to be realistic, not necessarily traditional. Read into that what you like.

It should be clear by this point that I do not advocate virtual or technological or corporate solutions to anything as profound as the death experience or any occurrence of acute traumatic bereavement. Electronic signals, bits and bytes, virtual compassion just do not and cannot replace the warmth of human spirit, the compassionate embrace of a friend or loved one, the immediacy of the death experience, the real-ization of the death and its sequellae. The funeral home and its resident and on-call team members are the experts in offering compassion and comfort and no social networking scheme, no corporate disposal package, no virtual event and no DVD can replace the authenticity and true empathic response of face-to-face, human-to-human, verbal and non-verbal communications, the symbols and rituals that give meaning to this most mysterious of life events, death.

… some things just have to be delivered locally and face-to-face; these include sex, making friends, spiritual care, funeralization services.

This is what we do.

The Editor

 


Editor’s Note: Solomon’s self-description reads line a narcissist’s mini-bio: “I’m best known as an author, keynote speaker, consultant, and thought leader in customer service, customer experience, company culture, leadership, hospitality, innovation, entrepreneurship and consumer trends. I travel nationally and worldwide, and home base is metro Seattle. Reach me at 484-343-5881 or micah@micahsolomon.com or http://www.micahsolomon.com” We’ve contacted him for a comment on this editorial.


Acknowledgement: I’d like to extend my special thanks to my colleagues on LinkedIn, Ms Linda Williams M. Ed., M. Th., who describes herself as an Entrepreneur, Virtual Event Planner and Facilitator, Instructional Designer, Educator, Inspirational Speaker”.” Ms Williams describes her business, In-Person Away Virtual Events, as an operation that provides “our clients, their families, and friends with a virtual alternative to come together in an engaging, realistic and meaningful way, as well as host and attend social events, without breaking the bank on travel expenses.” Ms Williams does not advocate virtual resources as a substitute for real presence but only as a valuable alternative affording an opportunity to share where no other viable options are available. I agree.