CASPER, Wyo. – Arlo English had a big personality, a loving family and a large group of friends.
Arlo was a decorated Korean War veteran, but also a “hippie” before anyone heard of the term.
He couldn’t be bothered to sleep when there was art to create. By day he’d paint custom signs for Casper businesses, and by night he’d paint his own art as classical music played on a stereo.
Article continues below...
“We’d wake up to fresh paintings,” remembers Suzette McIntyre, one of Arlo’s six kids.
Naturally a life this well-lived deserved a grand sendoff, and after Arlo died at age 91 in December, his family spent weeks organizing such an event.
Family and friends far and wide booked tickets and hotels to gather, cry, laugh and embrace. A grandson, skilled in pottery-making, crafted Arlo’s urn. Arlo’s paintings would be gathered and lovingly displayed.
Perhaps most importantly, his wife, Muriel, would say her last goodbyes while surrounded by her surviving children on the week of their 70th-wedding anniversary.
All this was planned when everything was normal. Before a global pandemic arrived close to home.
The deadly, contagious COVID-19 is upending everything in life, including death.
McIntyre, who now lives in Windsor, Colo., called the decision to postpone “excruciating.”
The funeral had been planned around her parent’s upcoming 70th wedding anniversary, knowing it was a milestone and that it would be an emotional time for her mother, Muriel, to be alone.
“We put a lot of work into it. We had everything lined up to have an art show with the reception, and just decided a few days before everything shut down in Casper to call it off,” she said.
“It was painful.”
Funeral directors are scrambling to help their customers cope with a swift new reality where public gatherings are impossible. They can also be deadly to older people who may attend funerals.
“Since the governor’s mandate of 10 people or less, that essentially limits all services to private, or immediate family-only,” said Bustard & Jacoby Funeral Home funeral director and managing director Joey Casada.
One option Bustard’s is now offering at no charge is “TribuCast,” a mobile system that live streams services.
“Whether the service is here, at a church or graveside, we’re able to allow family and friends that would’ve attended that service had circumstances been different to at least attend remotely,” said Casada.
Another new program is something called “Hugs from Home,” which fills up empty spaces during the small private ceremony balloons, each with a message sent from family and friends.
“It can feel very alone (in the chapel) even if there are dozens of people online watching the service,” said Casada.
“It’s a visual feeling that people would’ve been there if circumstances were different,” he said. “We’re just trying to help people honor and remember, and help families know that they’re still being thought of at this difficult time.”
Director of communications for Newcomer Funeral Home Jeremy Lamb says families have been understanding, and many are moving forward with their plans.
“I think families want to go through the process and some electing to have smaller services like what’s recommended, while some are taking the option to wait,” he said.
“It’s always a tough time for anyone who’s dealing the the loss of a loved one,” said Lamb.
Arlo English’s family decided it would be best to wait.
“We’ll try again, but it won’t have the impact that it would have this week,” said McIntyre.
“I hate to plan it and have to cancel again. It’s indefinite,” she said.
This week, instead of Arlo’s grand sendoff, Muriel, 88, will spend her time safely inside her retirement home. Visitors aren’t allowed, so McIntyre will send flowers.
“It’s is very hard to not have closure right now,” she said.
The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:
What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.
If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.
Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.
For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email: email@example.com
- Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay home if you’re sick
- Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.