Woman Suspects Ashes Are Not Her Husband's - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Woman Suspects Ashes Are Not Her Husband's

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A woman is distraught after waiting three weeks to get her husband's ashes from a local funeral home, who then released her husband's ashes to a complete stranger.

Last month Gwen Stokes had to say goodbye to her husband, Robert after he battled heart disease and lung cancer. A loving man who, she says, did not get upset easily.

"For 43 years we were married, you would really have to push his buttons to get a rise out of him, he was just that kind of person that didn't like arguments. He didn't like confusion, says Stokes.

But confusion was what Gwen was experiencing with the Memorial Funeral Home in Prichard when it took three weeks to get her husband's ashes. The funeral home told her first there was trouble getting the death certificate. So Stokes marched herself to Cogburn Rehabilitation where her husband was taking classes after breaking his leg, and got the certificate herself. Then after waiting and worrying for two weeks, she called the funeral home on Friday the tenth.

"And the young man says to me, he went to the crematory this morning. Miss Stokes, I should have something for you by Monday. Monday came, I didn't receive a call."

Meanwhile, the insurance company said they still hadn't received the death certificate. Wednesday, Stokes drives over to Memorial where she is told again that her husband was in the process of being cremated that morning. Gwen decided to call the funeral director who told her a different story.

"He says to me, oh Mrs. Stokes, Mr. Stokes has been cremated. I said, Mr. Stokes has not been cremated because Bernard just told me outside there 15 minutes ago that he's being cremated this morning. I said, you know what? Keep those ashes. Because at this point I don't know whose ashes they are."

Stokes says she did not feel that she got any sympathy from those at the funeral home, but feels closure after telling her story.

"If they had any compassion, they would have called me and said to me that they were sorry about what had happened. But they didn't call me, not one time. Not one time to tell me they were sorry about this. It was as if my husband didn't even exist. No matter what, this man deserved much better than that."

The director of Memorial Funeral Home, Bishop Cornelius Woods wouldn't go on camera, but said that in order to get the permit to cremate a body, the doctor has to sign off on it. They said the doctor was on vacation so it was two weeks before they got his signature. They told me they released the ashes this morning to a man who is friends with Stoke's daughter, but Stokes says she has never met that man and is appalled to find out they would release the ashes to someone who isn't even a family member. Stokes plans on testing the ashes to see if they really are those of her husband's.

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