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Tampa Bay area funeral homes prepare for another challenging and busy year

Posted at 6:25 PM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-07 19:23:16-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Hundreds of Tampa Bay area families are being forced to wait to bury their loved ones, because COVID-19 is making it difficult for funeral homes to keep up.

“Sometimes we’re not able to accommodate the family for the week they want,” said funeral director Jeffery Rhodes.

Rhodes is the co-owner of the Ray Williams Funeral Home on Howard Ave. He and several other funeral directors in the area said their main issues: the number of funerals, and people not wanting church services because of the Coronavirus.

Rhodes said, on a normal Saturday they have about six funerals. Before the pandemic, most of them were held in a church. Now, they’re either graveside or held in the chapel at the funeral home.

“One weekend recently, we had an 8 o’clock service, 11, 2, and 4 for the chapel,” he said. “It’s sort of unheard of to have that many services in our chapel in a day.”

Space to store bodies is another big issue for some funeral homes. That’s why Keenan Knopke, the owner of Curlew Hills Funeral Home, purchased extra coolers store bodies in back in March.

“It’s better to have it and not need it, than to not have it and need,” said Knopke.

They now have enough space to store up to 80 human remains.

Rhodes said The Ray Williams funeral home hasn’t run into that issue yet, but they are prepared for that.

“We have a contract with a storage facility,” he said.

We spoke to several other funeral homes in the area, and they are all experiencing some of the same issues. It’s a trying time for everyone, and they say most of the families they’re working with understands.