IT’S YOUR FUNERAL
As a third-generation funeral director in Vancouver, British Columbia—one of the least regulated funeral markets in North America—I’m looking forward to seeing the new Tommy Lee Jones/Jamie Foxx feature “The Burial,” which will be streamed on Amazon in October.
The story concerns a case I know well. A deal to sell a family funeral home in Mississauga to a big funeral conglomerate goes sour. The funeral-home owner Jeremiah O’Keefe (Tommy Lee Jones) enlists charismatic attorney Willie E. Gary (Jamie Foxx) to save his family business. Together, this odd couple works together to expose racial injustice and massive corruption in the funeral industry.
It’s kind of interesting that two of the biggest funeral behemoths Service Corporation International of Houston Texas and the Loewen Group of Steinbach Manitoba both first met each other in Vancouver back in the 1960’s. Obviously, the lack of regulation here was very attractive to Funeral Home consolidators interested in unleashing hundreds of untrained ‘find-for-a-fee’ sales recruits to hit on their immediate family and friends wanting to help them start their new careers. The failure rate was averaging 90% after 30 days.
To me my profession is sacred. People trusted me with guiding them through one of the most difficult times of their lives. I consider that trust to be a profoundly and deeply personal gift. So when some new company comes to town and announces possible six-figure incomes to recruit salespeople, who with only 90 minutes of training (in how to complete a funeral contract,) can hit on their immediate close family and friend. These people are, to me, almost blasphemous. I learned in the 1970s that these companies were actually more in real estate than in funeral services. Later, I had 5 battles with these billionaires, and beat them, with the support of my End-of-Life care professional communities, 5 out of 5 times.
In my 45 years of activism in my profession, the most “blinding flash,” of democracy I’ve seen is what actually happened to the Loewen Group in Mississippi in 1995. A Mississippi jury penalized ‘The Loewen Group’ with half a Billion dollar judgment for predatory sales practices against their grieving citizens.
“The Burial” characterizes this struggle as a racial battle, because Jerimiah O’Keefe hired a black lawyer to take on the Loewen Group. When you read the actual judgment against the Loewen Group, however, you see pages of corporate abuse. Pretending to be the original owners consolidators practiced ‘stealth-ownership,’ trying to disguise the price increases and staff cutbacks that consolidation requires. In Mississippi, Loewen Group also partnered with a Black Baptist congregation, further confusing the funeral-buying public. Their abuse of Mississippi bereaved was so dreadful that the jury awarded the O’Keefe’s half a billion dollars in damages, 10 times what the O’Keefe’s were seeking, wanting to teach the Loewen Group a serious lesson.
If you want to know what really happened to the Loewen Group in Mississippi in November 1995, you’ll find it in my book It’s Your Funeral: How Grieving Families are Being Exploited, and How We Can Stop It. It’s available on Amazon.
For interviews or further information about corruption in the funeral industry, contact me directly:
Phone no. 604-230-2395
Email address TomCrean2023@gmail.com
Buy the book here on Amazon