Entries in Funerals (5)


Final Day of Funerals for Newtown Shooting Victims

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEWTOWN, Conn.) -- The final three victims of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School will be laid to rest on Saturday, ending a somber week funerals.

A mass will take place on Saturday at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church for Josephine Gay, who had celebrated her seventh birthday on Dec. 11.

Friends and family have been asked to wear Josephine’s favorite color, purple, in her honor.

A homegoing celebration will take place at The First Cathedral in Bloomfield, Conn., for Ana Marquez-Greene. The 6-year-old with a beaming voice sang in a home video with her brother, who was also at Sandy Hook Elementary School during the massacre and seemed destined to take after her father, a jazz musician.

Emilie Parker, the budding artist who carried her markers and pencils everywhere, will be laid to rest in Ogden, Utah on Saturday.

The 6-year-old would have been would one of the first to comfort her classmates at Sandy Hook Elementary School, had a gunman’s bullets not claimed her life, her father said.

“My daughter Emilie would be one of the first ones to be standing and giving support to all the victims because that’s the kind of kid she is,” her father, Robbie Parker, said last Saturday.

“She always had something kind to say about anybody,” Parker said. “We find comfort reflecting on the incredible person Emilie was and how many lives she was able to touch.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Funerals Begin for Victims of Connecticut School Shooting

Jack Pinto (Pinto Family)(NEWTOWN, Conn.) -- The first two funerals for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre are scheduled for Monday afternoon, when Newtown, Conn., will bury 6-year-olds Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto.

Pozner's family will greet the public before the funeral service begins at 1 p.m. at the Abraham L. Green & Son Funeral Home in Fairfield, Conn. The burial will follow at B'nai Israel Cemetery in Monroe.

Pinto's service will take place at 1 p.m. at Honan Funeral Home in Newtown.  The burial will follow the service at Newtown Village Cemetery.

Pozner and Pinto were two of the 20 children who were killed Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School when Adam Lanza allegedly sprayed two first-grade classrooms with bullets that also killed six adults.

Pozner's twin sister, Arielle, was one of the students who survived when her teacher hid her class in the bathroom during the attack.

As millions of Americans try to make sense of the shootings, memorials and personal tributes have been emerging to remember the children and their educators.

After hearing that Pinto was a huge New York Giants fan, Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz wrote "R.I.P. Jack Pinto," "Jack Pinto, my hero" and "This one is 4 U!" on his cleats and gloves before playing the Atlanta Falcons Sunday afternoon.  Cruz tweeted photos of his tribute shortly before the game, along with his condolences.

Cruz told reporters he spoke to the family on Saturday after hearing Pinto was a Giants fan.  Cruz was told the family planned to bury Pinto in Cruz's No. 80 Giants jersey.

"There are no words that can describe the type of feeling you get when a kid idolizes you so much that, you know, unfortunately they put him in a casket with your jersey on," Cruz said on Sunday.

"I also spoke to an older brother and he was distraught as well.  I told him to stay strong and I was going to do whatever I can to honor him," Cruz said.  "He was fighting tears and could barely speak to me."

Cruz said he plans to give the gloves he wore during the game to the boy's family, and spend some time with them.

Like many parents holding their children a little tighter in wake of the school shooting, Cruz told reporters his 11-month-old daughter, Kennedy, slept in his bed Friday night.

"We slept together that night," he said, "and it was a good feeling.  It was one that I cherished."

The Giants were shut out by the Falcons, 34-0, and Cruz was held to three catches for 15 yards with no touchdowns.  Cruz had hoped to score at least one touchdown for arguably his biggest fan.

"I probably would have pointed up to the sky, tapped my shoes or something special just to let him know I was thinking of him," Cruz told Newsday.

More funerals are planned for later this week.  Jessica Rekos, 6, will be buried on Tuesday at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Wisconsin Sikh Temple Shooting Victims to Be Buried

Scott Olson/Getty Images(OAK CREEK, Wis.) -- Five days after a gunman opened fire inside their temple, the Sikh community in Oak Creek, Wis., will hold the first of six funerals Friday for the victims of a white supremacist's murderous shooting spree.

Sikhs will first gather for a wake at a high school, followed by a memorial service where Attorney General Eric Holder is slated to speak.  Early Friday afternoon, the Sikh temple will open for prayer as the Sikhs take turns reading over a thousand pages of their holy book until Sunday morning.  Three funerals will be held Friday and three more on Saturday.

It was last Sunday when white supremacist Wade Michael Page went on a shooting rampage that killed six and wounded others.  Page then took his own life after being shot by an officer.

The people wounded in the attack, including a police officer who was shot eight or nine times, are progressing in their recoveries.  According to the hospital where they are recuperating, Lt. Brian Murphy is now in satisfactory condition.  

Punjab Singh, 65, is still in critical condition, requiring mechanical support to breathe, after suffering a gunshot wound to the face.  The hospital said Singh may also have subsequently suffered a stroke.  

Santokh Singh, 50, is in serious condition after he had surgery for a gunshot wound to the chest.

On Thursday, the Sikh temple re-opened to members for the first time since the shooting.

"It's only open right now currently to those people who are volunteering to clean it up and to the cleaning agencies getting in there and fixing the things up," said temple spokesman Amardeep Singh Kaleka.

Later in the day, people came together for a community meeting that included an appearance by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who warned that the threat to the Sikh community still remains.

"The Sikhs are such peace-loving people and so caring and the power of their innocence in the temple touches us in a different kind of way.  But they are no less safe than they were a week ago because those who hated them then, hate them now," Jackson said.

In addition to the appearances by Jackson and Holder, other prominent public officials such as Gov. Scott Walker and Rep. Paul Ryan have also come to Oak Creek this week to support the Sikhs.

