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3News Investigates: Northeast Ohio funeral director snubs 96-year-old World War II veteran over pre-paid cremation

Jason Jardine sped off from news cameras to escape questions of failing to honor 1999 contract.

RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Ohio — SUBMIT A TIP: Is there an issue in your community that you feel we need to be aware of? Share it with our 3Investigates team by emailing investigate@wkyc.com.

Myron Stern prepaid for his own funeral for essentially the same reason he enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II almost eight decades ago – he believed it was the right thing to do.

“I didn’t want my family to have to worry about [my funeral arrangements]. I wanted to take care of it, so they didn’t have to,” he said.

But his intentions were turned upside down when a funeral director refused to honor that contract, demanding more money from the 96-year-old vet.

His lesson is one many Ohioans might benefit from when choosing to pre-pay their own funeral.

Stern purchased his own funeral package in 1999 from Shapiro Funeral Services in Orange Village. It called only for a simple cremation. No extravagant casket or service. Just a basic $535 cremation.

Over the years, Stern and his wife, Nora, would check on the contract, usually in letters they meticulously maintained in a file along with their original contract inside their Richmond Heights home.

Each time he asked, Stern was assured that his contract and the price he locked in was guaranteed. No worries, he was told. He received the same answer as he did in 2010 from the funeral director Natalie Shapiro.

“As a prepaid and guaranteed contract, your family will not need to pay any additional money at the time of need,” Shapiro wrote to the veteran. “That is our pledge.”

In 2021, Stern wrote another letter to Shapiro, congratulating her for the recent sale of her business and seeking assurances that his contract, in accordance with Ohio law, remained intact with the new owner, the Jardine family, which operates several funeral homes and a crematory in the Cleveland area.

He was assured all was well.

And it was until he spoke with Jason Jardine, whose family purchased the Shapiro brand name and business. Jardine, he said, was willing to honor the contract, but only if Stern paid him another $600 or so.

“Oh, I was outraged. I thought this is no way to take care of a 96-year-old veteran of World War II,” he said. “I complained to [Jardine] and I got nowhere.”

Marc Dann, the former Ohio attorney general now working as a consumer rights attorney, said state law has evolved over the years to protect residents who pre-pay their funeral.

The days of the “Wild West” for pre-paid funerals prompted the changes after years of abuse.

He said Stern’s contract would transfer with others when Jardine purchased the business, just like any asset or liabilities.

“That liability would transfer with the transfer of the funeral home,” Dann said. “And so, I find it odd and a real error in judgment. Look, we should all honor and respect, particularly our World War II veterans.”

Stern thought the same and reached out to 3News for assistance.

But when 3News Investigator Marisa Saenz went to Jardine’s flagship funeral home in Strongsville for answers, Jardine fled the scene, driving away after walking inside on the premise of pulling Stern’s file.

Jardine later called 3News Investigates and initially blamed an employee for failing to address Stern’s complaint. In a follow-up call, Jardine accepted the blame and said he would honor the original contract.

Jardine wrote the family to clarify the mistake and attempt to repair the relationship. He called it all a “misunderstanding” and said the new ownership are “certainly honoring” all prepaid contracts. He sent along with the letter an empty flag case, often given to family of veterans.

Stern, a father of three and grandfather of five, declined to accept the letter and the case.

For Stern, he said the trust was already lost. Under the terms of the contract, he can transfer his investment to another funeral home. And that’s what Stern plans to do.

“What ticks me off the most is that this is no way to treat a person. And I strongly suspect many others that has same things done to them and I resent it…”

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