Man in Parr-gatory as friend, family fight over funeral bill
Kenneth Parr's ashes should by now be scattered on a hillside in Wales, but instead his body remains in a Joburg mortuary
Retired Johannesburg businessman Kenneth Parr was given a grand sendoff, complete with eulogies, floral tributes and a suitable casket.
But the octogenarian, who died in August, is not resting in peace in his homeland of Wales, as his four estranged daughters had planned.
Instead, Parr is on ice in a mortuary in Milpark, Johannesburg, while funeral services company Avbob tries to recover more than R30,000 from the dead man’s friend and business partner, Tanzanian businessman Joseph Kiramma. The family alleges he ordered a funeral against their wishes and reneged on an agreement to pay for it.
Now Avbob is holding on to Parr’s remains until the money is paid.
Parr’s daughter, Rennie Whitehouse, a Pretoria-based fascial therapist, has refused to be held accountable for the bill, because she asked only for a cremation.
Whitehouse said she paid over R14,000 for a postmortem, cremation and a certificate to allow the family to take Parr’s ashes to the UK.
Parr walked out on his family more than 20 years ago. It was the last time they had seen or heard from him.
Their searches in the UK, US and SA were unsuccessful, and the four women eventually wrote him off as dead, until September this year, when Parr “returned, dead”.
Kirama contacted Whitehouse to inform her that her father had died a month before and not many years ago, as she and her sisters had believed.
Kirama claimed Parr had been living with him in Johannesburg for a few years and that he wanted to honour him with a funeral.
“We actually thought my father died many years ago, went to a state mortuary, was cremated and was taken to a landfill. He had made no contact with us in 20 years, despite our efforts, so we decided he was dead.
“To say I was shocked that he had just died is an understatement. My sisters were also gobsmacked,” said Whitehouse.
She said Kirama and his wife Beatrice wanted to honour their father with a funeral, which they had agreed to pay for with Avbob.
“We just wanted to cremate my father, put him in a plastic bag and take him to Wales, where we would sprinkle his ashes.
“I paid my part. Although we attended the funeral to pay our final respects, the payment had nothing to do with me. It’s a verbal contract between Avbob and Kirama.”
She said her father had been given a funeral, with thousands of rands of flowers, a proper casket, printed pamphlets and a priest, who had called on her to deliver an “urology”, instead of the eulogy.
“Now we are caught in the middle, and Avbob is holding my father’s body hostage. This is extremely traumatising for us. We need closure. He needs to go to his final resting place,” said Whitehouse.
Her sister Bryony Stephenson from Durban said all the family wanted was to get “the body and for this horrible situation to end”.
Kirama told Times Select he had no comment “save for saying that I find it morally reprehensible that the deceased’s family won’t pay for his funeral, but expect me as his friend who maintained and nursed him for some time before his death, to foot the bill”.
Avbob communications manager Marius du Plessis confirmed Parr had died in August and that the company was “contracted to perform the funeral service”.
“We unfortunately cannot divulge the name of the person who has contracted our services.
“We are also not in a position to comment on whether the person who contracted our services was acting on the family’s instruction and/or whether there was an arrangement between him and the family with regards to the payment costs.”
Du Plessis said Avbob had received a payment from Whitehouse.
“The amount, however, was only a partial payment towards the total funeral cost, and unfortunately a significant amount (70%) is still outstanding. In accordance with company policy, services may not be rendered unless all costs are paid in full.
“The person we have entered into a contract with, and not the family, remains our client and shall be responsible for all costs.”
In the meantime, Parr remains in Avbob’s care.