A Saskatoon widow scrambled to find a new venue for her husband’s funeral after a local church cancelled her booking based on how the deceased looked in his obituary.
Cheryl Stinson says her family was set to hold a memorial for her stepfather, Larry Frazer, at the St. Patrick Parish Centre hall on Sept. 29, until the church cancelled the booking on Monday. The worst part is why the church cancelled, Stinson said in an interview.
“The funeral home called her Monday and told her the church saw Larry’s picture in the paper and because of what they saw they ‘do not want his kind there’ so she couldn’t have the hall,” Stinson said in an interview. “My mother was extremely upset, of course.”
On Thursday, church officials apologized for the comment, which they attributed to a volunteer responsible for booking the hall.
In the obituary photo, Frazer has a mohawk haircut and wears a T-shirt displaying the words “Sons of Anarchy,” a television show about a biker gang. Stinson said she suspects the volunteer thought Larry was a gang member, which she said is a ridiculous idea.
“I just want people to know what happened, and an apology for my mom,” Stinson said. “I can’t believe anybody would do this to someone who just lost her husband.”
Father Gerard Cooper of the St. Patrick Parish Centre said he wasn’t aware of the situation until Thursday, when he learned a volunteer had cancelled the booking. He said the decision was an “error in judgment” and doesn’t reflect parish policies.
I just want people to know what happened, and an apology for my mom
“We do not say ‘no’ to anyone for a funeral service … The gospel we preach doesn’t judge,” Cooper said in an interview. “We extend our deepest apologies to Larry’s family.”
He added that the family planned to rent the hall in the church’s basement and did not request the presence of a priest, which is why he didn’t learn of the situation until later in the week.
A church volunteer made the comments to an employee of the funeral home organizing Larry’s service when she called to get more details about the service, said Blake Sittler, director of pastoral services for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. He said the funeral home then relayed the comments to Frazer.
“It was a serious error in judgment,” Sittler said in an interview, adding that it’s unclear why the volunteer cancelled the booking.
“The statement was made, and that’s what we want to apologize for,” Sittler said.
The diocese learned of the cancellation late Wednesday, he added.
There is no policy about who we will and won’t serve. We’ve done funerals for all kinds of people.
It’s not clear how the conversation went from discussing memorial service details to comments about the man’s appearance, Sittler said.
“That’s kind of what we are wondering too,” he said. “There is no policy about who we will and won’t serve. We’ve done funerals for all kinds of people.
“I assume it was the Tshirt the volunteer was scared of. I don’t know. I feel bad because I think it was a real unfortunate error in judgment to prejudge him like that.”
Larry died from a superbug infection and medical complications, Stinson said. A service will be held Sept. 29 at the Royal Canadian Legion on Spadina Crescent.
(via National Post)