Widower claims discrimination, files suit against Picayune Funer - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Widower claims discrimination, files suit against Picayune Funeral Home


A Picayune man says the funeral home hired to cremate his spouse refused to do so after finding out the men were a couple. Now he's suing with the hope that no one else will have to go through what happened to him.

"I felt as if all the air had been knocked out of me," Jack 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."

Jack Zawadski and Robert "Bob" Husky were a couple for 52 years. The last 20 were spent living the life of retirees in Picayune. They even married in 2015. Soon after the wedding, Husky entered a nursing home where he lived out his final days. 

Knowing the end was near, the couple's nephew in Colorado made arrangements with Picayune Funeral Home to cremate Husky after his death at the funeral home’s on-site crematorium – the only crematorium in Pearl River County. 

After Bob died on May 11, 2016, the nursing home provided Picayune Funeral Home with necessary information confirming Husky's death and identifying Zawadski as his husband. Shortly thereafter, the nursing home called the nephew and told him Picayune Funeral Home was now refusing to pick up the body and perform the cremation. 

Since the nursing home could not keep the body on site, the family had to scramble to find another funeral home with an on-site crematorium. They eventually found located one in Hattiesburg. But they also had to find a different funeral home in Picayune willing to transport the body to Hattiesburg.

"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," Lambda Legal Counsel Beth 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."

Lambda Legal just joined the lawsuit against the funeral home. The suit seeks damages for breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and the intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

WLOX News Now spoke to Henrietta Brewer, one of the owners of Picayune Funeral Home, who adamantly denies the charges laid out in the lawsuit. Brewer said her family has owned the funeral home for 11 years, and they serve everyone. 

"We have handled many gay families before. We serve gay families. We put flowers on the graves for families who are out of town," Brewer told WLOX, "We didn’t say, 'We don’t deal with your kind.' We would never say that. I want you to know that's just not true."

Brewer said she's looking forward to the opportunity to tell their side of the story. 

"We will have our day in court. They are trying to have their day in the media," Brewer said. 

"This is not a civil rights case or a discrimination case.  Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint sets forth only state law-based tort and contract claims," Brewer's attorney, Silas W. McCharen told WLOX News Now. "Picayune Funeral Home has never refused to provide funeral services based on sexual orientation."  

The lawsuit,  Zawadski v. Brewer Funeral Services, was filed by Lambda Legal and co-counsel Rob McDuff of Jackson, in Mississippi’s Circuit Court of Pearl River County. The suit names Picayune Funeral Home’s parent company, Brewer Funeral Services, and its owners as defendants.

You can read the full lawsuit here: http://bit.ly/2ptEUxW


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