Family's funeral home frustration leads to complaint

Family's funeral home frustration leads to complaint »Play Video
Monda Burch says her family insisted on trying to see their mom before she was cremated, but the manager at Evergreen Memorial Gardens in Vancouver refused to let them.

VANCOUVER, Wash. -- When Joyce Huddlestun passed away suddenly this month, her family went to Evergreen Memorial Gardens for funeral services.

Two weeks later, Joyce's daughters finally had her ashes, handed over wrapped in a velvet cloth, along with a tale of horrifying frustration.

Monda Burch says the manager kept them from seeing her mom's body.

“She told us that she was going to go see her the next day,” said Burch. "And that she'd tell her that we loved her.”

Burch says her family insisted on trying to see their mom before she was cremated, but the manager at Evergreen Memorial Gardens in Vancouver refused.

“They couldn't do that,” Burch said.  "And it was going to cost $305 if we wanted to set that up. And then she gave me 'there's more to it than you think' and all that. We just wanted to see her how she was.”

The funeral home's own grieving handbook, which they gave to Burch and her two sisters, recommends seeing and even touching the body of a loved one who’s passed away.

Burch said the funeral home also told them they'd sent her mother's body to Portland for cremation. Another worker contradicted that.

“We don't have any idea where she was for the whole 15 days they had her.  It took 15 days to get her ashes back. The average is three-to-four,” said Burch.

Evergreen's General Manager and President, Brad Carlson, says they haven’t received a formal complaint from the family.

“This particular family's loved one is uppermost in our minds, and we would, you know, we care deeply about them being satisfied and having their questions answered,” said Carlson.

Carlson says he served for 11 years on the board that oversees Washington’s mortuary services statewide before leaving in 2011.

Joyce Huddlestun’s family didn't complain to the company, fearing that might put their mom's remains at risk. Instead, they've filed a complaint with Washington's Department of Licensing.

“If people don't complain then they're just going to keep doing this," said Burch.