New cemetery owner making things right for families

Positive changes made at Beaches Memorial Park & First Coast Funeral Home

By Jennifer Waugh - The Morning Show anchor, I-Team reporter, Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects, Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. - As the former owner and manager of a troubled Atlantic Beach funeral home and cemetery face criminal charges, the new owner of the business said he is now trying to make right -- what was wrong.

Families who went to Beaches Memorial Park and First Coast Funeral Home after losing loved ones told the News4Jax I-TEAM that they are finally getting the peace their loved ones deserve.

Following the I-TEAM investigation, which revealed more than 70 complaints against the cemetery and funeral home, owner Amanda Rayan sold the businesses to Todd Ferreira, of Ferreira Funeral Homes.

Last year, Charles Garrett lost his wife of 64 years, Barbara. She was laid to rest at Beaches Memorial Park, but Garrett had to wait seven long months to be able to put flowers on her grave marker. During that time, he said he was getting nothing but excuses from the former cemetery manager.

“At the time, they said six weeks, so it was the end of January that I gave them the payment.  So we were looking at mid-March, and mid-March they told us it was in transit,” Garrett said.

The I-TEAM has now learned that there are no records showing Barbara Garrett’s marker was ever in transit.  The manufacturer had not received payment from Amanda, nor Nader Rayan, which is why the marker still had not arrived when the I-TEAM first met Garrett at the cemetery in June.

Charles Garrett is now grateful to the new owner, who did order his wife’s grave marker.

“A heartfelt thanks, I know you inherited, bought into a real mess,” Garrett said.

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“It’s an honor to serve you and get things corrected for you,” Ferreira said in response.

Ferreira told the I-TEAM that he’s had to order several markers for families who had paid the Rayans months ago.

Al Bourgeois was charged $2,995 for his mother’s name plate in January. Amanda Rayan told the I-TEAM that it would be delivered by the end of June, but that never happened. Doris Abreu’s sister also paid the Rayans last year for a name plate. Ferreira said he never found any records that they ever completed either of those orders, so he placed them himself.

Ferreira solved a similar problem for Donna Orner’s family. Her husband paid the Rayans last December, but Ferreira said he could not find any record they completed that order, either. 

The cemetery’s new owner explained that there have been dozens of people who have come forward to have their issues resolved.

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“I think there’s 150, 160 different complaints with you and the state and different things, people that have come to you,” Ferreira said. “And we’ve dealt with that.”

Ferreira said he’s now answering all of those complaints in order to make right what was wrong, as well as cleaning up the cemetery. The grass is now green and being cut regularly, and the funeral home has been painted.

Most importantly, Ferreira is focusing on the families.

“Treating each customer like it was my mother, or father, that’s our level, that’s our standard, and we don’t deviate from it,” he said.

That commitment brings a tremendous sense of relief to Charles Garrett, knowing his wife’s grave, and the one he reserved next to it, will now be treated with the respect he and his wife of 64 years deserved.

Ferreira has ordered grave markers for a number of other families for whom he cannot find any finalized orders. He expects to start receiving those markers in a few weeks, as he works to restore the community’s trust in Beaches Memorial Park, insisting it is now a much different place.

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