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Unclaimed and Unloved? No, Says Funeral Director Working with Jewish Fund to Bury 200

Working with The Jewish Fund, funeral directors will bury the bodies of 200 unclaimed – but not necessarily unloved –persons.

Funeral director David Techner spoke to WJBK recently about burials planned for 200 individuals whose bodies haven't been claimed from the Wayne County morgue. (Screenshot: WJBK video)
Funeral director David Techner spoke to WJBK recently about burials planned for 200 individuals whose bodies haven't been claimed from the Wayne County morgue. (Screenshot: WJBK video)

Funeral director David Techner bristles when he hears that unclaimed bodies – at one point numbering so many that the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office had to find auxiliary storage in trailers – were abandoned because they were unloved.

“I think that’s a little bit of a stretch,” Techner told WJBK, Channel 2, as he outlined a plan by the Jewish Fund to provide burials for 200 people whose bodies were not claimed from the morgue.

Often, it comes down to deciding between buying groceries to feed a family or claiming the body, which can cost $1,000 for a simple cremation or up to $5,000 for a burial, he said.

“When you have to decide between “feeding your children or claiming a body at the morgue, you feed your children,” Techner, a funeral director at Ira Kaufman Chapel in Southfield, told the TV station. “If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter if it’s … $50.”

That chapel and funeral homes across Michigan are working with The Jewish Fund give a proper burial to 200 of those individuals in caskets in individual marked graves in local cemeteries over the next couple of months. The estimated cost is $150,000.

Before that happens, a community memorial service will be held to honor the deceased. A date for the memorial service hasn’t been set. The Jewish Fund, Ira Kaufman Chapel and other funeral homes are contacting family members asking if they’d like to be involved. Burials wlll be scheduled to meet families’ schedules.

The Jewish Fund is a mostly quiet nonprofit group that uses proceeds from the sale of Sinai Hospital to the Detroit Medical Center in 1997. The former hospital’s goal – and the charity’s current goal – is to help some of society’s most vulnerable.

The Jewish Fund became involved after board member Mark Davidoff heard a WJBK story about the unclaimed bodies. Davidoff was “horrified,” Techner said.

Techner pointed out that the bodies shouldn’t have been allowed to accumulate in the first place.

“What I would ask of the general public is to demand more of government,” he said. “There is a mans in place, but no money to do it. How did this get so bad? We need to demand more from the people totally responsible for letting this happen.”

Michigan law provides for burial assistance.


Joseph Borrajo May 27, 2014 at 04:14 PM
Respect for the dead. Huummm, interesting. How many people are aware that when two roads in Dearborn were expanded near cemeteries, bodies not claimed were left where they were and the roads were built over them. Cherry Hill between Outer Drive and Telegraph, next to the cemetery Daly is buried in, and Schaefer Road north of Warren next to St Alphonses. Found hard difficult to accept that people under these roads did not command enough respect to have their remains removed to a new location. P3
Pat Clarkson May 28, 2014 at 06:47 AM
I commend Funeral director David Techner for taking action. for those who have not yet said it, Thank you David Techner .
Sue Burstein May 28, 2014 at 09:05 AM
In the Jewish religion burial is very important aspect of our religion. The Jewish community has a burial fund so that no Jewish person ever goes without being buried. It is not surprising that David Techner and the Jewish Fund would step up to the plate and take care of this. Kudos to them.
michelle May 28, 2014 at 10:56 AM
Great news and great points. Many don't choose to leave their loved ones in the morgue. As he said these are people that can barely feed their families and can't afford a funeral. I've seen fundraisers and people struggle to do so. Many people don't have thousands laying around to handle this. So, thank you Jewish fund and it's board.
Terri McIntyre May 28, 2014 at 11:38 AM
When I seen this story on the news, it was heartbreaking. I am so happy to hear of the kind heart of Mr. Techner. Blessings to everyone who is involved in this project. I plan on contacting the Funeral Home to get the information on the Community Memorial Service & attend if possible. Every life has the right to be remembered.

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