The son of an 86-year-old Lacey woman who died March 11 said he is outraged because the Woodlawn Funeral Home mistakenly gave his family the wrong cremated remains, and the family held a memorial service without knowing that the remains belonged to someone else.
Ive really lost confidence, in not only Woodlawn, but the funeral industry as a whole, former Olympia resident Keith Chrapczynski said of Woodlawn failing to initially give his family the remains of his mother, Elise Chrapczynski, who died at Providence St. Peter Hospital March 11 at age 86.
Chrapczynski said he had to return from San Diego to Lacey in late March to meet with his father, and Woodlawn Funeral Home officials, to exchange the cremated remains that his father was mistakenly given with his mothers.
Chrapczynski said he brought officials with the state Department of Licensings Funeral and Cemetery Board with him to witness the exchange. He added that he has filed a complaint against the Woodlawn Funeral Home and one of its directors, Ife Capone, because of the mix up, and the way that Woodlawn handled it.
In a statement Thursday, Woodlawn said:
An employee of Woodlawn Funeral Home did not read the container label and mistakenly placed Elise Chrapczynskis cremated remains in the wrong urn. At no time was the identity of the deceased in question, due to the metal identity ring system used ....
The statement continues to say that after the mistake was discovered the funeral home notified the family of the deceased and transferred the remains. The employee who placed the remains was fired, according to the statement.
Owner Tim Burgman reported the incident to the state Funeral and Cemetery Board.
Chrapczynski said that during his mothers March 15 memorial service, a priest blessed the cremated remains. It was important to us that her remains be available to us at the service, reads his complaint. Family attended from throughout the United States, the service was held and we took her remains home with us.
According to a copy of the complaint Chrapczynski filed with the Funeral and Cemetery Board, the family did not realize they had the wrong remains until Capone called his father on March 18, three days after the memorial service.
Ife Capone began calling my father and me saying they wanted to come over and inspect the urn, reads Chrapczynskis complaint. She wouldnt say why.
Capone did not divulge that they believed that they had given the family the wrong remains until March 19, according to Chrapczynskis complaint.
A spokeswoman at the state Department of Licensing, which oversees the Funeral and Cemetery Board, said that the office cannot comment on pending complaints.
We will not be able to determine who is at fault until the investigation is complete, DOL spokeswoman Christine Anthony wrote in an e-mail to The Olympian. We understand this is a very difficult situation for the family, as well as the other parties involved, and we take these matters very seriously.
Chrapczynski said that one reason he is so upset about Woodlawns mistake is that one of its funeral directors, Capone, has already faced a disciplinary action from the Funeral and Cemetery Board in 2012, for an incident that occurred when she worked as an embalming intern at the New Tacoma Cemeteries and Funeral Home in 2010.
According to the findings of fact and conclusions of law published by the Funeral and Cemetery Board in 2012:
Capone was investigated for unprofessional conduct by the board after she failed to follow the proper funeral instructions for two men who were being held at the New Tacoma Cemeteries and Funeral Home in April 2010. One, Edward John, was scheduled to be cremated. The other, James ORourke, was scheduled to be embalmed and dressed for burial.
But Capone, then an embalmer intern at New Tacoma Cemeteries and Funeral Home, wound up mistakenly embalming John, instead of cremating him. She also dressed John for burial in ORourkes clothing. John wound up being mistakenly casketed for ORourkes funeral mass, which was held on April 12, 2010.
On April 14, 2010, John was disinterred, and his true identity was confirmed. The ORourke family was informed of the error the same day, given a full refund of fees paid. A second graveside service was held for ORourke on April 19.
Johns remains were cremated on April 19, but the family was never notified that he had been embalmed, buried, interred, and then dug up from his casket. New Tacoma Funeral Cemeteries and Funeral Home told the family the delay was a result of a mechanical problem with the crematory, reads the findings of fact and conclusions of law.
The Funeral and Cemetery Board suspended Capones embalmers licence for three months, but that suspension was stayed after she paid a $500 fine and agreed to complete a written summary of the laws and rules concerning the care of human remains.
Capone also agreed to not violate any laws or rules governing funeral and embalming practice for a period of one year. The agreement was signed by Capone on April 1, 2012.
In May 2012, the state Funeral and Cemetery Board also suspended New Tacoma Cemeteries and Funeral Homes license for one year, then stayed that suspension, provided that they comply with all laws and rules governing funeral practice, and pay a $5,000 fine. The penalty was assessed because the board found that New Tacoma Cemeteries failed to notify one of the families involved after the 2010 incident where it allowed the wrong remains to be casketed and buried, Anthony said.
Chrapczynski said he was dumbfounded to learn that Capone was disciplined in 2012 for her 2010 mistake, but was still able to find employment at Woodlawn. He said he also feels like the state Funeral and Cemetery Board gave Capone less than a slap on the wrist.
He said that Capone has told him that someone who works under her made the mistake that led to the wrong remains being given to his family in March. Woodlawn officials told his family that that person was terminated as a result of the error, Chrapczynski said. Nonetheless, he said he believes that Capone was less than forthright with his father after the fact, because she did not initially tell him why she wanted to inspect the remains that had been given to him. He also said he thinks the Woodlawn employee who made the mistake should have been under better supervision by staff there, including Capone.
Chrapczynski said even today, he is not 100 percent sure that his family now has his mothers cremated remains. Ive lost total confidence in the system, he said. Chrapczynski said that his family was not offered a refund, or an apology for what happened.
No refund was extended, he said. Not even an apology. Not even an Im sorry.
Anthony said in general, the state Funeral and Cemetery Board will take into account prior disciplinary actions if someone is found to have committed another serious infraction. Sanctions taken by the board can include fines, suspensions and license revocations, she said.
Anthony said that since January 2006, the state Funeral and Cemetery Board has received 171 complaints. Since that time, the board has taken legal action on 21 of those complaints, she said. There are 294 licensed funeral establishments, 95 crematories and 152 licensed cemeteries in the state, she said. Licensed funeral employees in the state of Washington include 551 funeral directors, 211 funeral director interns, 393 embalmers and 154 embalmer interns, she added.
If you look at the number of complaints versus the number of licensees in the state of Washington, the number of complaints is relatively small, which shows that the industry is very professional and is doing things right, Anthony said.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 email@example.com