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'I just started crying': Gathering rules make funerals even tougher for area families
CORONAVIRUS AND FUNERALS

'I just started crying': Gathering rules make funerals even tougher for area families

Maresh-Meredith and Acklam Funeral Home

Services at businesses like Maresh-Meredith and Acklam Funeral Home, 803 Main St., are limited to a maximum of 10 people, leaving mourning families to make difficult decisions. Many families are putting off memorial services for their loved ones until a later date. 

RACINE — Donald Sura, Sr., 89, had 18 grandchildren and 38 great grandchildren. None of them were permitted to attend his funeral on Saturday due to a ban on gatherings larger than 10 people issued by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Efforts by Gov. Tony Evers and WDHS to stop the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, have put a halt to a traditional part of the grieving process: The gathering of family and friends to mourn together.

Maresh-Meredith and Acklam Funeral Home, 803 Main St., is still serving families who have lost loved ones, but mourners are either holding off on public memorials until a later date or having private family services with only 10 people in attendance.

“No one’s happy with it, but they understand the situation,” said Tom Meredith, funeral director at Maresh-Meredith. “I think that’s probably true with the bars and the restaurants and everybody.”

The state also has ordered bars and restaurants to halt in-house dining. Take-out and delivery is still permitted.

Tough decisions

Limiting funeral and burial services to 10 people forces families to make painful decisions regarding who can attend and who must stay home.

“If you’ve got a family with eight kids and spouses, who makes the cut?” said Darryl Sturino, owner and funeral director at Sturino Funeral Home, 3014 Northwestern Ave. “That’s a really uncomfortable decision to make.”

Sura’s daughter, Kathleen Robison, said her family had no idea that they would be limited to 10 people when they went to Maresh-Meredith on Wednesday to set up services, after her father’s death early that morning.

“My brother and my sister and I just started crying,” she said. “This isn’t the sendoff that he should be getting.”

Sura worked for the Racine Fire Department for 35 years and retired as a captain in 1987. His family expected a Fire Department honor guard and as many as 400 people to attend his services.

Instead, they planned for a Saturday funeral with only Sura’s five surviving children and two of their spouses; Sura’s wife of 68 years, Jeanne; the priest and an organist.

“That’s sad,” Robison said.

Members of the police and fire community, cousins, friends and grandchildren will have to wait for a community memorial the family plans to schedule for sometime in the summer, once gathering restrictions have been lifted.

“When the 10 people are just his kids and his wife, that’s really rough because I have eight kids and 25 grandkids and none of them can come and say goodbye to my dad,” Robison said. “None of them can even come and sit with me and give me any support.”

Memorials on hold

Over the past few days, obituaries in The Journal Times have shown Sura’s family is not the only one dealing with grief and mourning in the time of the coronavirus. Families across the region are postponing services or holding only tiny family funerals.

Sturino Funeral Home is striving to give mourners options, such as live-streaming the services so that loved ones who can’t attend can watch online.

Sturino said that all the families he’s worked with since the restriction on gatherings was put in place have been understanding. But he feels for them.

“My heart goes out to them,” he said. “They can’t even mourn properly, or at least not with the support they’re looking for.”

“When the 10 people are just his kids and his wife, that’s really rough because I have eight kids and 25 grandkids and none of them can come and say goodbye to my dad. None of them can even come and sit with me and give me any support.” Kathleen Robison,
daughter of Donald Sura

“When the 10 people are just his kids and his wife, that’s really rough because I have eight kids and 25 grandkids and none of them can come and say goodbye to my dad. None of them can even come and sit with me and give me any support.”

Kathleen Robison, daughter of Donald Sura

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Caitlin Sievers covers education in Racine County with a primary focus on Racine Unified School District. Before moving to the Racine area she worked at small papers in Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska.

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