Sadly, your recent article mentioning the McDaniel and Lee Family Funeral Home violated the privacy of two of our funeral home's client families, and did so in the face of requests both from one of the families and from me.
Your headline on the article of "That's just not right" is absolutely correct. Violating the privacy and the confidentiality of families who have lost a loved one is "just not right."
Likewise, calling to question the business practice of a small local business when that business practice is legal and is identical to the business practice of the Belleville News-Democrat is "just not right."
Shouldn't the Sunday article and the Monday editorial have included the fact that the News-Democrat requires payment in full from grieving individual families before publishing an obituary?
For more than 70 years, families in the Sparta-Tilden-Baldwin area have turned to our funeral home in the time of their greatest need. My predecessors and I have worked diligently to create and to continue a culture of quiet and respectful confidentiality and trust with regard to each family's requests and final arrangements for their loved ones. That the News-Democrat would break that confidentiality is "just not right."
Typically insurance is used to compensate us for our services, and if insurance is not available we help families arrange for loans. When loans are not available, we ask families to pay something each week or each month, sometimes just $10, until the agreed-upon fees are paid. Contrary to your article, when regular payments are received, we do not ask for interest. That this flexible business practice never was mentioned in your article or editorial is "just not right."
Our personalized and flexible system worked for everyone until just a few years ago, when a surprising number of families began to ignore their written agreement and commitment and also failed to stay in touch with us or to respond to monthly reminders. For these folks, we felt we were forced to begin asking for a modest interest payment in addition to the promised service fees.
Because we serve a largely rural area with a relatively small population, the loss of fees from just a few families means we must raise fees for all other families, which simply is "just not right."
I will continue to keep my commitment to respect the confidentiality that each family has the right to expect. I ask and challenge the News-Democrat to respect each family's right to privacy and confidentiality.
Nathan Lee owns the McDaniel and Lee Family Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Sparta and Tilden.