New owner promises changes at troubled cemetery

Families relieved new Beaches Memorial Park owner pledging to fix mistakes

By Jennifer Waugh - The Morning Show anchor, I-Team reporter

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. - The new owner of Beaches Memorial Park and its sister company, First Coast Funeral Home, said he wants people affected by the troubles at the cemetery to know that he is here to help them.

For months, the News4Jax I-TEAM has been exposing complaints from families who still have no markers for their loved ones’ graves and crypts.

John Rayan, 35, who managed the Atlantic Beach businesses, was arrested last week on 16 charges, most resulting from taking money for services that were never provided. He is charged with 11 counts of grand theft, one count of improper storage of a body, one count of fraud, one count of dealing with stolen property, one petit theft and one count of false verification of ownership to a recycler.

The sale of the businesses has brought hope for families that the new owner, Todd Ferreira, will help them find peace after months of heartbreak.

“It's going to take us time to sort through all of their requests and get back to them with information that they need. The whole time, though, we are reassuring them that whatever they have done here, it's covered,” said Ferreira, who owns funeral homes in Macclenny and in Starke. “Whatever they have done in the past, things are in order and it's covered.”

Ferreira said that since News4Jax aired the story last week about the sale of the cemetery and funeral home, he has received 35 to 40 calls from people who have had problems with the prior owner and manager, or people who were worried about current policies.

Ferreira said he will honor all pre-need contracts written by Beaches Memorial Park and First Coast Funeral Home.

He encouraged anyone with questions to call him at 904-249-1166.

Families hope for change

Brad Thomas showed up at Beaches Memorial Park hoping the new owner could do what he says John Rayan and his wife, Amanda Rayan, would not.

“My grandma has been here 10 or so years now,” Thomas said. “We had an issue with my grandma's grave. The vase was broken off. We came and asked the old management that was here, and they said they would take care of it. And that was close to a year ago."

Thomas said Ferreira told him the damage would be repaired.

“They aren't making me pay for anything,” he said. “They assured me they will be taking care of it.”

Ethel Dawson needed to hear the same reassurance.

“I paid for everything that's supposed to be for my burial, and I didn't know what was going on, and I had to come and find out,” Dawson said.

She said she was worried after seeing I-TEAM stories revealing dozens of complaints about markers that were paid for, but never delivered, loved ones who had to wait weeks, or even months, to receive their mother's or father's ashes, and families charged more for burials that had already been paid for in full.

Dawson said she now has peace of mind.

“We went in there and talked with them, and everything turned out really good,” Dawson said.

The state has agreed to help Ferreira pay for a portion of the markers that were never delivered, and he said he'll make up the difference out of his own pocket.

He said the cemetery will also start looking better because the irrigation system, which was not being used, is now up and running.

Ferreira, owner of Ferreira Funeral Services, told News4Jax in January that he had arranged to bury Lonzie Barton free of charge to the family.

John Rayan will be back in court next week. Amanda Rayan has not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing.

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