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Sisters seek answers after mix-up at funeral home

AHOSKIE – Calling it an “egregious error,” a family is seeking an apology from a local funeral home after an apparent mix-up left them viewing the wrong body.

Jennetta Archer and Jennifer Taylor, daughters of the late Mary Outlaw Archer who passed away on Aug. 31, said when they went Hunter’s Funeral Home to view their mother’s body, the person in the casket was not their mom.

“The deceased person that was wearing the clothes that we had just purchased for our mother was not our mother,” said Archer in an email sent to the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. “Hunter’s Funeral Home had prepared another deceased person and presented them to us for viewing.”

Archer added that when she and her sister informed the funeral home staff of the mistake, “they initially insisted that it was.”

“Ultimately, the decedent was then removed from the viewing area, and ‘the swap’ was quickly made. My mother was then brought out for viewing,” Archer said.

Archer stated that the funeral home, “has not handled the situation with any sense of urgency or care as two weeks have passed since the incident occurred.”

“Unfortunately, to date, we never received an apology from Hunter’s Funeral Home to acknowledge that such an egregious error had been made. We were deeply disturbed and disappointed by this experience,” she said.

Taylor, speaking by phone to the News-Herald, said she has experienced restless nights due to the incident.

“I wake up every night with this on my mind,” Taylor stressed. “It’s upsetting. I’m hoping for answers to our questions and hoping this doesn’t happen again at any funeral home. I can’t have peace until I have some closure from the funeral home.”

Hunter’s Funeral Home employee F. Garry Lewter said he was to blame for the mistake and said he apologized to the family upon learning of the mix-up. He added that Howard Hunter III, the owner of the funeral home, also apologized to the family when he arrived.

Lewter said the mix-up occurred due to the fact that the two deceased women were in caskets of identical color. He also said the two women resembled each other.

“I dressed the one I thought was Mrs. Archer, and then found out it was the wrong person when the family arrived for the private viewing,” Lewter told the News-Herald. “At that point I prepared Mrs. Archer in the dress the family had provided and presented her to her family.”

Lewter added that the funeral home received correspondence from the family, dated Sept. 12, which contained several concerns. He typed out a two-page reply to those concerns this week, in which he said he gave detailed answers to those concerns and also apologized once again for mistake.

 

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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