Gratuities stopped at cemetery

Written by Administrator  | Created: Tuesday, 16 June 2009 23:42  |  Category: ROOT
Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 June 2009 23:42  | Tuesday, 16 June 2009 23:42

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“It’s a practice that had been going on for many years,” said Cemetery Superintendent Patricia Pappas, on Friday.

Pappas said the practice pre-dated her time in charge of the cemetery and crematory, and there was never an official policy in place to deal with tipping. She said she has since crafted a policy that has been accepted by the town’s cemetery trustees.

Town Manager Richard MacDonald said he was aware of the issue and is continuing to look into the matter, but was satisfied the practice had stopped.

“[DPW Director Peter] Buttkus and Ms. Pappas assured me there’s a policy that’s been put in place immediately,” he said.

Under Massachusetts state law, municipal employees are prohibited from accepting cash gifts.

Beverly Johnson, a member of the Board of Cemetery Trustees, said she had not been aware of the practice of tipping until it was recently brought to her board’s attention.

“We were not aware of it,” she said. “We voted that the practice had to stop.” She added that it was a unanimous vote to accept the new policy at the trustees’ meeting in June.

“When it’s brought out into the open, you have to deal with it,” she said.

A former trustee, James Costello, who left the board last year, said he had never heard of the tipping practice during his time on the board.

Some local funeral homes said the practice of tipping workers who lend a hand at the cemetery is not an uncommon practice, but not for crematory workers specifically. Until the recent opening of a crematory in Plymouth, Duxbury was one of the only municipally-run crematories in the state.

“I think it’s a pretty common occurrence to tip the guys that help out,” said Bruce Young of Shepherd Funeral Home in Pembroke. He said he was referring to people who do things like lift the coffin once the funeral arrives at a cemetery.

Joseph Davis, of Richard Davis Funeral Home, said it was common to tip people who help during a burial, but not a cremation.

“It’s probably more of an industry standard to give a slight gratuity,” he said.

He said a tip is usually a small amount, between $5-10 dollars, and in his experience the money often goes into a pool for cemetery employees for things like coffee or a holiday party.

“I’ve never been told not to by anyone,” said Davis, who has been in the funeral business since 1973. He said he has not heard anything about the Duxbury policy specifically.

Johnson said that the trustees looked into the matter and discovered the amount of money being given as tips was relatively small.

“It’s not really a big issue ... it’s only a few of the undertakers that tip,” she said.