Dayton Region’s Affordable Funeral & Cremation Options Offer Hope

By Tim Walker

Photo: (l-r) Jerry, Zerilda, Christian, Jordan, Brandy Daniels, and their mother

Cans sit ready to collect donations of spare change at a local cash register. Crowdfunding accounts, registered on GoFundMe.com and similar websites, are accompanied by photos and stories, which tug at your heartstrings and encourage donations with the click of a mouse. Memorial fundraisers and poker runs, with flyers featuring photos of deceased loved ones in happier times, are held with one goal in mind: to help out grieving families unable to cover funeral expenses.

A quick glance at any news source or social network reveals the painful truth—too often, the families of people who die unexpectedly are left with little or no resources with which to bury their dead. Death and debt can go hand in hand too often, and the expenses that result when an individual passes away often cause pain and financial hardship to those who are left behind.

First, a comforting thought: by law, anyone who passes away in the state of Ohio is guaranteed a proper disposition of their remains. Even a transient, for example, a drifter who is just passing through the area and happens to pass away unexpectedly with no property and no means to pay for burial, will still be provided with a cremation, and their remains will be held in perpetuity at a local cemetery in the event that a family member come forward to claim them.

But sometimes there are loved ones available, grieving family members who would prefer a memorial service and a burial. Brandy Daniels of Fairborn, Ohio, has experienced family loss during her life that would have proved too devastating for many. The 32-year-old mother of two lost her father at the age of 15. Then, in her late 20s, she lost three members of her immediate family in short succession, and all three passed away with limited resources available to cover their burial expenses. Her oldest brother, Christian, passed away at 29 on Nov. 7, 2009, and 13 months later, she lost her youngest brother, Jerry, 24, in December 2010—drug abuse contributed to both of their deaths. Her mother then passed away at the age of 54, from undetermined causes, on April 25, 2014. Brandy and her three sisters were left struggling to fund the burials and funeral expenses for their loved ones.

“This is a picture of us at my graduation from Creative Images,” Brandy says, showing me a photo of her family. She now attends Clark State and plans to transfer to Ohio State University, with the ultimate goal of being an intervention specialist. “Marty, mom, me, and my sisters, Jennifer, Zerilda, and Heather. This was in November of 2010. Jerry had just went to jail then, so he couldn’t be here—he was dead by Dec. 16 of that year. He had barely been out of jail two weeks. Chris died 13 months before him, after having only been out of jail for a week, as well. They think they can go right back to doing as much as they can handle before getting locked up and it ends up being too much—and it takes their life.”

As her brothers and then mother passed on in quick succession, Brandy and her sisters found themselves faced with different challenges in making financial arrangements. Arrangements for her youngest brother, Jerry, were largely financed by the state, as he died indigent, without resources. Her mother’s funeral costs were partially funded by donations raised on a crowdsourcing website.

“I can’t remember how much we actually raised on the GoFundMe for my mom,” she says. “I think it was around $1,000. I had a lot of people donating through various sources, and I think we ended up raising about half of the money for her funeral costs. And the other half wound up being paid for by her boyfriend. The total cost was just over $4,000, and the funeral home we chose was just amazing. The cheapest funeral of the three was my baby brother’s. We made all the arrangements for him and for my mother through Littleton & Rue Funeral Home in Springfield—Rob Rue was just so incredible, and he really worked with us to provide a beautiful service. I will always be so grateful to them for their help during that time. They even allowed me to do my mom’s hair and makeup for the memorial service, which meant so much to me.”

“There’s been so much loss,” Brandy continues. “Drugs and death have stolen so much of my family from me. Handling the funerals was something I had to do almost single-handedly… even with my brothers, because my mom just wasn’t able to do it. But it means everything to me that I was able to give them proper burials, with the help of so many who donated their time and money. Now, I’m in school, and even though I miss them, I’m raising my kids and living my life. Your past does not define your future.”

“Life is for the living. Death is for the dead. Let life be like music. And death a note unsaid.” —Langston Hughes

Ken Betz, director of the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, is very familiar with the subject of indigent funerals and well acquainted with the costs associated with disposition of individuals who die without resources.

“I don’t look at this as really an insurance issue,” Betz explains. “I think the way the statute reads, and I know the way the cities and townships view ‘indigents’—indigents are basically defined as no income, no money, no resources, no property, pretty much no nothing—and if that occurs, then the particular jurisdiction where the individual resided is responsible for the final disposition of the individual.”

