Clueless Parking Checker Tickets Hearse and Other Funeral Vehicles

September 29, 2010
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imageDeath is sometimes called the final summons, till a Milwaukee parking checker tries to sneak in one more.

A hearse parked outside a funeral Sunday was nailed with a $35 parking ticket.

“Never in my experience have I had a parking ticket for parking a hearse out in front of a church or anywhere we were having a service,” said Marti Daniels, a manager at Church and Chapel Funeral Service with more than 20 years in the business.

In the city’s defense, this particular service happened to be at a downtown beer hall rather than a church. But still. How clueless would a parking checker have to be to whip out the ticket pad at a funeral and start papering vehicles, including the shiny black unmistakable hearse?

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The checker can’t argue that she didn’t know it was a funeral. People told her, but she didn’t care. Too bad, so sad, on what was already a sad day.

This occurred at the visitation for Bill Penzey Sr., the patriarch of spices, who died a week ago. Bill was a neighbor of mine, and my kids have worked at Bill and wife Ruth’s spice shop in Wauwatosa over the years.

I was there when the grim parking reaper showed up at Best Place, a banquet hall at the re-emerging Pabst brewery complex. There’s a touching reason why the service was held there. The Penzeys’ daughter and son-in-law, Patty and Tom Erd, had booked Best Place last weekend to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. The party was called off and the room was filled instead with family and friends for Bill’s sendoff.

One of those friends, John Tillison, stepped outside during the service and spotted the parking checker in action along N. 9th St. just south of Juneau Ave.

“You are not ticketing a hearse, are you?” he said.

“It’s parked illegally,” she replied.

“This is a funeral, for God’s sake. You can’t be serious,” Tillison said.

She was serious all right. She ticketed the hearse, another funeral director car from Church and Chapel, and some vehicles belonging to mourners.

The hearse driver, a retired sheriff’s deputy, also tried to talk sense to the checker, but she was having none of it. Tillison went back inside and made an announcement to warn people. “Real nice at a funeral,” he said sarcastically.

It’s true that the hearse was in a no-parking zone. The neighborhood, where a lot of MATC students park, is a favorite target of parking enforcement, according to an article in this newspaper Monday.

But it was a Sunday afternoon and the old brewery area was like a ghost town. Plus, did I mention it was a funeral?! You want the hearse close to the front door so you don’t have to roll the casket down the block.

The Penzey family was more amused than angry. Bill “would have gotten a huge laugh out of it,” Ruth said.

In fact, they asked Church and Chapel for the ticket as a scrapbook souvenir.

As you can guess, it took me just one quick phone call to the parking enforcement office to get all the tickets voided. They, too, could not remember another time when a hearse got a parking ticket at a funeral.

Neither could Scott Peterson, executive director of the Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association. He compared parking leniency for hearses to funeral processions being allowed to go through red lights. “We’re used to working closely with law enforcement,” he said.

Thomas Sanders, parking enforcement manager for the city, said the checker should have listened to the explanation from people on the street. Funerals are supposed to be given extra consideration.

“Some checkers are overzealous. They’re trying to do their jobs,” he said.

I asked if checkers get paid on commission.

“No one is paid more because they write more, or less if they write less,” Sanders said.

Daniels at Church and Chapel was relieved to hear he wouldn’t have to pay $70 for the tickets on the two funeral vehicles.

Let it be known, he said, that the expense would not have been passed along to the family.

So at least there’s that much compassion left in the world.

CDFuneralNews

CDFuneralNews

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