Family says veteran taken to wrong funeral, buried in wrong place

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BARTLETT, Tenn. — A family says their patriarch, a World War II veteran who died in December, almost didn't make it to his funeral!

The family said Orbin Holland was dressed in the wrong clothes, taken to the wrong funeral and buried in the wrong plot before Bartlett Funeral Home even noticed there was a mix-up.

WREG's Katie Rufener spoke with that family and the funeral home Thursday to get to the bottom of this disturbing story.

"It's hard for me to go over to the cemetery because of what happened."

Carl Holland said his father, Orbin, was his best friend.

They're both Navy veterans. Orbin served in World War II and Carl in Vietnam.

So when his father passed away the day after Christmas last year at the age of 90, a full military funeral was planned.

But Holland said plans to peacefully say goodbye to his father were cut short when his phone rang the night before the funeral, with Bartlett Funeral Home Director Al Tacker on the other end of the line.

"He said, 'Somehow, we put the wrong clothes on your father, put him in the wrong casket, took him to a funeral today.'"

Holland said Tacker told him his father was then buried in the wrong plot.

Adding to the oddity, Holland said he was told the other family had an open-casket visitation, and his father and the other body looked nothing alike.

"He's short, stocky, et cetera, et cetera, bald. My dad was 6'1." It was gray, but had a full head of hair," Holland said.

Holland said his family had to order his father's body be exhumed, and it arrived 15 minutes before the right funeral.

With the help of the Ward Law Firm, Holland's filed a complaint with the state Board of Funeral Directors.

"We're still waiting to hear back, but as I said, as far as filing a lawsuit, we're still determining where we need to go from here," attorney Jordan Rogers said.

The state told us Bartlett Funeral Home hasn't had any complaints in the last three years but confirmed they'll be investigating this claim.

Tacker sounded surprised when we told him the family's version of what happened. He first said he would be happy to meet with us and tell his side of the story, but he called back an hour later refusing to comment.

Meanwhile, Holland said he's just determined to make sure no other family has to suffer what his did.

"I've been through some tough things in my day, and nothing...nothing has affected me like this."

Holland said he didn't have any information on this other family, who may have had a funeral for a stranger since his father's body was in their casket.

He did tell us the funeral home refunded him what his family had paid for Orbin's burial.

The state hasn't started its investigation yet but said if the claims are proven true, the funeral home could face a range of punishment, the harshest being forced closure.

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