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Death of Bellflower Senior Turns into ‘Nightmare’ for Family Dealing With Mortuary

Evelyn Hileman poises with a photo of her late father Michael Henry Gregory while attending an interview in the newsroom of Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper.

Evelyn Hileman poises with a photo of her late father Michael Henry Gregory while attending an interview in the newsroom of Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper.

By Brian Hews

For Evelyn Hileman of Bellflower, the recent passing of her beloved father Michael Henry Gregory-even at the age of 80-was a “sudden shock” to her and her family.

“My dad was the rock of our family, a real loving kind man who would help anyone at any time in need.  He was a kind soul,” Hileman said in a recent interview with Hews Media Group – Community News.

Gregory passed away on September 13 after a short bout with cancer.  “He was full of life and literally within a couple of months had taken ill and passed away,” Hileman said.

Gregory had purchased a “Pre-Planned Funeral Package” through Luyben Family-Dilday-Mottel Mortuary who has offices located in the city of Long Beach.

Hileman’s grief was short lived and said the day of her father’s funeral turned into a literal nightmare.

After arriving at the memorial service on September 20th before 11 a.m., Hileman said that a funeral director had told her that “the cemetery says you have an unpaid bill and we need $1,250 before we can conduct the burial.”

“I tell her no problem and I go sit down in the front row,” Hileman said.

With the service now underway, Hileman said the employee walked over to her while the pastor was conducting the service and handed her a bright yellow note that read: “Per: Forest Lawn. Fees need to be paid before service.”

Hileman said she was “stunned” by the note.

“I had paid them more than $10,000 the day before, and I was not told about a remaining outstanding balance of $1,250,” she said.

Hileman said that she informed the employee that the credit card was at home.  “The employee literally stood there in front of me until I told her that I will go home and get the credit card.”

Hileman then said her husband left the service and went home to retrieve the credit card. “It was surreal, stunning, everything was like in slow motion,” she said.

Hellman said after her husband returned with the credit card in his possession, funeral staff members would not process the card because the name of the card was in Gregory’s name, even though she contends that she was a co-signer on the account.

“The day before, they gladly accepted the card and our money, and charged me $10,000 but the next day they didn’t accept the same card,” she said.

“They said they don’t take credit cards from the deceased, and I tried to explain that I am on his bank account and that I am to Executor of his Estate,” Hileman said.

While all of this was taking place, Hileman said that the Pastor had concluded his graveside service and a Military Honor Guard had unfolded the American flag and had refolded it, and that 20 white doves had been released and the service was over.

“We are walking out to our cars and here comes my husband. He tells me they want me to go home and get a check and come back and pay them or they are going to take my dad’s body back to the mortuary and bury him at a later time,” Hileman told HMG-CN.

“Can you believe this?” Hileman said.

“So not only was I hurting from my dad’s death but now I am hurting for my husband for having missed the funeral completely,” Hileman said.

HMG-CN contacted Luyben Mortuary for a comment on the situation and said in a written statement: “We have a bond of confidentially, we consider this a private matter,” Jessica Dunn, spokesperson for the funeral company said.

“I am aware of this particular case, but as a matter of policy do not discuss these matters outside of the contents of the family involved in the situation,” McDunn said.

Hileman concluded by saying “I hope it’s a very long time before I need to use a mortuary again but when I do need one, believe me, it will not be Luyben.”

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