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AARP “Grave Error” Story – Please Retract

AARP never attempted to contact an owner or agent of record of the funeral home; their writer spoke only with the manager, who attempted, like most small business managers, to take care of the issue to the family’s satisfaction and with the least possible publicity. Ron Burley’s terrorism resulted in our office manager fearing the loss of her job. I am the majority stockholder and the agent of record, which information could have been easily acquired if you had simply checked the Secretary of State’s office or the Mississippi State Board of Funeral Service. Obviously, AARP and terrorist Burley were not interested in finding the facts, but only in making a headline for his column. He was able to research the name of a former funeral board member, but he didn’t take the time to locate me.
These are the facts:
1. Mrs. Robinson did not purchase a pre-paid burial policy from Hartman Funeral Home in 1973, but rather a $1,000 life insurance policy (monthly premium $7.13). At that time, the insurance company owned the funeral home, and it provided so-called “side letters”guaranteeing a basic funeral. When my family bought the funeral home in 1976, we agreed to honor those letters for a period of 20 years, even though, as prices escalated over that period, we lost a great deal of money on servicing such contracts.
2. Near the end of that 20-year term, we contacted as many policyholders as we had access to as well published notices in the local newspaper to encourage our families to call or visit so get benefit information about whatever policies they may have had with the third-party insurance provider. In addition, the liquidator of the bankrupted insurance company sent notices to policyholders (beginning Nov 21, 2001) barring any future claims.

3. Mrs. Robinson’s family pre-paid $8,128 for her funeral in 2007. When she died the following year, we provided all funeral services in exchange for that prepayment. (Your report leads the reader to believe that the family came to the funeral home after she died and paid the $8,128, when in fact they came in a year earlier when there was time calmly deliberate, pre-plan and pre-pay her funeral, which they did.)
4. Years later, her family discovered the insurance policy with the third party provider. This policy was not presented at the time of her 2007 pre-payment or at the time of her 2008 funeral. If that insurance had been presented either at the time of the pre-payment or the time of the funeral, she would have received full credit for the policy.
5. By the time the family had discovered the life insurance policies, years had passed, the funeral had been provided and paid for with funds placed in trust for Mrs. Robinson in 2007. Any obligation we had to provide a funeral in exchange for the life insurance policies ended many
years ago, and the family should have been entitled to the $!,000 proceeds of those policies. In addition, the family never presented either policy of the side-letter to the funeral home. After the funeral home refunded 50% of the funeral cost to keep the story out of the news, the family sought additional monies from the insurance company and received nearly $4,000. Instead, because of the threat of adverse publicity, the funeral home and the insurance company combined to return $8000 to the family. Thus, the family received an $8,000 funeral for $1,000. The net result: The funeral home paid the ransom to the terrorists, but they killed the hostage anyway!
6. I don’t believe the consumer rights movement intends for businesses to suffer unnecessarily when working to serve and please their clients; however, your reporting is a case of such abuse. We trust that you will begin to remedy the damage to our reputation as soon as possible, preferably with an article containing all the facts that is published in as prominently and distributed as widely as your inaccurate report.
Contact: Dave Kelleher, Board Chairman, Hartman Funeral Home of McComb, Inc., d/b/a Hartman-Sharkey Funeral Home
1803 Delaware Ave
McComb, MS 39648

RE: Comment 3 – Our manager tried to take care of the issue by, like most managers of small business, satisfying the family and keeping the negative publicity down.

Here are the facts:


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