My mother wanted to be cremated and after her death I was to bring her urn up to NJ for a memorial service. I decided to honor her and have a viewing in NJ prior to the cremation service. I was the only person paying for this, as she had limited funds. On the day my mom died, a local funeral home embalmed her. The day after my mother died 8/13/2012, in Jacksonville, Florida I called Gardners Funeral Home and spoke with Jim Tomasello. He gave me a price for cremation of my mom and services in New Jersey. We agreed on a price and Jim said I could sign everything and pay when I arrived in NJ. I had the local company ship my mom's body to NJ.
After I arrived in NJ, to my absolute horror and dismay, I discovered that I needed a majority of consent from my siblings for the cremation. I provided proof my mother wanted cremation, notarized wishes, but they said "no" - in NJ must have a majority of siblings. That was impossible because my sister did not speak to me and my brother was against the cremation. Wendy Gardner told me she would try to get my brothers authorization. She presented me with blank contracts which had not even been filled out and I signed blank contracts because there was no other choice, I was already in NJ and so was my mom's body and the viewing was scheduled in two days.
Behind my back, my brother, Leonard colluded with Wendy Gardner because he wanted to see the will ahead of the funeral. I discovered later in legal briefs that he and Wendy had several private meetings where he said I was not authorized to run the funeral. That was odd and unfair because I was the one that paid Wendy in advance, in full. I presented the last will my mom had (that I had with me in NJ) and a POA, all showing I was the only one ever in charge of my mom's affairs. Leonard even told her I didn't know my own mom's name, that she had been secretly married in Venice, Italy to a man named Phil and he provided some old passports of my mom's. I knew of these passports because in the old days you could use your "companion's" last name easily as long as it was on some legal document or other. Why Wendy believed my brother is beyond me. She had the contract with me - she never let me know what was going on. I was completely in the dark.
Why a mature business woman would have private meetings behind my back instead of letting me know, the person that ordered the funeral, what was going on is beyond me. I could have easily answered any question if only I had known what was going on. She threatened to stop the funeral and I had no choice but to fax her the will. Still my brother wasn't satisfied. He refused to approve the cremation, and after the funeral and the mass, I asked Wendy what was going to happen to my mom's body and she said she was bringing it back to the funeral home. I asked about refrigeration and she said she had none.
Jim Tomasello, part owner of Gardners, had a duty and responsibility to tell me of the NJ law before my mother 's body was shipped to NJ. I begged Wendy to ship my mom's body back to Florida. I told her I didn't care what it cost. She said she did not know how to do that. I had tickets to Florida and I had to leave. She said she would get Len to sign for the cremation but she did not and my mom's body was left to rot in Gardners. I filed a lawsuit in Florida and asked the judge to issue an injunction to have my mom's body returned to Florida, but he refused due to lack of jurisdiction. Then Wendy and Jim sued me for the "smell" of my mom's body and loss of business. I was horrified, broken hearted and completely mortified and upset by this event. A judge finally got everyone to agree to a cremation but I was in Florida and then my younger brother Len had my mom buried in NJ without me being there. To this day, I do not know where my mom is buried. I was the one that cared for her 24/7 while she was dying of cancer. I was the one that bought her a house in Florida and took care of her every day but I could not even be there for my own mother's burial due to Gardners. Then Wendy sued me for her attorney fees of $10,000. Luckily, the judge ruled on my side. but I had to write briefs, answer complaints and go through horrible mental anguish dealing with a problem caused by negligence and ineptitude and irresponsible actions by Gardners.
I warn everyone that if you are in Florida and you are sending your loved one's body to N.J. for cremation, please, please, make sure you know the law and have everything written in advance. If Gardner's had told me about the NJ law before I shipped my mom to NJ, I would not have lost thousands of dollars in legal fees and had a funeral from hell. I love my mom and I wanted my money back but I can not get jurisdiction in Florida and she wants me to pay her legal fees in NJ even though she was at fault. I asked for the money back and she refused. She ruined my moms' viewing and funeral - I went through emotional hell. I warn everyone of Gardners, and especially Jim who doesn't know the rules or the laws and doesn't tell anyone the rules and the laws, and Wendy, who consorted in secret with my younger, but slick talking evil ilk brother and not the elderly sister that took care of her mother and paid the funeral bill. It appeared to me that Wendy was swayed by my brothers appearance, his ability to smooth talk and bullshit instead of using her business sensibilities and her duty to her primary customer. The entire problem lies with Wendy because I cannot change my brother but I depended upon an honest business to assist me in a professional caring manner with my mom's funeral. I got the funeral from hell. I got a broken heart. I lost a lot of money, a lot of sleep and when I think of my mother and how she died, and layed in that funeral home "rotting" I just want to crawl into a ball and cry forever. Shame on you Wendy Gardner, Jim Tomasello and Gardners Funeral Home. It was a nightmare that no one should ever have to live through. (I am not exonerating my brother, but Wendy enabled him to ruin the funeral instead of acting professionally and letting me know what he was saying behind my back to her, influencing her to threaten me that she would stop the funeral). If only she had told me what the issue was, I could have stopped the entire nightmare right there with a family meeting. Her secretive nature, her unprofessional actions and attitudes make me believe she is in the wrong business.