Hartford Man Offers Burial Plot for Boston Bombing Suspect

Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Hartford — A retired Hartford High School teacher has offered a private burial plot in Connecticut to the family of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the suspect in the Boston bombings who died in a shootout with police.

Paul Keane, 68, took to his blog Monday evening to offer the Hamden, Conn., plot to the family.

“I am willing to donate a burial plot next to my mother in Mt. Carmel Burying Ground to the Tsarnaev family if they cannot obtain a plot,” he wrote. “The only condition is that I do it in memory of my mother who taught Sunday School at the Mt. Carmel Congregational Church for 20 years and taught me to ‘love thine enemy.’ ”

Keane, a Hartford village resident who ran for state representative last year relying solely on social media, declined to comment on the record yesterday, other than restating his mother’s advice.

Keane’s offer comes at a time when the final resting place of the 26-year-old Tsarnaev, who died on April 19, is a hotly debated topic.

Yesterday, an aide to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said he did not want to see Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was a resident of Cambridge, buried in Boston and called the decision “a family issue.”

“He believes he should be sent back to Russia. It wouldn’t be appropriate for him to be buried in Boston,” Menino spokeswoman Dot Joyce said. “He said his family wants him in Russia and that’s where he should go.”

And several days ago, the Massachusetts funeral director trying to find a burial space for the body went public with his frustrations, saying the city of Cambridge, Mass., had rebuffed his efforts to bury Tsarnaev there. Since then, he has received more than 100 offers from the U.S. and Canada, but none have panned out.

At the same time, the director has received a healthy dose of criticism both online and from protestors who set up outside his business.

“We take an oath to do this. Can I pick and choose? No. Can I separate the sins from the sinners? No,” Peter Stefan, the funeral director, said. “We are burying a dead body. That’s what we do.”

A woman who answered the phone yesterday afternoon at the funeral home Stefan owns — Graham Putney & Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester, Mass. — said there was no new information available regarding choosing a plot. She declined to comment specifically about Keane’s offer.

Jeff Knight, who owns Knight Funeral Homes & Crematory in White River Junction, said he didn't know of any law that would allow a cemetery to prevent someone's burial if a person privately owns burial rights there.

“When you purchase a lot, you’re purchasing burial rights,” Knight said.

It was a position echoed by Keane.

“I own the plot,” he wrote on his blog. “No one can refuse me access.”

The mayor of the Connecticut town, though, was surprised by the offer, which he first heard about when approached by a reporter.

“I certainly hope if this offer is legitimate, and is legitimately being offered in the spirit of whom it claims to be, then I would guess it would actually be done in a different way — in a quiet way, in a Christian way, that requested or required no additional comment,” Mayor Scott Jackson told the New Haven Register.

Keane grew up in Hamden, where he attended the Mt. Carmel Congregational Church, where his mother taught for two decades. He received four college degrees, including a master’s in English from Middlebury College, a master’s in education from Kent State University and a master’s in divinity from Yale University, a degree he mentioned in his blog post offering the burial plot.

A spokesman for Yale’s Divinity School confirmed Keane graduated from the school with a master’s degree in 1980.

A former English teacher, Keane spent about 25 years at Hartford High School before retiring a year ago. He has since become something of a gadfly, lending his opinion at various town meetings, on several blogs he created and via Valley News letters to the editor.

“I say bring back the 300-year-old New England Town Meeting,” he wrote in one such letter, lambasting Hartford for switching to a hybrid voting system that undercut the importance of the traditional floor meeting. “Put the heart and intestines back in the corpse and resurrect the Vermont democracy we have been trying to kill for the last three years with bureaucratic twaddle, streamlined procedure, and closed-curtain secrecy, all under the name of ‘Charter Revision.’ ”

Last year, Keane was one of four candidates to represent the White River Junction area in the state House of Representatives, and mounted a minimalist campaign done entirely via social media outlets such as Facebook, YouTube and a blog, forgoing traditional campaign tactics.

“I’m too old, at age 67, to waste my time saying what people want me to say in order to be popular or get elected to political office,” he blogged last year. “I will kiss no babies and I will spend not a plug nickel on campaigning.”

He landed in fourth place with 806 votes, about 600 less than the third-place candidate. The top two vote-getters were awarded House seats.

At the time, a grateful Keane took to one of his blogs, which he created expressly for the campaign.

“When I see ‘Paul Keane (I) 806’ I don’t see fourth place,” he wrote. “I see 806 votes as an amazing total.”

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


This article has been amended to correct an earlier error. The following correction appeared in the Thursday, May 9 edition of the Valley News.

Knight Funeral Homes & Crematory owner Jeff Knight said he didn't know of any law that would allow a cemetery to prevent someone's burial if a person privately owns burial rights there. A story in yesterday's Valley News was unclear on that point.

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