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October 01, 1980 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1980-10-01

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OPINION

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-:Page 4

Wednesday, October 1, 1980

The Michigan Daily

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Hig ins

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

10

Vol. XCI, No. 24

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of The Daily's Editorial Board

9

Dooming the Union plan

CONSOLIDATING student power
and gaining influence in Univer-
sity decision-making is always an
uphill battle.
It's even harder when there are only
few students fighting for that influence.
On Monday night a student group
drafting a proposed charter for the
Michigan Union held an open meeting
to solicit advice and support from
students.
Three students showed up.
Those three students heard of plans
to give students an influential role in
the planning and administration of the
Union by establishing a student
majority on the governing board.
Unfortunately, unless hundreds of
-other students-hear of those same
I Exclusive f
moves to st
HE SUBURB of Birmingham has
long sustained an image of effete
-snobbery and a reputation for
disagreeable treatment of any who fall
outside the white, upper middle class.
Some residents of the city were em-
barrassed several years back when a
television documentary about a Bir-
mingham family was aired, reinfor-
cing the aura of exclusivity the town
exudes.
Judging from recent developments,
it seems that some Birminghamites
wish to preserve the status quo in-
definitely. Mayor Gary Kain, for in-
stance, has stated that those who want
to live in Birmingham "ought to earn
their way into Birmingham.''
Kain's statement came in connection
with a city government proposal to
Getting a n
T HE AMERICAN branch of the
Roman Catholic Church took an
unusually humanitarian step Monday
when it voiced concern for those
Catholics who choose artificial birth
control methods.
All methods of contraception but the
"rhythm method" were prohibited by
Pope Paul VI in a 1968 communique.
Archbishop John Quinn of San Fran-
cisco, speaking for the National Con-
ference of Bishops, addressed more
than 200 bishops from around the
world. He expressed understanding
and compassion for that 76.5 percent of
Roman Catholic women in the U.S.
who feel, for one reason or another,
that they cannot meet the Church's
demands.

I:
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plans, and decide to support them, the
proposed charter is doomed to failure.
Stacking the Union board with a
student majority is an unprecedented
suggestion; several key ad-
ministrators feel that such a
distribution of power would disenfran-
chise alumni and faculty groups and
they will almost certainly oppose the
plan.
We are not sure whether a student-
controlled Union board is a good idea.
But we would like to see the proposal
have a fighting chance of survival.
Two other charter hearings are
scheduled for tonight and tomorrow
night in the Union. We urge all mem-
bers of the campus community-and
especially students-to attend.
irmingham
iy that way
convert a certain piece of property into
a parking lot. The property may be the
only possible site in the city for the
proposed construction of a senior
citizen housing development.
It is depressing to think that the
average American's increasing
tolerance for the disadvantaged-or
the just plain different-seems in no
way to have affected the prejudices of
Birmingham's prosperous residents.
But then, many Birminghamites see
themselves as being better than
average.
For the time being, it seens the
value of a home in Birmingham will
rely on the city's homogenous makeup.
Perhaps we are too idealistic, but we
look forward to the day when diversity
and cooperation will be the key to a
living place's desirability instead.

\ /\ f \ XI
1I

I

Mixed-up ashes and multiple
cremations in California

:1

tew rhythm
He asked also that the world hierar-
chy recognize the "significant number
of theologians" who do not accept the
Vatican's teaching on contraception
and noted that the many spiritual
leaders who disagree with the con-
traception ban have inadvertently cast
doubt on the Church's authority
overall.
Obviously, Catholic men and women
are legally free to follow whatever con-_
traceptive methods they deem fit, but
it seems a shame that in order to limit
the sizes of their families, observers of
the faith have to make a choice bet-
ween sexual abstention and violating
the dictates of their spiritual leaders.
Archbishop Quinn's admirable stand
should help to mitigate some of the
problem.

LOS ANGELES-California funeral home
practices have served as the butt of some
classic humor and scandal over the years,
from Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One to
Jessica Mitford's The American Way of
Death. But rarely has there been a controver-
sy so bizarre-and so revealing about funeral
practices-as that which now grips Califor-
nia's funeral industry.
The issue is whether some of the
crematories catering to the new "no frills"
funerals in California are burning more than
one body at a time, and then getting the ashes
mixed up.
THE CONTROVERSY is compounded by
the fact that the claims of both sides in the
dispute are colored by self-interest.
The issue may pertain 'to other states as
well, but it is particularly bitter in California
because the state's burgeoning cremation
rate is double that of the rest of the country.
Although cremations don't necessarily
imply inexpensive sendoffs, a growing num-
ber of cremations in the state are handled by
firms that charge as little as $250 to simply
pick up the body, cremate it and scatter the
ashes. There is no embalming, body viewing,
funeral procession, or flowers.
THE STATE'S traditional funeral direc-
tors, who lost court battles in the 1970s
designed to keep the low-cost companies out,
are upset about this threat to their business
and say the upstart companies lack dignity.
The death industry nationwide is watching
what happens here, because as similar low-
cost funeral firms spring up in other states,
the battle in California provides a preview of
how nasty the fight can be.
Take the case of the alleged multiple
cremations.
ROBERT KILBURN, a former mortician with
a rather unfortunate name, owns Funeral
Supply Internationale, a company that makes
refrigerated storage units for bodies. His
workshop is in the deseft near Beaumont, and
he travels the stateselling his "Kool Kave
Koold Kabinets" to funeral homes and
crematories. It should be pointed out"that in
10 years of selling his equipment, only one has
been bought by a no-frills cremation com-
pany.
It was on a sales trip to an Orange County
crematory-cemetery a year-and-a-half ago
that Kilburn claims he saw five bodies put in-
to a retort (cremation oven) at one time.
"The bodies were on boards on carts in the
garage," he said in an interview. "The bodies
disappeared and the carts came back. I
looked in the retort and saw more than one
pair of feet."
AT THE SAME place that day, Kilburn
said, he also saw unclaimed ashes dumped in-
to empty graves that belonged to other
people. Four 30-gallon green plastic con-
tainers of cremated remains were taken to

