Entries in Burial (7)


VA Grants First Burial Rights for Same-Sex Couple

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- For the first time the Department of Veterans Affairs has decided to allow the same-sex spouse of a military veteran to be buried in a U.S. national cemetery.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has given permission for retired Air Force officer Linda Campbell, 66, to bury the ashes of her same-sex spouse Nancy Lynchild at Williamette National Cemetery in Oregon.

Lynchild, 64, died in late December after breast cancer had spread throughout her body.  Campbell had wanted Lynchild’s ashes to be interred at the same cemetery where her parents are buried.

“It was just surreal. I cried, I shook, I got on my knees," Campbell told The Oregonian when she first received the news that Shinseki had approved the request.

The Oregonian first reported that Campbell had been granted her request.

Campbell’s initial requests to inter Lynchild’s ashes at the national cemetery had been initially turned down by the Veterans Affairs Department.  The Defense of Marriage Act recognizes marriages as existing only between a man and a woman, so same-sex spouses are not allowed interment at the national cemeteries administered by the VA.

However, Campbell’s supporters appealed her request directly to Shinseki, who in late January used his discretionary authority to approve the request, based “in part, on evidence of a committed relationship between the Veteran and the individual," a VA statement said.

According to the statement, the VA "is committed to taking care of Veterans and their families, and recognizes the desire of Veterans to have the opportunity to be buried with a loved one with whom they have shared a committed relationship.”

The statement added, “Previously, the Secretary has also used his discretionary authority to designate others, such as a sibling, a child or a parent as eligible for burial in a VA National Cemetery. VA will continue to honor Veterans and their loved ones with final resting places in national shrines and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice to our Nation.”

No date has been set for the burial, which will be limited to friends and family.

The couple had been together since 1994 and in 2010 were legally married in British Columbia, Canada.

Williamette is one of the 131 national cemeteries administered by the Veterans Affair Department’s National Cemetery Administration.  Seventy-two are open for interment.  Arlington National Cemetery is run by the Department of the Army.

Earlier this week the Pentagon announced that some additional benefits were being opened up for the same-sex partners of military service members and retirees.  However, burials at national cemeteries or Arlington National Cemetery was not one of the additional benefits approved by outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Defense Department officials say the issue of burials remains under review as the Defense of Marriage Act recognizes marriages as existing only between a man and a woman.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Mary Kennedy's Body Released Amid Family Feud  

Mary Richardson Kennedy and her son, Conor Kennedy, in 2009. Jason Kempin/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The body of Robert Kennedy Jr.'s wife, Mary Richardson Kennedy, was released by authorities to a funeral home Friday amid a family struggle over burial rights.

The body was released after her estranged husband got a court order directing the Westchester County medical examiner turn over the body to the Clark Associates Funeral Home. Clark Associates has been preparing for a funeral at Kennedy's request.

The Medical Examiner's office had refused to release Kennedy's body to Clark Associates because Mary Kennedy's siblings and her estranged husband's family were fighting over where she would be buried, multiple sources told ABC News.

Clark Associates expects a private wake either Friday night or Saturday morning at one of the family's homes, and then a funeral at 10 a.m. Saturday. The location was not disclosed.

The Kennedys planned to bury her near the Kennedy family's compound in Hyannisport, Mass., on Cape Cod.

Mary Kennedy, 52, died Wednesday of asphyxiation from hanging at her home in Westchester County, N.Y., according to the medical examiner. Kennedy and her husband, Robert Kennedy, Jr., had been separated since 2010 but were not legally divorced.

Mary Kennedy's brothers and sister, however, are planning a sunset memorial Monday night at the Standard Hotel in Manhattan. Mary Kennedy grew up in New Jersey, where her father was a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. Her mother lived in Bayonne, N.J., until her death.

"The first task is for Mary's family to take her to her final resting place, with the dignity and love she deserves," her siblings wrote in a statement released today.

None of Mary Kennedy's family returned calls from ABC News for comment on their sister's death. They released the statement to combat what they saw as a mischaracterization of their sister in news reports following her death, they wrote.

"She was generous, thoughtful, with a refined aesthetic, genius organizational abilities, boundless energy, physical stamina, and natural elegance. She laughed a lot. Her enthusiasms were deep. She loved to connect people, with no self-interest, and with great intelligence," the statement read.

Following her death, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., told the New York Times that his estranged wife had been struggling with depression.

"A lot of times I don't know how she made it through the day," Kennedy, Jr., told the newspaper. "She was in a lot of agony for a lot of her life."

The pair had broken up in 2010 and Mary Kennedy faced difficulties with alcohol during the intervening years. She was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and driving under the influence of drugs on two different occasions.

The couple had four children together.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Police, Family Try to Halt Josh Powell's Burial Beside Sons

KOMO/ABC News(GRAHAM, Wash.) -- Police in Pierce County, Wash. have purchased burial plots adjacent to those of Charlie and Braden Powell to ensure their father, Josh Powell, won't be buried anywhere near them, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department announced Wednesday.

Charlie and Braden Powell were 7 and 5 years old respectively when Josh Powell intentionally ignited a fire that blew up his rented house and killed all three of them on Feb. 5.  The family of Josh Powell was looking into nearby plots for his remains, so Pierce County Crimestoppers stepped in and purchased the nearby plots.

"Just to make sure that no plaques or no mention of Josh or anybody are around those boys that doesn't deserve to be or need to be," police department spokesman Ed Troyer told ABC News' affiliate KOMO News in Seattle.  "We think that is a place people are going to ... be hurting for years and years and years around here, and we didn't want any chance of Josh being there."

