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Funerals at Central Coast cemeteries on hold due to coronavirus

Posted at 7:55 AM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 11:11:45-04

Losing a loved one is hard enough but the coronavirus restrictions make it difficult for Central Coast family and friends to come together to mourn.

Rodney Cegelski, the founder of SLO Brew Rock in San Luis Obispo, recently lost his father, Jim.

"He was just absolutely fearless, loved everything about life and living it out with moxie and gusto," Cegelski said.

In a lasting ode to his father, Cegelski is pouring one out in a different way.

"We make our own Rod and Hammer whiskey and we're making him his own bourbon," Cegelski said. "We're gonna call it Big Jim's Manhattan. "

With his wife by his side, Jim Cegelski died at home on March 24.

Almost one month after his death, there's been no funeral and no memorial to honor Jim Cegelski's life.

"It's a terrible process to go through in the first place but this has just made it so much more difficult," Rodney Cegelski said.

Limitations on gatherings, prompted by COVID-19, mean the way grieving families say goodbye is also restricted.

"It's for the people behind that need to say goodbye," Kirk Reis, the owner of Reis Family Mortuary, said. "Maybe tell a story about something the person did for them that the family would never know if there's no funeral."

The Reis Family Mortuary has not received anyone who died from coronavirus, but they have worked with about eight families this month since the restrictions took effect.

"We haven't been able to do funerals," Reis said. "Most cemeteries are only allowing 10 people if they allow them at all."

Many cemeteries are prohibiting funerals at this time, though some, like SLO Cemetery on Higuera, are allowing gatherings of less than 10 people.

The owner of SLO Cemetery said Friday that any violation of the gathering limitations would put an end to funerals.

The Reis funeral chapel, where wakes are traditionally held, now sits empty. Instead, Reis speaks to families by phone and schedules intakes online.

"Unfortunately, a lot of families don't want to do funerals with just 10 people so they're hoping this goes away real quick and they can plan a funeral for someone," Reis said.

Some say time heals all wounds but for the families that cannot give a lost loved one a proper goodbye, waiting is the hardest part.

Due to the restrictions on gatherings, the Cegelski family had Jim's remains cremated and is planning to honor him as a family in September, so long as restrictions on gatherings are lifted.