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'I can't pay the ransom': 90-year-old fights to bring home husband's ashes at affordable price

After KMTV called, she said the cemetery dropped the price to $200, down from $3,200
Posted at 6:59 PM, Oct 11, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — 90-year-old Mary Ann Webster of Omaha says it's been more than a decade since she visited her late husband John at the cemetery.

John passed away and was cremated in 1991 after 30 years of marriage with Mary Ann.

"When I was driving, I could always go to the cemetery and visit with him," she explained. "But I can't drive anymore. And even if I could get there, with my walker, I wouldn't be able to manage the ground."

Of course, Mary Ann has always missed him, she says. But lately, she's been missing him more.

"I thought, I'd like to bring him home with me," she said.

Mary Ann called up the cemetery where John's cremains are stored in an in-ground niche: Westlawn-Hillcrest Funeral Home and Memorial Park. It's just south of Center Road near 60th Street.

She said the price she was given to do that shocked her: $3,200. She said she can't afford close to that.

Mary Ann believes the process of removing the remains would be easy and not require any digging. "Take out a couple of screws and lift out the container with his ashes," she said.

She said the cemetery moved down to $2,000, but that's still not in her budget.

"I just can't pay the ransom," she said with a chuckle. "They're holding him hostage."

3 News Now set to learn more about why she was given the price she was.

She got a good head start before she reached out to the television station. She said she learned the only permit involved for disinterment was $16, which a Nebraska DHHS spokesperson confirmed for 3 News Now.

"Any other charges that may apply to the disinterment would be set by the funeral home and cemetery," the spokesperson said.

Regulations also require a funeral director to be present and paperwork.

But Mary Ann says her efforts have won her an affordable price: $200.

She thanks her beloved husband John for that. He gave her the attitude that led her to not take the first price for an answer.

"He was a wonderful man," she said. He taught me how to be independent ... He was my best friend, as well as my husband."

And soon, she'll have him close by.

"As part of our commitment to all client families, we guard their privacy and do not discuss specific client matters with the media. However, we are diligently working to resolve this matter," Westlawn-Hillcrest Funeral Home said in a statement through a spokesperson at Service Corporation International.

Service Corporation International describes itself as "North America's leading provider of funeral, cremation and cemetery services."

Further questions about what the process and costs involved with removing cremains from an in-ground niche have not been returned as of this publication.

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