April 8, 2009
Willard D. Tharp
9960 Mayland Drive, Suite 300
Richmond, VA 23233
Dear Mr. Tharp,
I have been a delegate in Fairfax County for 16 years now. I grew up here, I live here and I work here so I know quite a bit about this area. The Springfield and South County region is home to one of the country’s most active VFW’s and the largest American Legion in the country. Of course, that’s not surprising due to its close proximity to Fort Belvoir and the Pentagon.
I was shocked to read on April 5, 2009 a story on the front page of the Washington Post exposing disturbing activities at National Funeral Home in Falls Church. As the story outlines, Ronald Federici followed his father’s body to the funeral home only to stumble upon “Bodies…laying buck naked all over the place.” His discovery was what ex-employee, Steven Napper, had been reporting to his superiors for months. The article even states he took pictures and presented them to you and the rest of the Virginia Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers. Although the Board is unable to confirm or deny whether these accusations are true, it’s disturbing that such an atrocity has been allowed to occur especially in an area with such an extremely large veteran community. Not only am I disgusted with the neglect the entity has for our country’s heroes, but I am also appalled that National Funeral Home was neither monitored nor regulated.
I am outraged that it took a private citizen to report the atrocities taking place at National Funeral Home. As you are well aware, National Funeral Home embalms and stores bodies for Arlington Funeral Home, Danzansky-Goldberg Memorial Chapel, and Demaine Funeral Home in Alexandria and Springfield. May veterans who die in my area are taken to Demaine Funeral Home. That means that some of our neighbors and parents who passed away were subjected to this disrespect and mistreatment.
According to the Virginia Code § 54.1-2804, your agency has oversight on funeral homes. From reading this code section, it seems that you are not required to monitor nor inspect after determining qualification. Do you or any other state entity conduct inspections? I need to know why and how these horrific and disgusting conditions were allowed. Not only is it detestable that this happened to any citizen, but even more so that this has occurred to citizens who went above and beyond by sacrificing for us and for our country. Is this how they are repaid for their service, to meet vile conditions after death?
My father fought in Vietnam. If I found out that his body was stacked in a garage, his bodily fluids leaking on the ground, I would be revolted not only as his son but as an American. I cannot even begin to imagine what the family members of these service men and women must be going through. And, as an American, I am revolted by the conditions that have been permitted to exist.
The purpose of this letter is not to cast blame on anyone other than the perpetrators of this horrific practice. Rather, I seek to solve this problem in the future. Thus, I need to know what your agency seeks to do to prevent such activities from occurring. And if you personally do not have authority, what legislative option would be needed to make sure this does not happen again?
I look forward to your quick and thorough response regarding this issue.
David B. Albo
If you have any questions or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact Delegate Dave Albo. Dave Albo can be reached at (703) 451-3554.