|Theodora Cloutier's common-law husband, Dave Burt, passed away on July 7 and she has no money to pay for funeral costs. (VICTORIA GRAY/QMI Agency)
PORT COLBORNE, Ont. - After initially refusing to budge on price, Armstrong Funeral Home has assured a cash-strapped widow that proper funeral arrangements will be worked out for her deceased spouse.
The owners of the business met late Wednesday afternoon with Theodora Cloutier, the common-law partner for seven years of Dave Burt, who died Saturday at the age of 54, after a four-year bout with brain cancer.
Cloutier discovered after his death that Burt didn't qualify for the region's funeral assistance program.
Even though Burt was a recipient of the Ontario Disability Support Program and had Cloutier listed as a dependent, the man owned his own home, which the region confirmed was the reason he did not qualify for assistance.
"I feel like I'm being punished for being poor," she said. "It's too much, there's just too much to deal with. I've lost my whole world. I never thought it would be this difficult (to put a funeral together). I think they're taking advantage of people who have nothing."
Cloutier became frustrated that a funeral for her partner was next to impossible because of financial reasons, and hung large hand-painted cardboard signs on their home that read: "My husband is dead. Please help me bury him."
Burt's body is at his chosen funeral home, Armstrong, awaiting a decision on how the burial will proceed.
Ryan Torkos and his wife April, owners of Armstrong, were unsatisfied with QMI Agency's coverage of the issue.
They said they were bound by confidentiality and privacy laws and were unable to comment. Without an explanation from their side, they felt the coverage has hurt their business's reputation. They have since obtained legal advice and talked with QMI Agency.
Ryan Torkos said he and his staff did the best they could to deal with the difficult situation, but prior to Wednesday afternoon had yet to formally sit down with Cloutier to talk over arrangements. He said the funeral home initiated several unsuccessful attempts to meet with Cloutier.
"We are sympathetic to what she's going through. It's a step in the right direction to sit down and discuss options -- and there are options," April Torkos said.
"The government may have dropped the ball on this one, but there's nothing I can do about that, that's not my business," Ryan Torkos said.
The meeting at the funeral home on Wednesday included Art Orlando, from the Niagara Region's Community and Social Services department.
While the issue of how the funeral will be paid for has not been resolved, the participants in the meeting agreed a viewing will take place on Friday from noon to 2 p.m. at Armstrong Funeral Home.
Port Colborne is located about 150 km south of Toronto.