CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago woman was contacted and asked to pick up her mother’s remains, but her mom died a year ago. Her ashes have been safe in an urn all that time — or so her daughter thought.
CBS 2’s Tara Molina is working to get her and her family answers.
Erica Reynolds says one phone call changed everything.
“Unbelievable. Disturbing,” she said. “It really threw me. I just couldn’t even believe I was getting a call like this.”
Erica lost her mother Evelyn in May of 2019. Evelyn — a mother, grandmother, published songwriter and poet — was known for bright red lipstick and big smile to match.
“She was sweet. The best mom,” said Erica.
With the one-year mark of her death right around the corner, Erica said she was already getting emotional. Then she got that call from Thompson Funeral Home in Evanston.
“They said that we needed to come pick up her cremains, and I was stunned,” Erica said. “‘We have them. She passed away last year. What are you talking about?’”
She says Thompson’s staff insisted. So the family sent them pictures of the urn filled with Evelyn Reynolds’ ashes and the box they came in.
“Apparently after they started looking into it, there was a woman that passed away, I was told at the end of March, and apparently the funeral home says, her body — she died of COVID-19 — was put on a tray and was sent to the crematory that apparently, for whatever reason, still had my mom’s name and information on it,” Erica said.
This left Erica and her family with a bad feeling and a big question.
“Did we really have her cremains? Because clearly there were some issues with them being able to keep up with whose cremains are whose. This is ridiculous,” said Erica.
She said she asked for an explanation of that mixup from the funeral home, and the company behind her mother’s cremation.
“Neither of them wanted to say they were responsible.”
The back and forth led up to the next call she made, which was to CBS 2. CBS 2 brought our questions and Erica’s to both companies involved: Thompson Funeral Home and Bohemian National Cemetery. The funeral director talked to CBS 2’s Molina on the phone and chose to send a written statement, but when cameras showed up, their office manager stepped out.
“We did make the mistake of calling the family, and she has every right to be upset. But at the end of the day, the crematory is the one that messed up,” said Thompson funeral Home Manager Sherry Gregory.
Gregory insisted Erica Reynolds and her family have nothing to worry about.
“She does have the right cremains,” said Gregory. “I can guarantee you that.
Next, CBS 2 turned to Bohemian National Cemetery, the company Thompson contracts to perform cremation services.
The management at Bohemian National Cemetery set up an interview with CBS 2’s Molina but ultimately decided not to go on camera. They said by phone that when they recently received remains from Thompson Funeral Home, they received paperwork and permits for those remains, but claim Evelyn Reynold’s name was on one of the containers, causing confusion.
“If you was unsure when that other body got dropped off? You should have called,” said Gregory in response.
Still, there is no clear explanation of the mixup. Erica said at this point her family just wants absolute certainty they have their mother’s remains. Without that certainty, she hopes speaking out about that call and the mixup prevents anything like it from happening to someone else.
“I just pray that other people don’t have to go through this,” she said.
CBS 2 investigated both companies; both are licensed and accredited with state agencies, and neither has been disciplined. Bohemian National Cemetery’s manager said they will no longer be providing contracted services for Thompson Funeral Home. CBS 2 confirmed that with Thompson.