Worcester mourns passing of funeral director Peter Stefan

WORCESTER, Mass. — This week, well known Worcester Funeral Director Peter Stefan passed away.

The 85 year old Stefan was widely known as the funeral director who would accept the remains of people who had no way to pay for his services.

He believed that everyone, no matter their station on Earth, deserved dignity in death.

In 2017 Stefan told me, “I’ve never measured respect in terms of dollars and cents. I can always do something.”

Stefan fearlessly stood by his principles, even when he ran into a storm of controversy.

In 2013, Stefan, at the Graham Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Home, accepted the remains of Boston Marathon Bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a move that drew protests and death threats.

Peter Stefan was unapologetic.

“I can’t treat him as a terrorist. I have to treat him as a dead body,” Stefan explained to me. ”The fact of the matter is, I can’t control the circumstances around a death or what a person did or what they died from, I can’t pick and chose.”

Decades earlier, during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Peter Stefan, alone among local funeral homes, accepted the bodies of people who passed from the deadly virus.

“When people were dying, and they were dying at a high rate at that time, they knew who they could call on, and they all went to Peter,” said Patricia Price of Aids Project Worcester.

“Everybody deserves to die with dignity. Everybody deserves to be treated with respect,” added Aids Project Worcester CEO Michelle Smith.

At Graham Putnam Mahoney, Peter Stefan is gone, but the work he did there, and what he stood for, will not be forgotten.

“Money is not everything. I think we all need to recognize that, caring for people is much more important, at the end of the day and that’s going to be Peter’s legacy. He cared for people,” said Stephen Teasdale, Executive Director of the Main South Community Development Corporation said.

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