By A llison En gel
two open graves, he said, "and I saw them
shovel them in and cover them with a little
dirt." An hour or so later, graveside services
were held, he said, and a casket lowered into
each grave. Kilburn said he is sure none of the
mourners knew the caskets were resting on
the ashes of as many as 60 persons.
Kilburn said he did nothing about his obser-
vations, even though two days later he visited
the same crematory and saw. 10 boxes oa .
'bench being filled with ashesrfrom ~a commonw
container: and thenassigned individual
names.
Why was he silent? "We were involved in a
business situation and it could have cost me
$8,000," he said.
HE ALSO DID nothing when he later visited
another Southern California crematory and
allegedly saw two bodies being burned
together. Empty caskets, presumably theirs,
were placed by the trash, he said.
Kilburn said both crematories handled
many cases for what is known in the industry
as "direct disposal" firms-companies that
don't require consumers to buy a casket, em-
balming, niches or urns.
"Direct disposal places go out for bids for
their work," he said, and there is pressure for
crematories to bid low to get the business.
KILBURN FINALLY went public with his
charges in the April issue of Mortuary
Management, a trade magazine, in an article
titled "Is It Time To Expose The Truth?" It
did not, however, name names. "If you re in
the funeral trade, it's rather obvious who
we're talking about," he said.
Also, he said, he didn't think they were
isolated incidents. "I merely brought to a
head a situation that is common knowledge."
Those who oversee and regulate the industry
vehemently disagree.
"I KNOW OF no case in California where
multiple cremations have taken place," said
James Leahy, executive director of the In-,
terment Association of California, the trade
association for cemeteries and crematories.
Although there is no specific law forbidding
multiple cremations, Leahy said, they aren't
done for ethical reasons. Leahy said it is
illegal to put one person's remains in
another's grave. Buying a cemetery lot gives
you exclusive right to use the property,
although it does not give you ownership of a
piece of real estate, as many people believe.
John Gill, executive director of the
Cemetery Board, the state agency that
regulates crematories, also disputed
Kilburn's allegations. After the Kilburn ar-
ticle appeared, Gill had an investigator pay
unannounced calls to two Orange County
crematories that handled bodies for "no

frills" companies. No problems were found at
either place, he said.
THE FOUNDER OF the state's largest "no
frills" cremation company, Charles Denning
of The Neptune Society, and Tom Weber,
founder of the original low-cost firm, The
Telophase tSociety, both said they had no
knowledge of bodies being cremated more
than one at a time. Weber said it would be*
foolish to do so: "You'd have to go to a higher
heat, which would be horrendously expensive,
you'd have all sorts of smoke and ash and
you'd have to burn for hours and hours. It
would be the biggest mess you ever saw."
Kilburn said he recently' revisited the
crematories in question and found they now
have cleaned up their acts. But he said he
thinks the practice of mixing cremated
remains and taking bodies out of caskets to
burn more than one at a time is still going on.
So does Bud Noakes, a funeral director in
Glenora who also writes for Mortuary*
Management, which has been keeping the
issue alive since April. Noakes said he has not
personally witnessed any abuses, but has
talked recently with a crematory operator
who defended the practices. "That in my own
mind was conclusive."
"IT'S ALL DONE surreptitiously," he said.
"The Interment Association and Cemetery
Board know full well we cannot come up wthL
proof." Noakes said he thinks the problem is
directly related to the rise of no-frills
cremation firms and goes so far to say that
"mass cremations occur wherever you've got
a crematory handling direct disposal
business."
Notably, most persons making such
charges operate businesses which have been
adversely affected by the "no frills" firms.
Kilburn, by his own admission- depends on
the traditional funeral homes for a market,
is "doing all I can to keep them in business."
Both Noakes and Mortuary Management*
publisher Ron Hast are funeral directors
whose businesses have been forced to adapt to
competition from cremation firms. Hast has
gone so far as to start his own "society" to of-
fer low-cost funerals.
The issue of possible cremation abuses did
get a public forum at the state Cemetery
Board's September meeting, and it voted to
draft legislation making it illegal to cremate
more than one body in a single retort. "The
board was concerned but not horrified," said
executive director Gill. "After all, we're still
waiting for proof."
Allison Engel is an associate editor of
the Pacific News Service, for which she
wrote this article.

4
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LETTERS TO THE DAILY:
Mormon editorial ridiculous,

To The Daily:
As a reasonably devout Mor-
mon, I cannot let your editorial
about Judge Callister pass by
without protest (Daily, Sept. 25).
In the first place, it is
ridiculous and insulting to
suggest that Judge Callister's

ch's leadership and membership,
tried to obstruct its missionary
program, and otherwise showed
herself to be so far out of har-
mony with Church doctrines and
practices that excommunic-
ation-which released her from

do not know Judge Callister's
views on these subjects,I do know
that many of my fellow Mormons
would favor Constitutional
Amendments that would allow
prayer in public schools and to
ban abortions under all but the
gravest circumstances. (As for

insulting*
pears all-but-dead, a really
cynical Mormon judge could
decide to rule in favor of the ERA
extension knowing that it would
make no practical difference
now, but could come in handy
sometime in the future. Such a
judge might deserve to be kicked

womrem!mwa

-.

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