At an emotional candlelight vigil Tuesday night in a downtown park, Ryan said that "the Sikhs have been a great part of our community for a long time."

video platform video management video solutions video player

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Military Funeral Protesters Vow to Defy New Law

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The controversial Westboro Baptist Church, best known for its noisy protests at the funerals of fallen soldiers, vowed Tuesday to defy a new bill signed by President Obama that would require that they be kept at least 300 feet from a soldier’s funeral.

Obama signed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 into law on Monday.

Among the 50 provisions in the legislation that range from benefits for military personnel to healthcare and education is a clause that restricts protesters from gathering within 300 feet of a military funeral two hours before or two hours after a funeral service has taken place.

“We have a moral sacred duty to our men and women in uniform,” Obama said before signing the bill. “The graves of our veterans are hallowed grounds.”

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., tweeted their reaction Tuesday, suggesting they will still protest.

“Pass your laws, @barackobama but your soldiers = still dying. Like @usmarinecorps Gunnery Sgt Dan Price. #PicketFuneral,” wrote one member

Another church member expressed his anger over the new law. “They speak for whole nation. #FagsDoomNations MT@MaxineMagazine: Congress Gives Middle Finger To God via @instinctmag” one Westboro member tweeted.

Church member Steve Drain, 47, told ABC News, “It wont affect what we do at all. We are still going to be out there at soldiers funerals warning people that America is doomed.”

“We will do it in a lawful fashion. We will stand 301 feet away. There is prime preaching real estate at 301 feet” he declares.  "My voice can carry a lot farther than 300 feet. That is only the size of a football field,” he said.

The church is known for its extreme ideological standings, especially those relating to homosexuality.

The church links the deaths of service members to America’s acceptance of gays and has a webpage full of press releases highlighting the picketing schedule of military service member funerals.

The legislation appears to contradict a 2011 Supreme Court ruling which established that the First Amendment protects members of the Westboro Baptist Church in holding their provocative, anti-gay protests during military funeral services.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Volunteers Canvas Funeral Homes for Forgotten Veterans

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- When Catherine Grant's husband died in 1994, she never imagined she would find his obituary in the paper 17 years later. But there it was, under the heading "Veterans Honored."

"It was very strange," said Grant, 77, who lives in St. Louis. "I never look at the obituaries. But that day I did."

Over in Louisville, Ky., Carolyn Russell, 72, was about to receive a shocking phone call.

Her brother Donald Ritz, a World War II combat veteran, had died of throat cancer in 1987 -- but she never found out where he had been cremated. Until this year.

"I was just thrilled to death, it kind of gave me cold chills," she said.

The non-profit group Missing in America Project (MIAP) was behind the burials of both of these forgotten veterans.

In the central U.S., Dale Lamond, a former Marine who helps coordinate burials for MIAP, delivered the news to Russell.

"It's gratifying that you find these veterans that have been lying there all these years, some of the families didn't know there were there," he said.

Missing in America, the passion project of founder and former U.S. Army Maj. Fred Salanti, holds military burials for unclaimed veterans' remains. The group has nearly 700 volunteers in 48 states canvas funeral homes searching for veterans' remains in backrooms and storage areas where, in many cases, they have been long forgotten.

Since its inception in 2007, 63-year-old Salanti says MIAP has visited more than 1,400 funeral homes and found more than 1,200 veteran remains. Of those, 1,049 have been interred.

As soon as they find a veteran at a funeral home, MIAP volunteers examine funeral home notes and the death certificate, track down living relatives, and study genealogy resources and old Department of Defense databases. Sometimes the most time-consuming process can be obtaining proof of military service.

Most of the time the MIAP volunteers are the only people to attend a veteran's military burial. And that's exactly what drives them.

"That's a real tearjerker knowing that we, the Missing in America people...are the family," Salanti said. "They accomplished something honorable, respectful and they're receiving what was due them for service to the country."

The MIAP volunteers are mostly retired, many of them former servicemen and some who aren't, but all consider this a calling.

"When I found out there were this many people who have fought for our country and they're sitting on shelves it moved me to a point that I said let's do something about it," said Dave Woodcook, 63, who joined MIAP about five years ago and began leading burial escorts near Redding, Calif.

Salanti says the unclaimed veterans' remains are nobody's fault: funeral homes aren't required to seek out anyone and next of kin and funeral homes aren't required to report the unclaimed remains to the VA.

"A lot of people come out and say the VA needs to be in charge of this, but how does the VA know [where the remains are]? They don't have authority to go into a private funeral home," he said.

The laws regulating how long funeral homes are required to keep remains vary from state to state, and 13 states, such as Maryland and Nevada, don't have any laws governing unclaimed remains.

There are 19,903 funeral homes in the U.S. according to the National Funeral Directors Association, and nearly all of them have unclaimed cremated remains.

Last Thursday Republicans Pat Tiberi and Steve Stivers introduced the Missing in America Act, which would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to help determine if unclaimed remains are eligible for burial at a national cemetery. The bill also asks the VA to work with veterans service organizations and other groups, including MIAP, in possessing the abandoned or unidentified remains.

An earlier version of the bill was introduced in 2009 when the House was controlled by Democrats, and it fell short of the required number of co-sponsors.

Salanti said, "The chances of getting this law passed now are tremendously better and it's just exciting that we're getting some recognition at the national level."

For now, MPIA continues searching funeral homes and tracking down documents, working without pay. The organization is run by individual donations, without any corporate sponsors. It's tough, at times, Salanti says, "We're in tears and crying half the time. My nickname is waterworks."

But for him, in the end, it's worth it.

"We represent what those guys lived for. Otherwise they're going to be alone going on their last journey."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio