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Staten Island Funeral Home Director A 'Godsend' For Families When New York's Coronavirus Death Toll Skyrocketed

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted so many everyday heroes - doctors, nurses and first responders to name a few.

Funeral directors have also risen to the occasion during this incredibly trying time, CBS2's Andrea Grymes reported Friday.

It's a welcome moment of calm for funeral director Shawn Stradford - right before an afternoon service at his Staten Island funeral home.

That's a big change from just months ago.

"It just went insane back in March," Stradford said.

He was inundated with families needing to bury loved ones when the COVID-19 death toll skyrocketed in New York.

Stradford went from having a few deceased people, to more than 60 on a given day at his funeral home in West Brighton.

Stradford moved in for two months so he could work 24/7 without possibly infecting his own family.

"Everybody was scared. No on knew what to do," he said. "There were families that came through that were here once. A week later they're back again, and then back again."


Donna Joyner is part of one of those families. She lost three family members, including her 90-year-old mother, to COVID-19 in April.

"It was just hard because we couldn't have family together. We couldn't embrace each other. It was just me and my daughter in the house," Joyner said.

Losing a loved one is hard enough in normal times, but, during the height of the pandemic, the grieving process was completely turned upside down. No large viewings or wakes were allowed. No funerals - just very limited graveside burials and cremations.

That's why funeral directors - or "second responders," as Stradford calls himself - became even more important to those left behind.

"Shawn Stradford and Stradford Funeral Home has been a godsend," Joyner said.

Brandon Stradford said his brother was also a godsend to a Capitol Hill officer who couldn't make it to New York when his parents died.

"Shawn said, 'I'll take care of it.' And he drove both of his parents to a facility in Maryland," Brandon said.

It was part of Stradford's goal to make sure each family has dignity and closure.

Stradford said the local community supported his workers by dropping off food and PPE at the funeral home.


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