By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Services and burial were conducted Thursday afternoon for a Pittsburg man whose family members said they could not afford a funeral.
The generosity of many who likely had never even met Mateo “Vinnie” Lorenzo was at play. First there was Samantha York, a Pittsburg State University social work student who heard about the family’s situation and started a fundraising effort.
Then there was an anonymous donor who used a credit card that allowed the funeral to take place while the fundraising continues. Then there was Derfelt Funeral Home, which agreed to handle the graveside service and burial even though the owners knew they were taking a chance on not being paid in full.
A separate service for Lorenzo, 24, was conducted earlier in the day at Timmons Chapel at PSU.
Derfelt Funeral Home of Columbus handled the arrangements at Pittsburg’s Highland Park Cemetery.
Peggy and Jerry Derfelt said they got involved when someone connected to the family, who had a pre-need plan in place at their Baxter Springs funeral home, called them.
“We’re just trying to help the family,” Peggy Derfelt said Thursday. “We understand this is their time of grief.” Her husband’s grandfather, John Olin, started the business, which has three locations in Cherokee County.
Lorenzo’s sister, Sara Smith, died and was buried last August, but the family still owed a balance of $2,000 to another area funeral home on those services when Lorenzo died. Given the balance due and other factors, operators of the other funeral home declined to handle Lorenzo’s funeral.
But after the family’s plight became public this week, someone connected to the family from out of state came forward to pay the balance owed on Smith’s funeral.
The PSU social work students spearheaded by York launched fundraising efforts on several fronts. York said Thursday afternoon that they had raised about $1,800, but that the total bill likely will be substantially more than that amount. The students’ effort continues.
Peggy Derfelt said the funeral home is trying to be as understanding as possible with those involved. “We like the aspect of helping people,” she said. “We’re doing everything we can.”
MATEO “VINNIE” LORENZO drowned when he fell Nov. 24 into a strip pit while hiking at Wilderness Park in Crawford County. His body was recovered from the pit on Nov. 26.