MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — A family is in disbelief after they say Forest Hill Funeral Home in Memphis buried a stranger where their loved one was supposed to be buried, and they found out was they were supposed to be having the funeral.
Ninety-six-year-old Thomas Pharr died last week. He lived a full life as a World War II veteran and a captain in the Memphis Fire Department. He devoted his life to his family.
“Very personable, very nice person. He would do anything for anybody. He’ll be missed, missed a whole lot, miss him now,” said his son Butch Pharr.
On Tuesday, dozens of loved ones made the trip to town to pay their final respects at his funeral at Forest Hill Funeral Home and Memorial Park East. Pharr would be buried next to his wife Nancy, who passed away several years ago. They had been married for 63 years.
As the ceremony was about to start, the staff shared some alarming news.
“He said, ‘Well I’ve got to just tell you the truth now. He said, ‘There’s another body in your dad’s grave,'” Butch said. “And somehow or another they put the wrong body in the wrong grave.”
The family says staff told them the other body had been put in the plot earlier that day and because it was covered they have to get an order from the health department signed by the family of the deceased for it to be exhumed.
Family members later identified 88-year-old Marine Robert “Bobby” Ray as the person buried in Pharr’s plot. Ray, a Korean War vet who died on October 12, was recently preceded in death by his wife of 64 years.
“This shouldn’t happen to anybody. I mean there’s really no closure until we know he’s next to our mom,” said Thomas Pharr’s daughter Janis McIntyre.
As it turns out, WREG has extensively reported on issues with Forest Hill Funeral Home and Memorial Park East as well as StoneMor Inc., the company overseeing it.
While the Pharr family hopes for a resolution in their father’s case, they want to warn others so no other families have to deal with a similar issue.
“It’s bad enough that it happened but it wouldn’t have been as bad to us if someone would have taken responsibility for what had happened instead of trying to pass it off,” Butch said.
The family told us they also feel bad for the other family involved in this mix-up case.
When we went to the cemetery Wednesday, a man there kicked us off the property and told us a representative with its parent company would be sending us a statement. We also reached out to StoneMor multiple times for an explanation about how this happened but so far have not heard back.
The family says Pharr was laid to rest next to his wife Thursday. They plan to file a complaint with the state of Tennessee.