A groom-to-be had to build his father’s own coffin and hold a DIY funeral just days before his wedding after running out of money for a burial service.
James Furlonger was heartbroken after his father Colin Schmidt, known as Duke, died from a stroke on August 4 – just three weeks before he was due to marry his now-wife Carly.
Mr and Mrs Furlonger invested their spare money into their wedding at their home in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, and James was forced to build a coffin from scratch using YouTube tutorials and borrowing a hearse used as a sitcom prop after finding out a ‘basic’ cremation package would cost £3,000.
Mr Furlonger spent more than 60 hours building a coffin for his father using pine wood, PVA glue and a handful of screws usually used for garden planters. His wife then put the finishing touches on the coffin by lining it with a double-cotton sheet from Home Bargains.
James Furlonger, 37, (left) built a coffin using pine wood, PVA glue and a handful of screws usually used for garden planters for his father Colin Schmidt, known as Duke (right)
James Furlonger was just three weeks away from marrying bride Carly (pictured above) when his father Colin Schmidt passed away. The pair would have struggled to pay for a conventional funeral after pouring all their money into their special day
Faced with the possibility of using a Passat as a hearse and burying his father in a £250 cardboard coffin, a friend shared their plight on social media, and a kind-hearted sitcom maker offered to let them use his prop hearse and costumes it comes with for free.
Mr Furlonger, 37, said: ‘The prospect of putting my dad in a cardboard coffin was horrendous – it was very distressing.
He added: ‘I felt ashamed to have been forced into this position.
Mr Furlonger spent more than 60 hours carefully preparing the coffin for his father, which was then drapped in a bed sheet from Home Bargains
‘We looked at brochures and prices online – it seemed ridiculous to spend thousands of pounds we didn’t have on a cremation. Most of the money my parents had was spent to help him while he was still here.
‘I took one look at the finances and realised it would take every penny my mum had, and then some, and every bill was going to bounce if we had gone ahead and done that.
‘Dad would have been furious if I’d have let that happen.’
Mr Furlonger said the mortuary staff at the Countess of Chester Hospital in Chester were ‘amazing’ for understanding his struggle.
He said: ‘The whole situation was bad enough, but we were very lucky to have had their help.
‘When you don’t have a funeral director involved you have to dress the body, place the body into the coffin and transport them to their final resting place.
Mr Furglonger said he would have had to take ‘every penny’ from his mother (left) to pay for the funeral costs. Michael Dee (right) offered to let Mr Furlonger use his hearse free of charge
Sitcom maker Mr Dee said he was planning to make an episode dedicated to Mr Schimdt after he let the Furlonger family use his hearse for the funeral
‘Normally people who do it themselves like we did have to take the body home until it’s time for the funeral but the mortuary staff were brilliant.
He added: ‘When I saw him in the coffin that was the point it hit me and that it wasn’t some cruel mistake, he really was gone.’
Cost of Colin Schmidt’s funeral
- Hearse – free of charge (petrol donation to Mr Dee = £50)
- Wood – largely collected or found = free. Equviliant from DIY store between £100-120
- PVA Gorilla glue – Around 2.5 bottles = £15
- Wooden screws – already used = free
- King-sized double bedsheet = £15.99
- Flowers – made using an oasis block from florist = £25
- Cremation fee = £722
- Total = £827.99
Sitcom maker Micheal Dee was hailed as a hero by Mr Furlonger for letting him use the hearse for free and getting his funeral director friend Ian Dallinger to conduct the ceremony for free.
Artistic director Michael Dee said he was honoured to have played a part in Duke’s funeral.
The 29-year-old said: ‘I think Duke got a better funeral in the end as he had something so personal and special. I’m sad I never got to meet him.
‘I’m really proud of the family for holding together – it goes to show that any problem can always be overcome. I’m planning to dedicate an episode to Duke.’
Mr Furlonger took aim at funeral companies, claiming it was outrageous how much some firms can charge.
He said: ‘It’s dumbfounding it can cost so much – there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between what’s involved and what you pay for, not even close.’
Sitcom actor Michael Dee volunteered to lead out the funeral procession of Mr Schmidt. Funeral director Ian Dallinger conducted the ceremony for free
Chief Executive of the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD), Mandie Lavin, said: ‘Costs relating to funerals and the services of a funeral director vary depending on many factors and the desires of the family, and aside from the costs, for many people the support, knowledge and expertise provided by a funeral director at a time of grief is incredibly valuable.
‘The NAFD and our members work tirelessly to ensure that funerals encompass the wishes of families, including personalisation and diverse ways of making funerals special and meaningful tributes to people’s lives.
‘We would urge everyone to talk openly to their local funeral director about costs and do not feel afraid to shop around until you find one you are comfortable with, both in price and service – most funeral directors will do their very best to find a service to suit most budgets.’
James Furlonger (right picture, main) with (L-R) his mum Charmaine, 60, daughter Athena Jean, three, Claudia Jean, six, wife Carly, 35, and son Vincent,one
Sitcom maker Micheal Dee was hailed as a hero by Mr Furlonger for letting him use the hearse used in the sitcome ‘Morbid’ (above) for free