Thousands of dollars in donations poured into Pierce County Crimestoppers to buy the two burial plots on either side of the brothers' shared casket in an effort to prevent Powell from being buried so close to the boys.  Even the sheriff in town donated $100 of his own money to the cause.

"I can't see this happening.  I just hope it goes away quickly," said Chuck Cox, the grandfather of the boys and father of their mother Susan Powell, who went missing under suspicious circumstances in 2009.

The Cox family attorney plans to file a temporary restraining order to stop the sale of the plot until a judge is able to intervene in the situation.

Powell, who reportedly became upset when he was denied custody of his two sons, slammed the door on social worker Elizabeth Griffin-Hall on Feb. 5 when she brought Charlie and Braden for a bi-weekly supervised visit with their father.  Within a few minutes the entire house burst into flames, which is believed to have been caused by Josh Powell leaking gas into the house and igniting it.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Leon Panetta Tells Air Force to Review Dover Mortuary Practices

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reaffirmed on Thursday that the recent flaps at the mortuary facility at Dover Air Force Base are a priority as he ordered the Air Force to conduct a new review that could lead to harsher disciplinary actions against those already reprimanded for improper disposal of body parts.

At a Pentagon briefing, Panetta said that the disposal of military remains and “ensuring the recovery and dignified return of our fallen heroes … is one of the department’s most sacred responsibilities.  And that’s why all Americans, including myself, are justifiably disturbed by the reports of mismanagement at Dover Port Mortuary that came to light this week.”

Panetta said that one of his first meetings after coming into office in July was with Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz on their investigation into Dover.

“They were forthcoming with me,” Panetta said.  “It was clear that they took these allegations seriously and that they were committed to strengthening the department’s handling of this most sacred and solemn task.”

Although the United States Office of Special Counsel produced a report that Panetta called “thorough,” he still requested an independent review by a “distinguished panel” because of additional questions raised.     

“This review commission will look at the processes and procedures there, and make sure that we are implementing the highest standards in dealing with the remains of our fallen heroes,” Panetta said.

With criticism that the Air Force’s own Inspector General investigation was light on punishments for those in charge at Dover, Panetta said he wanted to make sure appropriate disciplinary action was taken and determine whether or not there were “management reprisals” taken against the whistleblowers at Dover.

When asked if what happened at Dover is a black-and-white issue or if a higher moral standard should apply, Panetta responded that it was a command decision, but that “we have to pay the greatest respect and reverence to the remains of our fallen heroes.  That’s what I think ought to be considered in this situation.”

After the Pentagon briefing, Air Force Secretary Donley released a statement reaffirming that “there is no question the Air Force is accountable to our joint teammates and the families of the fallen for this critical and sacred mission.”

He said, “The lapses in our standards at Dover, which we sincerely regret, are our responsibility to fix.”

He promised that the new review would be “exceedingly thorough and rigorous” because the fallen and their families “deserve nothing less.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Betty Ford Remembered in Michigan; Will Be Buried Alongside Husband

Hulton Archive/Getty Images(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.) -- Former first lady Betty Ford will be laid to rest on Thursday next to her husband of 58 years, former President Gerald R. Ford.

On Wednesday, the former first lady's remains were flown to Grand Rapids, Michigan -- the place where she grew up and married the man who would later become the 38th president of the United States.  Her casket was taken to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, where it was put on display, draped with flowers for hundreds to pay their respects in a public viewing.

Ford's remains will be transported by motorcade to Grace Episcopal Church on Thursday where she will be memorialized one last time.  The church is the same one where the Fords wed back in 1948.

Lynne Cheney, the wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is among the expected eulogists at Thursday's funeral service.

Following the memorial, Ford's casket will be returned to the presidential museum to be buried alongside her husband, who died in 2006.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Private Service to Be Held in California for Betty Ford

Ron Galella Archive/Getty Images(PALM DESERT, Calif.) -- Former first lady Betty Ford, who passed away last Friday from natural causes at the age of 93, will be remembered on Tuesday in a private service in California.

First lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton, and former first ladies Rosalynn Carter and Nancy Reagan are all expected to be on hand to pay tribute to Ford, who is best remembered for her White House stay and for making her struggles with breast cancer and substance abuse public.

The service will be held at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Desert at 2 p.m.  Rosalynn Carter and journalist Cokie Roberts will be among the people who will deliver Ford's eulogies.

On Wednesday, Ford's casket will be flown to Grand Rapids, Michigan where a public memorial and funeral service are scheduled to be held on Thursday.  After Thursday's funeral, she will be laid to rest alongside her husband on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford presidential museum.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Seven Children Killed in Pennsylvania Farmhouse Fire Being Buried

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(LOYSVILLE, Pa.) -- Seven children from a small rural town in Pennsylvania will be remembered Tuesday as they are laid to rest a week after they died in a farmhouse fire.

The children -- six girls and one boy, ranging in age from seven months to 11 years old -- were killed last Tuesday night when a fire broke out at their two-story farmhouse in Blain.

State Trooper Tom Pinkerton said the children's mother was in the barn milking cows when another child alerted her to the fire.  The mother then ran to the home of a neighbor, who called 911, before running to get the children's father, who was taking a nap in his milk delivery truck a short distance away.

According to the county coroner, the children died from smoke inhalation.  The three-year-old girl who told her mother about the fire survived.

The funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, followed by a burial at the Church of the Living Christ cemetery in Loysville.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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