“There are two things that basically happen,” Betz continues. “There are those that we just defined as ‘indigent,’ those without resources, then we are also seeing a number of those that I would define as ‘unclaimed’ persons. An unclaimed individual is one that has resources, they may own a house or have a car or have property, but there is no next of kin that is willing to take on the responsibility of final disposition. The difference, obviously, is one has resources, and one doesn’t. The process, though I hesitate to say it, is fairly straightforward—if it’s determined that there is no income, most cities and townships in Montgomery County have an agreement with a local funeral home that once an individual is defined as indigent then that particular funeral home will take responsibility for the remains, fill out the death certificate, then I would venture to say the vast majority of them are cremated, and the cremains are then stored at one of the local cemeteries. That is all a very seamless operation outside of this office.”

“Historically,” Betz says, “the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office actually handles or processes indigent deaths in Montgomery County—I think last year we were at around 175, and it got to a point where we turned over the process to the particular jurisdiction where the individual resided. We handle the unclaimed; they handle the indigents. Historically, family members would take care of other family members. In the last few years, we’ve seen an upswing in the number of families that want no responsibility for the death of their relative. So in that case, the jurisdiction of residency will take responsibility for the final disposition.”

Larry Glickler has owned and operated Glickler Funeral Home on Salem Avenue for 36 years. He has contracts with the city of Dayton and a number of surrounding cities and townships, providing cremation services for hundreds of indigents each year.

“We are providing the cremation service for all the indigents in Dayton and most of the surrounding areas,” Glickler says. “It is for people who are very low income and don’t have the resources to pay for that on their own. It is very important that people know, so there is no misconception… the families, by doing this, do not give up the rights to claim the remains. They get to have the cremated remains; in other words, they’re not abandoning their loved ones.”

“This service,” he elaborates, “is what’s called a ‘direct cremation service.’ There is no viewing and no service held at the funeral home. It’s just a simple, basic cremation. It’s the same service that we offer our paying families at a very, very low cost. We handle a large amount of cremations because of our low cost and service. So many of the deaths in this area are heroin-related recently. The basic cremation, and we advertise this everywhere, is $875 for everything, complete. By everything, I mean that is everything start to finish, for the basic cremation, from the time we get the call to picking up the body and processing all the required paperwork, for the corrugated container, and transferring to the crematorium. The families who pay, and the families who cannot afford to pay—when the city is paying us—all of them receive the same service.”

When talking with Glickler, he speaks in loving, caring tones about his work, leaving the impression he genuinely cares about what he does and sees his position as an important part of life in the Miami Valley.

“I’ve been the only funeral home that’s ever really done this for Dayton. Glickler was doing this for the city before they even had contracts,” he adds, pausing before continuing. “These people were, hopefully, most of them, productive citizens. Until they weren’t able to be, or until they fell on hard times. Nobody knows what’s going to happen to them in the future, but we get a lot of people who are from nursing homes. These are people who had a life, and they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity just like everyone else. And, we show them that respect. I have always been willing and able to provide this service to the area, and I feel very blessed that I have a good life and I have enough people who pay normal prices to allow me to be able to give something back. That’s always been my philosophy—what you do comes back to you.”

While not an option for the grieving family members of those already deceased, there is a way someone can arrange for the disposition of their own remains ahead of time, at no cost, and all while helping people learn about the body and its structures.

The Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University administers the Anatomical Gift Program. As part of this program, which started in 1975 as the Donated Body Program, interested individuals can apply to have their remains donated to the school of medicine upon their death. The bodies are picked up by the university, provided to medical students for educational purposes, and eventually cremated, with the university paying for cremation and then returning the cremains to the family at a later date.

“This program is for people who want to donate their body to science,” says Rodney Guthrie, the director of the Anatomical Gift Program. “Generally, what we are doing is teaching anatomy to first-year medical students. Research is not our first priority, although there are some institutions who do use our facilities. Mainly though, we’re trying to educate the next generation of health care workers.”

“End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path. One that we all must take.”—J.R.R. Tolkien

Death comes to all of us, eventually, and we will all lose close friends and beloved family members before we ourselves pass from this mortal coil. It is important to keep in mind there are resources to help with funeral expenses, even when a loved one dies with no burial funds available. Death is simply a part of our existence, and the passage out of this life need not also be a passage into debt.

Glickler Funeral Home is located at 1849 Salem Ave. in Dayton. To reach Glickler, please call 937.716.2460 or visit Bradford-ConnellyAndGlickler.com. Littleton & Rue Funeral Home is located at 830 N. Limestone St. in Springfield. To reach Littleton & Rue, please call 937.323.6439 or visit LittletonAndRue.com. To reach the Anatomical Gift Program at Wright State University, please call 937.775.3066 or visit Medicine.Wright.edu/Anatomical-Gift-Program.

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Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com

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