Auburn Mountain View Cemetery Manager Craig Hudson, center, confers with two maintenance workers. ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter

Auburn Mountain View Cemetery Manager Craig Hudson, center, confers with two maintenance workers. ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter

COVID-19 gathering restriction delays funerals

For one funeral home owner, the confusion came to a head after a recent service.

By Robert Whale, Auburn Reporter

Breaking the news is awful.

That is, telling the grief stricken in the time of COVID-19 they can’t have a public funeral service until Gov. Jay Inslee lifts his order against public gatherings.

After March 31, Inslee said.

But will the ban end then?

Waiting for an update from the governor’s office are Rob Perry, owner of Yahn and Sons Funeral Home, and Craig Hudson, manager of Mountain View Cemetery in Auburn, who, just like everyone else, are struggling to deal with social distancing and the fallout from COVID-19.

“This is rapidly changing,” Hudson said, “because two weeks ago we had families when it was okay to have 250 people or less, then changed quickly to 50 a few days later, then down to 10, and now it’s just delivery only of the casket with families not able to be, specifically for us, at a graveside service.”

One hard call Hudson had to make was to a family that had been expecting to hold a service with an anticipated gathering of up to 250 based on the numbers at the time.

“We deal with a lot of different ethnicities and cultural issues where it’s a very big deal. It’s a lot of people, and people fly in from all over, and it’s very hard to tell people no, it has to be delayed.”

“It’s been difficult because there are so many rules coming from so many places,” said Perry. “You’ve got the feds and the CDC, the county and the governor, so, which rules do you follow, and which do you not follow? We always try to err on the more conservative side of everything and be overly cautious here.”

“We got a clear definition of the governor’s proclamation days later from the Department of Licensing, that all the events that are included in the ban would be graveside services, witness cremations, and funerals, of course,” Hudson said.

“So, we’re just trying to keep up, and we’re the bearers of bad news. And even though we have the documented support from the governor, it’s still tough, because [mourners] have these plans, and they’ve already invited people, and now…”

For Perry, the confusion came to a head after a recent service.

“We told them, ‘OK, we are limiting this service to 10 because only 10 people can be in this building at one time, and you guys all have to be outside and be 6 feet apart.’ Of course, you can’t really police that, but we were doing the right thing,” Perry recalled.

As later funerals approached, Perry said, he realized the new regulations would not work at funerals.

“A funeral situation is emotional,” Perry said, and people want to shake hands and hug and cry and do all the things we as human beings need to do, but you just can’t do it now. I talked with the board and and state and I was looking for some direction to help us —if we had to say no — to say, ‘This is why we’re saying no. It’s not just me, it’s the governor.’

“And the next day,” Perry continued, “the headline in the Seattle Times was ‘funerals banned.’ People had been trying to get around that, you know, asking, ‘What if we have less than 50, what then?’ And you feel for them. My dad passed away less than a year ago, and the thought of not being able to have something is terrible.”

The cemetery remains open, so a family member or family members living in a house together can come and say their goodbyes after workers have taken care of the interment itself, With cremation, Hudson said, just having the urn to deal with makes it a little easier to wait or postpone the service than does a traditional casket burial.

“With embalming and refrigeration and things like that they can certainly wait until March 31, but right now, even that’s a question mark whether the ban’s going to be over at that time or if it’s going to be extended, so it’s kind of tricky situation. I’ve got a couple of families with arrangements pending that I’m working with this morning, and everybody that I’ve talked to has been very understanding,” Hudson said.

Even the the guys who dig the graves and do the burials and set up the markers and sometimes help out with graveside services at Mountain View Cemetery feel it.

“We’re all about the people,” said maintenance worker Zach Hopper, “and it kinda breaks your heart that people can’t send their loved ones off the way they want to do it. Just the way the guidelines are now about people not showing up for the service is heartbreaking.”

“It’s still kinda new. Like last week, we still had a ton of people coming up here. We just try to keep our distance from them. They didn’t talk to much about it, but we still had a lot of visitors.”

“One of the reasons we like working up here other than the Parks Department is we get to help people when they are going through a rough time,” said co-worker David Partridge. “For us to give them bad news when they’re already going through it, it’s sad.”

“It really is hard,” Hudson said. “Can you imagine, losing a young person and then having to tell the parents they couldn’t come?”


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@rentonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.rentonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

Rob Perry, owner of Yahn and Sons Funeral Home. ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter

Rob Perry, owner of Yahn and Sons Funeral Home. ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter

More in Business

A young chef carefully spreads sauce onto pizza dough during a cooking class at Young Chefs Academy of Covington. Courtesy photo/YCA Covington
Kids culinary school opens in Covington

The school takes the unknown out of cooking for kids, owner Deb O’Brien said.

A new measure from the King County Council could increase flexibility for businesses in rural areas of King County. File photo
County measure would increase flexibility for businesses in rural areas

Staff report Legislation the King County Council passed June 23 could lead… Continue reading

The Landing in Renton/File photo
The Landing open in Phase 2 for businesses

Individual retailers determine reopening and operating hours

Photo from March 2019, when the Hi-Lands Shopping center first stood vacant. A developer wants to move forward with demolition but states it can’t due to a city moratorium. File photo/Haley Ausbun
Hi-Lands Shopping Center purchased, but project, demolition on hold

The city placed an emergency moratorium on land use applications in Sunset neighborhood until October 2020. The new developer for Solera has appealed the decision and spoke out against it.

24 Hour Fitness to close clubs in Kent, Auburn, Renton

Panther Lake Kent location scheduled to reopen next month

24 Hour Fitness is closing over 100 gyms, including one in Renton. Photo courtesy the Highlands 24 Hour Fitness Instagram.
Highlands 24-Hour Fitness gym will not be reopening

It is one of several gyms in region and over 100 in the country closing after 24 Hour Fitness filed bankruptcy Monday

Westfield Southcenter Mall to reopen June 15

Modified hours; safety protocols

Closure, layoffs at Mitsubishi Aircraft’s Renton headquarters.

Only a year into joining the aerospace hub of the Northwest, several hits to the commercial jet industry in 2019-2020 causes the company to scale back.

Goodwill to reopen donation centers, stores in King, Pierce counties

Including Kent, Auburn, Federal Way locations

Michelle Hankinson stands in front of the Renton Area Youth Services office in downtown Renton. While RAYS is merging with two other nonprofits, much of it remains the same. Courtesy photo RAYS.
Local RAYS joins nonprofit Childhaven

Renton Area Youth Services has been working with local families for 50 years.

New Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma to open June 8

$400M, 310,000-square-foot facility will open with COVID-19 precautions