Home Somerset rules Fall River sees increase in delayed funerals, commemorations after COVID

Fall River sees increase in delayed funerals, commemorations after COVID

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FALL RIVER – Families who postponed memorial services or celebrations in the lives of deceased loved ones during the darkest days of the coronavirus pandemic are now making up for lost time.

Local funeral directors, clergy and conservators say they have been busy keeping pace with pent-up demand from families and friends – who have given up on memorial services and life celebrations, when restrictions on the State COVID-19 have placed strict limits on the number of people who could meet indoors for social gatherings.

“We’re fully booked August through October,” said Jeff Davis, general manager of Cherry Place Waring-Sullivan Homes of Memorial Tribute on Winter Street.

Paul St. Louis, funeral director and director of operations for Silva-Faria funeral homes on Bedford Street, also said he had recently received more calls asking for memorial services.

Funeral director Paul St. Louis stands in the Casket Display Room at Silva-Faria Funeral Homes on Bedford Street.

St. Louis said all revenue lost due to the cancellation or postponement of memorial service plans by families is now being clawed back.

“There are definitely more (memorial services) this year compared to the closing of churches and the inability to celebrate a full Mass. I would say we are almost back to normal now,” he said. .

Life celebrations are generally less religiously formal than memorial services and are often held without the participation of a funeral home, especially when it comes to cremation.

Catering food and drinks a new feature

Davis said his Cherry Place funeral home recently began booking reservations for on-site memorial services and life celebrations that include prepared meals and non-alcoholic drinks.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic became a national emergency in March 2020, Davis says he knew there would be a market for food services in Waring-Sullivan.

“It was getting so popular that we hired our own event planner in November 2019,” he said.

Davis said the Waring-Sullivan Company’s six funeral homes now offer a memorial service restoration service.

Funeral Business Advisor reported in 2016 that the food and beverage concept dates back to the early 2000s and has grown in popularity since 2011, when only 6% of funeral homes were equipped for memorial service meals.

And although COVID-19 has for more than a year prevented people from gathering at a funeral home to mingle and eat, Davis says he was prepared to wait until things returned to normal.

“We kept her as an apprentice funeral director,” he said of his event planner.

Davis says Cherry Place Funeral Home has averaged a few bookings per month for on-site memorial services with food and drink since Governor Baker lifted the face mask and social distancing restrictions on May 29.

But he said the volume of calls requesting catering service had increased significantly in recent weeks.

“The need was already there before the pandemic, and there is even more demand now,” said Davis, 48.

Massachusetts state law allows on-site catering in a funeral home, provided that neither a funeral director, who by law is also an embalmer, nor any employee handles, supplies or serves the food. and drinks.

Somerset restaurant owner is busy again

Dimitrios Liakos says he has received calls from families who wish to reserve his dining room to organize memorial services and celebrations in the life of the deceased.

“The phone just kept ringing,” said the owner of Agoro’s Pizza Bar & Grill on County Street in Somerset.

The fact that so many people are booking memorial service events, Liakos said, is a welcome contrast to the first 15 months of the pandemic.

“We had no events for a year,” he said.

Liakos says the biggest problem now is finding enough people who want to work for him instead of continuing to collect unemployment benefits with an additional $ 300 from the federal government, which expires on Labor Day.

“We are understaffed. We need cooks, line cooks, waiters, ”he said. “It was a struggle. Why go to work when you can earn money for free? “

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Carla Lewis, owner of Green Jar Catering on Locust Street in Fall River, said she had done “quite a bit” of work since it opened last February for the grieving families who hired her to host a celebration of the life or memorial service.

Lewis said she was unaware that some funeral homes also brought in food for the memorial services.

“I would definitely like to sell myself to funeral homes,” she said.

Grab the straws

Paul St. Louis says he worked at Silva-Faria Funeral Homes for 36 years. He estimates that 15% of funerals run by Silva-Faria during the pandemic involved coronavirus-related deaths.

He said there was so much fear and anxiety among families during the pandemic that the bodies of those who died from COVID-19 were transported to Somerset Mortuary in Silva Faria.

“There was no embalming,” he said. “We were taking precautions, but the families understood. “

“We were clinging to straws back then,” added St. Louis. “Some of these people went straight to the grave for direct burial. “

He says no one working at Silva-Faria has contracted COVID-19 to date.

Davis says the pandemic has led to a marked increase in funeral services at Waring-Sullivan.

“Ten percent of our business was related to covid,” he said, adding that none of his employees had contracted COVID-19.

Church rector looks back on a difficult year and a half

The Reverend Thomas Washburn of the Diocese of Fall River is the rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. Stanislaus Parish and the Good Shepherd.

Thomas, he has been busy this past year celebrating Christian burial mass and memorial services in the three churches.

“I made dozens of them,” he says. “I have done 20 serves in the past two months.

For private memorial services, he said the church typically asks for a donation of $ 100.

Washburn said from March 2020 until July that year there was “absolute lockdown” in churches.

“There was only prayer at the cemetery and only 10 people were allowed, and they had to be spaced,” he said.

“The image I will never get out of my mind is to see a lonely person standing by the grave crying uncontrollably with no one to console them,” Washburn said.

“You have to deal with your grief as part of the grieving process, and all we had was the grave,” he said.

Washburn said his concern now is that a variant of COVID-19 is emerging in the region in the fall.

“I’m afraid there is a second wave,” he said.

The funeral home “niche” is almost back to normal

William “Willy” Allen owns South Coast Funeral Home on Pleasant Street in Fall River and its subsidiary Boyko Memorial Funeral Home on Broadway.

Funeral director and owner William "Willy" Allen stands in the lobby of his South Coast funeral home on Pleasant Street in Fall River.

Allen, 56, says he has been in the funeral business since 1984 and has owned and operated Flint Funeral Home since 2003.

“We are as close as possible to a return to normalcy,” said the New Jersey native.

Allen said the South Coast Funeral Home is unique in that 70 percent of its clients qualify for “state-assisted” payment assistance.

He says the program – which helps cover funeral and burial costs when there isn’t enough money available – pays up to $ 1,100 on funeral home costs up to 3,500 $, with the family covering the balance of the payment.

“We have a niche,” Allen said, adding that most of his clients request cremation instead of burial because of its lower cost.

Unlike other funeral homes, Allen said he doesn’t get too many calls for private memorial services or life celebrations.

Record number of families served

Charles Auclair, president of Auclair Funeral Home & Cremation Service at 690 South Main St., said he was grateful that his small staff of full-time funeral directors – which includes his son Adam, his wife Susan and Alyssa Croteau – has not been infected with the coronavirus.

Senior Auclair, whose father Albert started the business in 1944, said 2020 was a banner year in terms of the number of families he provided funeral services for.

“We had 344 families. This is a 10 percent increase from the previous year, ”he said.

Auclair, 79, said 35 of the people who were buried or cremated in 2020 died from complications from the coronavirus.

Charles Auclair, president of Auclair Funeral Home & Cremation Service, sits in one of its chapels with his son Adam and daughter-in-law Susan by his side.

Adam Auclair said being able to use the building’s three chapels again is less of a burden on staff and families who don’t have to wait as long as when capacity restrictions were still in place.

“It could be difficult,” said Adam, 49. “Sometimes we just had to tell them there was a limit to the number of people and show them the rules.”

His father said the worst was over: “We are back to one hundred percent normal,” he said.

Charles Winokoor can be contacted at cwinokoor@heraldnews.com. Support local journalism and subscribe to The Herald News today.


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