MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) – A family is in disbelief after they say a Memphis funeral home buried a stranger where their father was supposed to be laid to rest — and they only found out after they arrived to pay their last respects.
Thomas Pharr died last week at the age of 96. 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. … 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. But because it was already covered, they would have to get an order from the health department — signed by the family of the deceased — for it to be exhumed.
“This shouldn’t happen to anybody. I mean, there’s really no closure until we know he’s next to our mom,” said Janis McIntyre, Thomas Pharr’s daughter.
Nexstar’s WREG has extensively reported on issues with Forest Hill Funeral Home and Memorial Park East, as well as StoneMor Inc., the company overseeing it. Problems include failing to inform families about rats partially eating bodies in a timely manner, as well as leaking body fluids in a mausoleum at the company’s location in Jackson, Tennessee.
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 said they also feel bad for the other family involved in this mix-up case.
When a WREG crew went to the cemetery Wednesday, they were removed from the property. They were also told a representative with the cemetery’s parent company would be sending a statement. WREG also reached out to StonMor multiple times for an explanation for the mix-up, but so far has not heard back.
The family hopes to have the eldest Pharr buried Thursday.