A funeral director talks about burying young victims of violence

Posted: July 30, 2007

On Sunday, The Inquirer published a story about funeral director Charlene E. Wilson-Doffoney of Mitchum-Wilson Funeral Home Inc. in South Philadelphia, which handled arrangements for Tykeem Law, 14, who was shot to death by a stranger July 14 while riding his bike with friends. We asked funeral home directors to comment on the violence that's claiming the lives of so many young people.

Here is a response from Keith Ridley IV, a funeral home director in Washington:

As a 5th generation African-American funeral director in Washington, D.C. (formerly during the early 1990s the Murder Capital USA), I know all too well the issues that have come forth to your city in the wave of gun sparked killings.

I am now age 39 and have been serving in the funeral profession since I was a boy of age 8. What hurts me more is the fact that these children think that the killing is a video game of street life. But the magnitude of the problem is very real in the sense that these victims do not get up after you hit the reset button. It's for all of eternity.

My dear late friend Dr. C. Delores Tucker, who I supported in her cause over Gangsta rap, said it best: it's all ... a cycle, the music and the violence'.

This week, the National Funeral Directors & Morticians Association are holding our 70th conclave in the city of Philadelphia, which is so ironic. Many of us have left our home areas (for) a cherished quiet moment only to find the heat of what we do staring right back at us in this hot summer.

I know all too well the hurt of mothers' tears, the lost children without a father, siblings who are so angry, as are the friends who seek retribution for that killing.

I only know that in the this ministry, we are called at any hour 7 days a weeks, 24 hours a day. There is no Christmas or Thanksgiving for us as we aim to bring comfort and service in that most trying hour of life as it has ended for a loved one.

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If you are funeral home director and would like to comment on the homicide problem as you see it, please e-mail your comments to Susan Snyder at ssnyder@phillynews.com. We will post responses online and possibly in the newspaper.

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