WBUR

Worcester Funeral Home Known For Taking Unwanted Bodies Has Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s

BOSTON — Funeral arrangements are being made for the dead Boston Marathon bombing suspect, but two weeks after his death, those plans remain incomplete.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body is now at a funeral home in Worcester. It was sent there Friday morning from a funeral parlor in North Attleborough, where a small protest broke out when the body arrived there Thursday night.

WBUR’s All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer spoke about the odyssey involving Tsarnaev’s body with Linda Bock, a reporter for The Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Worcester funeral director Peter Stefan poses next to boxes of unclaimed ashes for an unrelated 2008 news story. (Lisa Poole/AP)

Worcester funeral director Peter Stefan poses next to boxes of unclaimed ashes for an unrelated 2008 news story. (Lisa Poole/AP)

Sacha Pfeiffer: This Worcester funeral home, Graham Putnam & Mahoney, has a specialty of sorts in these types of cases or these types of bodies?

Linda Bock: Yes. This is a funeral home that’s been in the city, in a very poor section of the city, for about 150 years, and the funeral director, Peter Stefan, has been a funeral director about 35 years. He has a reputation in the city for taking care of poor people, people who can’t afford a funeral, people who have unfortunate circumstances. I know he’s buried murderers and he’s been involved in other kinds of high-profile funeral arrangements. And I guess he told me [Friday] morning that he initially thought he was going to handle the arrangements, but there was some confusion among family members. And that’s how the body was in North Attleborough [Thursday].

So it may not have been that it was transferred because of those protests we mentioned? It just may have been always meant to go to Worcester.

Yes, exactly.

Is this a conviction or principle on Stefan’s part for why he tends to take these kinds of cases?

He just deeply believes that every person deserves a respectful burial and it’s been his philosophy. And even [Friday] morning, it was interesting talking to people. There were not as many protesters because a lot of people know that Peter often does help people who can’t afford burials. They’ve handled well over 100 burials for Muslims. So this is a man in this city who has handled all kinds of situations.

Does he worry at all about inviting controversy since this is an exceptionally controversial case, even if he’s used to these kinds of situations?

Not one bit. He said, “Not one bit,” because I said, “Aren’t you worried about protesters or aren’t you going to ask for police presence out here?” And he said he’s very calm, he’s very — you know, feels that he wouldn’t do this unless he felt it was safe for the neighborhood and everything. And he said because Worcester really is like a little town feel and it’s a very neighborhood community feeling there, he feels that people will be respectful. They may not like it, but he’s not anticipating any trouble.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s family reportedly wants a traditional Muslim funeral. Is this funeral home equipped to do that?

Yes. Yes he is. And he said they even have the special soaps, the soaps with no animal fats and they’ve done quite a few of these Muslim burials. He knew all the traditions and everything, although in a traditional Muslim burial, there’s usually a mosque involved. In this case, because of the circumstances, Peter said that he does not think the family, you know — it will not probably happen in a mosque. But the funeral home will probably do the washing of the body.

Is that because they think they can’t find a mosque willing to do it?

I think for a lot of reasons. And I think for the family really wanting privacy now. Right now Peter, the biggest problem he said he’s having [Friday] is he cannot find a cemetery to accept the body.

A cemetery simply doesn’t want to be associated with this person?

Right. There are not very many cemeteries in the state that have either a Muslim section or are Muslim cemeteries. So he has tried those first, and he’s tried others. So far, he told me, he’s striking out with all of them.

So I assume, then, no details about when or any specifics about the where, because so much still has to be worked out.

Right. he did say that Muslims do not have wakes or visitations, so there will be nothing public or nothing that will be open to even a big gathering.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on wbur.org.
Most Popular