The Westmoreland County district attorney's office is investigating a theft of Mass cards containing money from a funeral home last month.
The money, contained in dozens of envelopes with sympathy cards from mourners, was taken the night of Jan. 4 from a table set up at the Frank F. Gigler Funeral Home in Lower Burrell.
Thomas Bruno, 36, had not even been buried when his father, Anthony Bruno, learned that someone had stolen dozens of donations earmarked for the family's church.
Anthony Bruno, a retired Lower Burrell urologist, said hundreds of mourners attended the visitation Jan. 4 for his son, who was killed when a tree limb fell on him as he cut logs for firewood.
At the visitation, people left cards containing cash and checks to be donated to Mount St. Peter Church.
Dr. Bruno said he was exhausted after the one-day visitation, and he left the funeral home without checking the envelopes or the money contained in them. He estimated there were up to 75.
When he returned the following day, the proprietor, Frank Gigler, presented him with fewer than a dozen envelopes, Dr. Bruno said.
Based on the number of visitors and the usual amount of gifts, Dr. Bruno estimated at least $800 was stolen.
Mr. Gigler said he is willing to take the blame for making the theft possible.
"I can't dispute him. It's my neglect that I did not lock the doors," Mr. Gigler said.
"I told him, 'Let's get a number. I'll write you a check,' [because] I'm responsible," Mr. Gigler said.
At Gigler Funeral Home, celebrating its 50th year in business this year, doors never have been locked, the proprietor said. Until this incident, nothing had ever been stolen, Mr. Gigler said.
"I never envisioned someone ever would come into the funeral home and steal something," he said. "I've never lost a pencil."
Lower Burrell police declined to comment on the case, which has been referred to the Westmoreland County district attorney's office. DA John Peck said his office is actively investigating.
"He's not a suspect," Mr. Peck said of the funeral director. "We take the case extremely seriously because of nature of it. It seems sacreligious to steal from a family that's suffered such a loss."
Mr. Gigler said he now locks his doors from now on.
Dr. Bruno said his main concern is acknowledging the visitors who mourned with him and his family.
"They need to know that I'm at a loss to know who might have made a contribution or left a donation with a sympathy card. I'm very grateful to them," Dr. Bruno said.
To the culprit who stole the envelopes, Dr. Bruno asked, "How could you be so unkind to a family that's grieving and put them in such a delimma? It saddens me deeply that anyone wouldn't have more of a heart than to pull a trick like that."
Jim McKinnon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1939.