Celebrity funeral director John Beckwith Jr. — the star of the TLC reality show “Best Funeral Ever” — is being sued by 17 families for desecrating their loved ones’ remains.
In claims filed last year and today at Dallas County Court system, families say the flamboyant owner and CEO of Golden Gate Funeral Home in Dallas, Texas, mishandled their late relatives’ bodies, returned the wrong ashes, disposed of remains without permission and, in one case, filled an urn with what appeared to be tiny white pebbles.
Jack Hales’ law film, Hales & Sellers, is representing the heartbroken families behind the negligence claim, and also filed the three similar actions against Beckwith in 2021. “They’re concerned their loved ones were not given respect for their final farewell,” he said of his clients.
Reached Thursday, a member of the staff at Golden Gate said Beckwith was unavailable to respond to The Post’s request for comment.
Jackie Carlisle, one of the plaintiffs, fainted when she saw the body of her mother at Golden Gate the day before a scheduled wake, according to Carlisle’s court filing.
The daughter had expected Jennifer Hall’s corpse to be fully made-up and wearing the dress the family had provided for her open-casket viewing. Instead, the claim alleges, her mom’s body had partially decomposed, with a severely bloated stomach and dark splotches and discoloration on her face.
According to the claim, there was a smell emanating from Hall’s body, which was still in the hospital gown in which she’d died of COVID-19 in June 2020, at 48.
“It broke me and I fell on the floor,” Carlisle, a 33-year-old nursing assistant, told The Post.
“I was horrified. It was the first time I’d seen my mother since I did a FaceTime with her in the hospital,” said Carlisle, who wasn’t allowed to visit her mother in the hospital because of COVID-19 restrictions at the time.
This came, according to the claim, after Carlisle had first been shown the wrong corpse. “The [dead] woman was a lot skinnier than my mom so I immediately knew it wasn’t her,” she recalled to The Post.
The lawsuit alleges the daughter “was forced to do the best she could: She attempted to prepare Jennifer herself. Jackie used the makeup and perfume she carried in her purse to help remedy Jennifer’s odor and appearance and odor.”
Nonetheless, Hall’s appearance at her wake 24 hours later was “so unsightly that attendees felt compelled to take a picture. Bloating and swelling were visible in Jennifer’s abdomen, which is ordinarily prevented by funeral homes by use of refrigeration and/or embalming.”
Carlisle, who is now raising her 14-year-old brother, Jace, alone, had paid Beckwith’s company $11,000 for the embalming, wake, funeral ceremony, cremation and cosmetology services.
Nekeya Webster, who also filed suit against Golden Gate in 2021 — one of the three actions commenced last year — alleges that the ashes of her father, Aldo Busby, were secretly disposed of in a cemetery belonging to a second branch of Golden Gate in Tallulah, La. — 340 miles from Dallas.
Busby, a 60-year-old grandfather of five, died of multiple organ failure in December 2018 in Houston, Texas.
Her court papers state that Webster, 39, was in the dark for months about when her father’s cremated remains would arrive. Finally, she showed up unannounced at the Dallas location of Golden Gate and demanded the urn and ashes be turned over to her immediately.
“[The staff] kept me waiting for at least an hour and then told me my dad’s remains had been taken to Louisiana and scattered there,” Webster told The Post. “It was the most traumatic thing I’d ever experienced. My siblings and I had wanted to have his urn with his ashes so we could hold it and remember him.”
The lawsuit describes her family’s anguish, saying, “Aldo Busby’s children will never recover their father’s remains and must, instead, live with the trauma so carelessly inflicted by Golden Gate.”
Hales said other allegations against the funeral home involve some families receiving the wrong remains, or none at all. Others were sent multiple urns “when the person had been small and [their] ashes could not have filled more than one urn.”
One petition claimed that a bereaved daughter opened her father’s urn to put his military medals inside — only to discover tiny white pebbles inside that were clearly not ashes.
Beckwith and his staff starred on the reality show “Best Funeral Ever,” which aired in 2013 and 2014 on TLC. The funeral director — who is pictured on Golden Gate’s website with Al Sharpton, after Beckwith cremated the reverend’s mother in 2009 — is known for staging over-the-top ceremonies.
In 2013, TLC filmed a stunt in which the casket of Olympic sprinter Ronnie Ray Smith was “raced” along a 100-yard track before it was placed on a podium and presented with a gold medal.
Another deceased man, who used to eat breakfast three times a day, was honored by guests who dressed up as fried eggs, rashers of bacon and a stack of flapjacks. The podium was made to look like a giant carton of milk.