A Talk With Peter Stefan - Humanity In The Face Of Hate

by Amy L. Silva Rigtrup

For decades, Peter Stefan has been a selfless, multi-faceted, determined and unwavering voice for not only the funeral industry, but also for the voiceless, poor, outcast, and quite honestly, humanity itself.

His name became famous when in 2013, he was the funeral director that ultimately handled the remains of alleged Boston Marathon Bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The owner of Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Home in Worcester, MA not only dealt with the situation with compassion, precision and integrity, but he even fed and befriended the crowds of protesters that lined the street across from his property for two and a half weeks. He received backlash from many outlets with people voicing their strong opinion that Stefan was wrong for receiving Tsarnaev’s body. It was a justifiably upsetting and emotional time for New Englanders and the entire country, but the fact remained that a body needed to be buried and couldn’t bury itself. 

On this week’s episode, Peter Stefan shared with me his story and recollections from the entire experience. For him, it all came down to a matter of human decency. As funeral directors, we take an oath much like doctors - and if you recall, there was not an inkling of controversy over all of the doctors and nurses that treated Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the hospital before he went to prison. We may not agree with, condone, or even be able to stomach the actions of those we serve, but everyone deserves to be treated as well as a humane and dignified final disposition.

CLICK HERE to listen to the podcasts dated: 

  • 2/11/2016 for Part 1
  • 2/18/2016 fpr Part 2
  • 2/25/2016 for Part 3

In the 2013 Person of the Year piece written about Peter in The Worcester Magazine, Peter says, “I Think, where this is the first terrorist killed on American soil, [it means] we didn’t act like they would do,” He goes on to say, “[In the Middle East] they dragged American’s bodies through the streets. We didn’t do any of that stuff. If we showed them anything at all, we rose above all of it and still did what we should do. We taught the world a lesson.” 

During our conversation on the air, he was alluding to a quote that summarizes this sentiment. Once I found the quote, I could understand why it would be hard to recall verbatim. Nonetheless, it is the perfect quote:

“Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals” ~ Sir William Gladstone

Peter did the right thing and I commend him for it, as a fellow funeral director and proud citizen of this country. 

There have not been many times that the final disposition of a terrorist/mass murderer was so complicated and widely covered by the media. What deserves being acknowledged is that when these horrible things happen, left in the aftermath is a body (or bodies) of the guilty - and even less thought of - their families. The grief of losing a family member, or worse a child, that has killed or brought harm to others is a level of grief that I cannot fathom to grasp the depths of, nor would wish upon anyone on earth. These families should be allowed their privacy, respect for their grief and freedom from judgement.

Beyond his experience handling Tsarnaev’s remains, there is so much more about Peter that the world needs to know about.  I again reference the article in Worcester Magazine because it truly highlights so his history, advocacy and achievements; some of which we talked about on the air.

Since there is so much to cover, I am happy to say that Peter will be coming back for two more episodes! So tune in on Thursday February 18th and again on Thursday February 25th from 2-3pm on WSAR 1480AM with LiveStream at WSAR.com

Peter has assured me that there is no question he will not answer. So if you have anything you'd like to ask him - about Tsarnaev, the funeral industry, literally anything - feel free to call in live during the shows at (508) 673-1480, comment below or email me at amy@thesilvalining.org

The Silva Lining would like to thank our wonderful sponsors,

Forethought Life Insurance, our trusted and loyal Pre-need partner since 1990. Forethought has helped us provide the families we serve with pre-planning solutions that meet our own high standards of service. Visit www.forethought.com for more information

FINE Mortuary College in Norwood, MA. If you want gain a thorough education as you prepare for a career in the funeral industry and walk into the board exam highly prepared, FINE is the school for you.  Visit www.fmc.edu for more information

St. Anthony of Padua Credit Union - We are proud to be sponsored by such an incredible bank, that in an age of conglomerate banks treating people like numbers, maintains a relationship with its members based on trust, friendly service and loyalty. With competitive rates for savings accounts and various loans, St. Anthony of Padua can handle all of your financial needs. Convenient online banking and more information at www.stanthonyofpaduafcu.com