Program helps struggling families pay for burials - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Program helps struggling families pay for burials

Posted: Updated:
Helen Roberts Helen Roberts
Mary Frances Casey Galvan (Source: Helen Roberts) Mary Frances Casey Galvan (Source: Helen Roberts)
Buddy Dumeyer Buddy Dumeyer

By Shayla Reaves - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Even if we don't like to think about it, death is something we'll all eventually have to face. Now the economy is creating new burdens for families trying to bury their loved ones.

Resources are stretched thin and when the unexpected happens, some families don't know what they're going to do. This includes Helen Roberts, who buried her 67-year-old mother Mary Frances Casey Galvan, this month.

"I remember hanging up the phone and crying and thinking I'm going to have to throw my mom off a bridge or cremate her or keep her in an urn," said Roberts of calls made for funeral price quotes. "I didn't know what I was going to do."

Roberts said her family had a burial policy but stopped payment seven months ago. Her husband of 26 years has been waiting for his second kidney transplant and medical costs consumed their dollars.

When her mother died, Roberts said she needed help to pay for the burial. Mary Frances Casey Galvan was homeless off and on for 10 years, battling the heartache of divorce, drug and alcohol abuse. The abuse later strained family relationships, and Galvan died with little to her name.

More cases like this continue to reach the Jefferson County Coroner's Office.

"We went from 191 in 2006," Deputy Coroner Buddy Dumeyer said. "We're probably on pace to have about 300 burials" this year.

Dumeyer heads the Indigent Burial Program at the Jefferson County Coroner's office. Those buried through the program do not have property, savings, or cars.

It's a reality of the current economy and increased homelessness according to Dumeyer. Traditional funerals are slipping out of reach.

"There's people in this world that die with no one around them," Dumeyer said. "No one comes into this world alone and no one should leave this world alone."

The program provides burial and cremation services at a rate Dumeyer describes as "10 percent of the cost of a traditional funeral."

The average funeral cost is $5,000 to $6,000, according to the Funeral Directors Association of Kentucky. The indigent burial program is funded with tax dollars.

"The cost to the tax payers is roughly around $500 per burial and that's the same for a cremation according to Dumeyer.

It's the cost of peace of mind for Helen Roberts.

"Not being able to have that access to that type of income, just write a check and go, this was able to give her a good burial," Roberts said.

"Every person that comes into this world and leaves this world deserves the same amount of dignity and respect in closure, whether they have 10 cents to their name or whether they have $10 million dollars to their name," Dumeyer said.

The cost of headstones is passed on to the family at $295 each. The coroner's office holds an annual fundraiser to pay for those who can't afford them, still dollars raised are not keeping pace with the need. If you'd like to help you can contact the coroner's office and ask about the "Be A Memory Maker Program."

Copyright 2010 WAVE News. All rights reserved.