Denver family puts funeral on hold until Fort Logan relaxes COVID-19-related funeral attendance rules

Families asked to witness interment from cars
Posted at 12:51 AM, May 25, 2020

DENVER -- Memorial Day weekend is weighing heavily on families who have postponed funeral plans, because of rules related to COVID-19 at national cemeteries, including Fort Logan.

Fort Logan National Cemetery

Marilyn K's husband, Ernie, died March 25.

"He always said, 'God, country and family'," she said, adding that Ernie, 84, served in the 121st Air Squadron during the Berlin Crisis, so she wants to give him a funeral with full military honors, and she wants to be at his graveside when he is buried.

Ernie & Marilyn K

Under emergency rules, the National Cemetery Administration isn't allowing families graveside, because of the pandemic.

The administration issued these coronavirus-related rules, which say in part: "Effective, Wednesday, April 15, 2020, to ensure social distancing at the cemetery, witnessing family members will now be asked to view the interment from their cars or the road very near their cars. Families may visit the gravesite in the days following the interment consistent with CDC guidelines and local travel restrictions."

"My heart is broken because he is not with me anymore," Marilyn said. "My heart is broken that I can't give him a funeral with honors that he is so deserving of."

She, and other family members, want to know when that rule will be lifted.

"My son just booked a campsite in one of the national parks, they're now opening, but there's no discussion about what's going to happen with the national cemeteries," said Marilyn's daughter, Marcy.

Fort Logan Entrance

Marilyn said she doesn't want Ernie to take that "last journey," to his final resting place, by himself.

She said they were high school sweethearts, and he was the love of her life.

The Denver couple was one week shy of celebrating their 61st wedding anniversary, when Ernie, who had been ill for awhile, took a turn for the worse.

On the night he was administered last rites, the family prayed together and played music.

"We played 'Take me Home, Country Roads' because he was from West Virginia and he loved that song," Marilyn said, adding that when the music was over, "Ernie said, 'I'm going now. I'm going now. One, two, three, four, five.'"

Marilyn said she asked where he was going.

"He said, 'I'm going to heaven. It's beautiful here,'" Marilyn said.

Marilyn said she knows her husband is in heaven, but that his remains need to be put in their final resting place, at Fort Logan.

Denver7 reached out to Fort Logan National Cemetery. On Wednesday, Asst. Director Raymond Dann, replied with this email: “We at the National Cemetery Administration and Fort Logan National Cemetery are anxious to resume normal operations at all our cemeteries as soon as we can. We are assessing how we can do so safely for our Veterans, families, and employees and in accordance with CDC and within national, state and local guidelines. As soon as that assessment and requirements are met at each of the cemeteries, we will provide official notice to all pertinent parties.”

We also reached out to some of Colorado's Congressional delegation to see if they have heard about a timeline.

Marilyn said once Fort Logan re-opens to graveside services, she and her family are willing to abide by any rules necessary, whether it's limiting them to 10 members, social distancing, face masks, or anything else.

She said she's a nurse, so she understands the risks, but also understands there are benefits.

"The benefit would be, to me and my family and to Ernie, to be able to walk by his side, through his long journey to his final resting place at Fort Logan," she said.