Funeral home refuses to cremate gay man’s body


Jack Zawadski

After learning that Robert Huskey was married to a man, a Mississippi funeral home refused to accept his body, devastating Huskey’s husband and family.

Huskey’s 82-year-old husband, Jack Zawadski, is now suing the Picayune Funeral Home for breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and the intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

“What happened to this family is shocking,” said Beth Littrell, from Lambda Legal, which is assisting Zawadski in the case.

“Almost immediately after losing his husband and partner of more than 50 years, Jack Zawadski’s grief was compounded by injustice and callous treatment from the very place that should have helped ease his suffering.”

Following Huskey’s death, the funeral home, the only one in the area with a crematorium, allegedly refused to honour agreed-upon funeral arrangements after learning that the two men were married.

“I felt as if all the air had been knocked out of me,” Zawadski said. “Bob was my life, and we had always felt so welcome in this community. And then, at a moment of such personal pain and loss, to have someone do what they did to me, to us, to Bob, I just couldn’t believe it. No one should be put through what we were put through.”

After five decades together, Huskey and Zawadski got married after state marriage bans were struck down by the US Supreme Court in 2015. Huskey was in failing health, and soon after the wedding, he entered a nursing home.

In late April, 2016, knowing Huskey’s time was short, their nephew, John Gaspari, made arrangements with Picayune Funeral Home to cremate him after his death.

When Huskey died on May 11, 2016, at the age of 86, the nursing home called Gaspari and informed him that Picayune Funeral Home had refused to pick up the body and perform the cremation because they don’t “deal with their kind”.

Since the nursing home could not keep the body on site, Zawadski and Gaspari had to scramble to locate another funeral home with an on-site crematorium. They located one in Hattiesburg, around 145 kilometres away.

“John made all necessary arrangements before Bob’s passing in order to shield his 82-year-old uncle from additional suffering and to allow friends to gather to support Jack in his grief,” Littrell explained.

“Instead, Bob’s peaceful passing was marred by turmoil, distress and indignity, adding immeasurable anguish to Jack and John’s loss. This should not have happened to them, and should not be allowed to happen again.”

The Picayune Funeral Home has denied the claims in the suit but has failed to explain why it refused to cremate Huskey.

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