The State Board of Funeral Directors suspended the licenses of local funeral director Andrew T. Scheid and those of his facilities Thursday. As LNP | LancasterOnline first reported Jan. 10, that state oversight board had issued a 30-count disciplinary complaint against the Andrew T. Scheid Funeral Home, which has locations in Millersville and Lancaster and has been in business since 1995. The State Board of Funeral Directors accuses Andrew Scheid of “gross incompetency, negligence and misconduct of the profession.” Its 51-page complaint alleges violations of state funeral law, keeping remains unembalmed and unrefrigerated for an extended period, and not returning cremated remains to families, among other allegations. At least 15 families have alleged misconduct and poor service. Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams confirmed last week that her office was investigating the funeral home. (Andrew T. Scheid Funeral Home is not affiliated with Melanie B. Scheid Funeral Directors and Cremation Services.)
The anguish is what we can’t stop thinking about. Losing a loved one is devastating. For a loved one’s remains to be mishandled strikes us as a cruelty that would be hard to bear.
It’s the job of a funeral director to attend to the details of a death so loved ones are freed from that burden. But according to grieving family members who were interviewed by LNP | LancasterOnline’s Junior Gonzalez for an investigative report in last Sunday’s edition, Andrew Scheid only added to the burden of their sorrow.
York residents Ryan Stauffer and his wife, Clara, said it took the funeral home more than two years to provide her father’s ashes after his cremation.
When they finally were given the ashes of Harry Henry, 62, who died in December 2017 at a long-term care facility in Lancaster city, the couple — understandably — wondered if the ashes were truly his remains.
Angie Creasy, of Manor Township, said that when she opened the urn that was supposed to have contained the ashes of her father, Glenn, who died Dec. 7, it was empty.
“I was floored,” she said. “My mom started crying. We couldn’t believe it.”
Their disbelief, their distress, are understandable. It took the family almost a month to get Glenn Creasy’s ashes.
Yet another customer, Amanda Wagner of Lancaster city, described Scheid talking to her about his personal problems — as she was trying to make arrangements in December for her father, Stan Winebarger.
She said Scheid failed to show up for several appointments. She said he mishandled her father’s obituary. And worst of all, he didn’t respond to her phone calls about her father’s ashes.
She and her husband finally drove to a crematory in Allentown to pick up her father’s ashes. She said Scheid never had picked them up.
Another family’s ordeal
Rob Miller’s father, Raymond Durkaj, died Jan. 2. Miller said Andrew Scheid botched his father’s obituary and showed up two hours late to an appointment shortly after Durkaj’s death. Miller said Scheid kept him and his mother in a room for another two hours while exhibiting erratic and “unprofessional” behavior.
But that’s far from the worst of it.
Miller told LNP | LancasterOnline that an Andrew T. Scheid Funeral Home employee informed him that his father’s remains had been taken to a crematory “in the area” and would be ready to be picked up within days.
After he read this newspaper’s initial reporting on the state complaint, Miller reached out to another funeral director, who discovered — unbelievably — that Durkaj’s body had never been sent to the crematory and was still at Andrew T. Scheid Funeral Home nine days after his death.
An LNP | LancasterOnline video shows Miller’s sad trip Jan. 11 to the funeral home’s Millersville location to oversee the transfer of his father’s body to another funeral director.
In the heartrending video, Miller says, with palpable sorrow, “My mom, I can’t believe she has to go through this. ... I mean, it’s hard enough.”
And he says, of his late father, “His body is not suffering, but now his soul is suffering ... and everybody in the family.”
As we wrote, it is difficult not to dwell on the anguish.
In one case, which only can be described as horrific, the Andrew T. Scheid Funeral Home is accused of failing to embalm the remains of Elwood Reese in a timely manner.
According to the state oversight board, the funeral home allowed Reese’s remains to sit out in 70-degree temperatures for three days after his death July 7.
“The remains of Mr. Reese were not embalmed, were not refrigerated and were not kept in a sealed container,” the board found. Reese’s remains, the state board said, had “significantly decomposed.”
How does this happen? How does a funeral home fail to ensure that a body is properly — and respectfully — kept? These are the sacred remains of a human being. Handling them is a sacred duty, one that requires expertise. That’s why funeral directors must get academic degrees in mortuary science; that’s why they are licensed. That’s why funeral directors are held to account for the practices and standards of their funeral homes.
Reese’s brother-in-law, Woody Myers, told LNP | LancasterOnline’s Gonzalez that he and his wife were traumatized by the funeral home’s alleged failures. He said his wife has nightmares and has sought therapy.
No wonder. We’d have nightmares, too.
Losing a sibling is devastating. It’s hard to even fathom having to endure a situation like this one. It’s disgraceful. And deeply, horribly disrespectful.
Since LNP | LancasterOnline has reported on the complaints against the Andrew T. Scheid Funeral Home, some families have transferred their loved one’s remains to other funeral homes. What a sad and painful thing to have to do.
As the story in last Sunday’s edition pointed out, the Andrew T. Scheid Funeral Home website promises to “serve families with dignity and reverence.”
The website goes on to say the funeral home will make “one of life’s most difficult tasks easier.”
If only that had been the case for the families of Harry Henry, Stan Winebarger, Glenn Creasy and Elwood Reese.
“We believe that it’s the little things that count,” the Andrew T. Scheid Funeral Home website states.
Properly caring for a body. Promptly returning a loved one’s remains to a family. Those are not little things — they are the very basics that a funeral home should deliver.
We hope the district attorney’s office, the state attorney general’s office and the State Board of Funeral Directors get some answers about what has been happening at the Andrew T. Scheid Funeral Home. The families who say they were failed by that funeral home deserve answers. And our deepest sympathies.
Now that Andrew T. Scheid’s license has been suspended, other families, who prepaid for funeral arrangements at his funeral home, must be wondering what to do.
Hoping to spare their loved ones the pain and expense of planning a funeral, they put their faith as well as their money in the Andrew T. Scheid Funeral Home.
They need to know, as soon as possible, if their faith was misplaced.