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Column: When you least expect it
by Dale Cardwell
June 21, 2012 03:41 PM | 2580 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dale Cardwell
Dale Cardwell

There’s nothing more shocking than to learn an institution you are familiar with, believe in and rely on – is suddenly not the watchdog you thought it was. Americans were shocked when the usually reliable magazine Consumer Reports — that rates everything from computers to cars — completely missed the sticking Toyota gas pedal debacle — that led to the recall of 38 million cars. Our nation’s leading investment rating services – the companies we rely on to rate the stability of securities, failed to warn us of the risky investments that led to the financial meltdown of 2008.

In 30 years of investigative journalism, I’ve never witnessed a breach of public trust more shattering than an event 10 years ago this spring: The betrayal committed by Ray Brent Marsh and the Tri-State Crematory in northwest Georgia. Tri-State was trusted by dozens of funeral homes across the south — to cremate the remains of your loved ones. Georgians, Americans and people across the world were shocked to learn that for years, Marsh had been stockpiling bodies on his property. He’d failed to cremate at least 339 bodies that were entrusted to his care. Why? Investigators found it all went back to the fact Marsh failed to replace an inexpensive piece of equipment years earlier – and it snowballed from there.

I recently marked the anniversary of the Tri-State Crematory on my radio show. I brought in one of the most trusted experts in the field; David Roach the founder of West Cobb Funeral Home and Crematory. I met David back in 2002 — in the heat of the Tri-State fallout. David, whose funeral home had no connection to Tri-State, found himself at the time in the middle of an unexpected crisis. Families were calling him, as well as funeral directors across Georgia, asking about the safeguards that would ensure their loved ones’ remains were handled with dignity and care.

David and his colleagues in the funeral home sector took a nightmare scenario, and actually turned it into something positive.  As a result of Tri-State Crematory’s breach of public trust, Georgia now has the highest standards — in the world — to safeguard and confirm the path and final resting place of your loved ones. I recently took the opportunity to tour West Cobb Funeral Home and Crematory, and witness these safeguards for myself. Believe me; the gold reserves at Fort Knox have nothing on the security and procedures I witnessed at West Cobb. While many funeral homes continue to rely on off-site facilities to handle cremations, West Cobb has established one of the nation’s most secure and comfort-creating on-site facilities available.

Today, more and more businesses are being consolidated and merged into national publicly traded enterprises. I have personally investigated and reported on how this trend has affected the funeral home industry. In my experience, there is a fundamental difference between a person who must justify sales figures to an out of State Corporation, and a local, involved and connected business person who plays an active role in your community.

If you suddenly find yourself in need of end-of-life services, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t allow vendors to guilt you in to buying a package your family can’t afford. West Cobb Funeral Home and Crematory posts its prices on every product; demand the same from the funeral home you visit.  And check them out at the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. The e mail address is

There is no worse pain than getting burned when you’re at your most vulnerable moment. Following these simple guidelines can assure that you won’t be.

For great consumer advice and companies you can trust, visit Watch Dale on TrustDale TV, weekends on WXIA 11 Alive, and don’t miss his consumer problem-solving radio show, Sunday afternoons on WSB AM and now 95.5 FM.

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