Funeral Home Mix-Up: Pa. Family Mourns Wrong Body

August 28, 2009
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image PHILADELPHIA ? The blue suit and black boots were right, but mourners at a retired trucker’s funeral suspected they were gazing at the wrong man. Some friends and family members kissed the body, despite whispers that something seemed amiss. After a two-hour viewing Tuesday, the funeral home came clean: it had brought in the wrong casket to the church. After the revelation, neither Kenneth “Tex” Roberts’ family nor the body were in any shape for a final farewell, so the service was postponed.

“They tried to make us believe that it was him. I was so sure that it wasn’t,” widow Janie Holsey, 62, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “But … I’ve never handled anybody that died.”

The man in the casket looked older and taller than Roberts, an 80-year-old Army veteran known for his playful spirit and eagerness to lend a hand.

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Holsey insists that she questioned the funeral home.

“I know he didn’t look like that,” Holsey said. “It was a fiasco … a nightmare.”

The James L. Hawkins Funeral Home Funeral Home, which handled arrangements, declined to comment. The family of the other man involved in the switch did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Roberts, who had 11 children and stepchildren, had been relatively healthy until his death Monday of apparent heart problems, said Holsey’s sister, Edith Nelson.

“Everyone enjoyed him. He was just so funny. He made everybody laugh,” she said.

Amid the chaos of the casket-switch Tuesday, two of Roberts’ 56 grandchildren collapsed and were taken to hospitals. A grandson, a young adult with a history of seizures, remained hospitalized Wednesday, but a granddaughter with asthma troubles was released, Nelson said.

The family is now making new plans for his burial. They hope to arrange a proper funeral for their patriarch.

“We don’t want to make two mistakes,” Holsey said.

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