ROME, Ga. – In Romania, bodies are said to be taken to gravesites in trucks, altered vehicles, wagons pulled by horses or by family members on foot.
A Georgia church is planning to send a refurbished hearse to Romania, which church officials say does not currently have any. The 1987 vehicle, filled with medical supplies, will be carried to New York on Friday and shipped overseas to Germany on a 21-day voyage.
The hearse, which was repainted, had its engine and transmission replaced and was thoroughly cleaned inside, is expected to arrive by the end of the month in Lupeni, Romania.
It wasn't until last year that funeral homes began opening and serving the country, said Associate Pastor Daniel Apetroaie of the DaySpring Assembly of God Church. Services were held in family members' homes or the home of the deceased.
"The Communist regime kept [Romanians] closed from the West," he said.
The hearse, donated by Henderson & Sons Funeral Home, will be taken to the Voice of Pentecost, a funeral home and assisted living home operated by Apetroaie's father, Villy Wilson of Romania. Rome residents donated the medical supplies for the senior living home.
The funeral home will open when the new hearse arrives.
"Until recently, the Orthodox were in control of the graveside services," said Rev. Robert Anderson, who added that Wilson "wanted the Pentecostal to have funeral homes, too. We saw a need and wanted to get this together."
Although the hearse was ready in November, it hadn't been shipped yet because the church did not want to risk it being damaged in snow storms in Romania that lasted between November and February and dumped about six feet of snow in the area.
Church officials anticipate sending another hearse to his home country in the future.
"We're hoping this will fuel some fires for getting more hearses to Romania," Anderson said.