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3News Investigates: World War II veteran finds ally, ending battle with Strongsville funeral director over cremation

A Garfield Heights funeral director stepped up, helping Myron Stern and his wife with final arrangements, ending the riff over honoring pre-need funeral contract.

RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Ohio — It was a mismatched battle from the start: A dispute over a $500 prepaid funeral contract between a 96-year-old World War II vet and a funeral director.

The fight never made much sense to veteran Myron Stern and his wife, Nora. They wondered, Who fights with a "Greatest Generation" veteran over a $500 pre-need funeral contract?

But that’s the war the Richmond Heights couple found themselves engaged with local funeral director Jason Jardine.

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It all starts over 20 years ago when Myron Stern purchased a prepaid funeral through the Shapiro funeral home near his residence.

The contract he signed in 1998 called for a simple cremation, no calling hours or burials, in keeping with the veteran’s wishes. The $535 Stern paid was guaranteed to cover the cremation expenses whenever needed.

However, in 2021, Jardine’s family, which owns several funeral homes across Northeast Ohio and its own crematory, signed an agreement to purchase Shapiro’s.

In most cases, the buyer assumes all existing debts and contracts. Stern immediately contacted Shapiro's and was assured his prepaid contract transferred unabated to the new owners.

But that all changed when the Sterns spoke to Jardine. Yes, he would honor the contract - but only if they agreed to pay an extra $644.

“We thought the business would be fine with him until we found out that he wanted more money,” Stern said. "I was outraged. I thought, this is no way to treat a 96-year-old veteran of World War II."

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

That’s when the Sterns reached out to 3News Investigates and Investigator Marisa Saenz.

Things went awry when 3News Investigates tried to interview Jardine outside his Strongsville facility for his side of the story.

The funeral director was talking outside when he excused himself under the pretense of retrieving Stern’s file from his office. But instead of returning, he walked out a back door and into a black sportscar, fleeing his own funeral home as 3News cameras rolled.

“He shouldn't have acted like that. He should have acted like a decent person,” Stern said.

Jardine eventually called 3News Investigates to clarify what went wrong and apologize. He initially blamed a subordinate, but then conceded his own failure to properly communicate with the veteran.

He then wrote to the Sterns, offering to honor the contract and even throw in a complimentary triangle-shaped flag box commonly given to the families of fallen vets.

The Sterns refused to accept the apology and the gift. Instead, they pondered their next move.

That’s when they received an unexpected voicemail. It came from Joe Nero, who operates Vito-Nero Funeral Home in Garfield Heights.

“We got to contact this guy see if he's, if he's real,” Stern said of the unexpected message. “We Googled him. You know, we always use Dr. Google to find out the what's what and he's legitimate. So we, we called him back and he said, ‘Yeah, we wanna take care of you’.”

Not only did Nero offer to honor Stern’s original contract, but he also promised to incorporate the Veterans Affairs' Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman to assist in placing the remains of not only Myron Stern, but his wife’s as well.

Nero said he was dismayed at the troubles Stern encountered and felt compelled to reach out.

“For us,” Nero said. “It’s a no-brainer.”

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