Local funeral complaint prompts state probe


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Local funeral complaint prompts state probe

The handling of a Springfield man’s funeral has spawned a state investigation into the funeral home that provided the service.

The State of Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors received a 47-page written complaint Monday regarding Grunn Funeral Home, which has offices in Cincinnati and Dayton. The complaint alleges the funeral home mishandled the preparation of Paul Lemley’s body, resulting in severe discoloration at the service, which was to include an open-casket viewing. It also alleges the Dayton office, which has a pending license application with the state, handled those preparations.

The company denied wrongdoing.

Lemley died from liver cancer Oct. 2, and his sister, Linda Hess, said she recommended Grunn Funeral Home to her family because of the “lovely” service she attended in Fairfield. Grunn recently opened a Dayton office and advertised services at any church in the area.

Hess said the company arrived late with the casket at the Oct. 10 service at the New Life Church in Springfield. There was no hearse, just a large SUV with the casket in the back. Hess said the employee had to ask for help from funeral-goers to get the casket into the sanctuary. When the casket was opened for viewing, the family said they were horrified.

“(He) opened the casket, and my brother’s body was black,” Hess said. “The only thing I could say was ‘it’s not my brother.’ ”

The body was discolored. It’s an image Brandie Peters said forever changes the last memory of her father.

“The last image of my dad, the last memory I was going to see of him before that casket closed that day was ruined,” she said. “When he opened that, that was not my dad.”

A family member called Jackson Lytle & Lewis Funeral Home in Springfield, who sent two employees over to apply makeup free. It fixed the discoloration, but not Hess’s memory.

“That image is burned into my heart and into my brain,” she said.

Peters said when her father died, an employee from Grunn’s Dayton office collected the body. The family said they learned after the funeral the company’s Dayton office has a pending license application.

Eric Lusain, owner of Grunn Funeral Home, said via email the Lemley service was handled through the Cincinnati office, which is licensed.

“We never met the Lemley(s) at (our) Dayton location. Mr. Lemley never entered into our Dayton location,” he said.

As to why the body was discolored, Lusain said it was “due to jaundice,” and that his company used a licensed Dayton funeral home for the embalming process.

“Jaundiced bodies are unpredictable,” Lusain wrote. “But we have never had a case as bad as Mr. Lemley… Cosmetics could not easily be added because a major portion of his face was covered with a beard.”

Vanessa Niekamp, executive director for the state board, confirmed the agency is investigating the complaint, and which office handled the service, but could not comment on the case.

While Grunn does have a pending license application, she said the complaint would not impact the board’s decision whether to grant that request.

In addition to the state board complaint, the Lemley family has filed a civil lawsuit against Grunn Funeral Home.

“We can’t change what happened but we can be a voice for Paul and we can make sure that it doesn’t happen to another family again,” Hess said.

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