By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
EDMESTON – The family, David Delker said, was desperate.
“They were calling from Florida, but their mom was in The Bronx,” he said. “She wasn’t a COVID-19 death, but the funeral homes in the city had a month and half backlog, and they were just calling further and further upstate.
“They were panicking, they had seen the horror stories and were thinking the worst. But as soon as I started talking to them, you could hear that fear dissipating.”
Delker, owner of Delker & Terry Funeral Home in Edmeston, has begun serving families from New York City and downstate.
“I’m happy to drive four hours to get someone’s mom or their dad and bring them up here for a service,” he said. “Because that’s what I would want someone to do for my family.”
As the deaths from COVID-19 overwhelm funeral homes and the city’s five crematoriums, grieving families are often left frustrated as they try to schedule a service.
“I’ve gotten 25, maybe 30 calls from the city,” he said. “If I can, I’ll refer them to someone closer to them, or I reach out to my network and find out who has an open spot for cremation and I’ll handle the service.”
New York State prevents funeral homes from owning crematoriums or cemeteries, but Delker will make as many calls as he has to in order to find an opening in the schedule. “I have a whole network across the state, so I can make those calls and find out who has an opening,” he said.
That network is crucial, he aid, because of burial rights for different religions. “I’ve done a lot of Hindu services,” he said. “They want to say their prayers at the moment of cremation, so I text them from the crematorium when I know it’s begun.”
Once he has made arrangements with the family – often driving downstate to meet with them – he will locate the body and bring it back to Edmeston himself.
“I want to put the rumors to rest,” he said. “The bodies are not stacked on top of each other. Hospitals are trying to preserve the dignity. There are trailers, yes, and there are a lot of them, but they are organized. But sometimes, there are a lot of questions about where a loved one is.”
His network allows him to have a “three-to-four day” turn-around, and he can quickly mail the remains back to the families downstate. “I do what I can,” he said. “Just because there’s a pandemic on doesn’t mean I can’t be kind and considerate.”
And for those who do have services, new guidelines are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re only allowing 10 people at a time for viewings,” he said. “Everyone has to be wearing a mask, and the chairs are six feet apart. We deep clean between every service as well.”
Delker also allows families to livestream the service over password-protected streams, such as Zoom or Google Chat, to prevent crashers.