Barbadian national denies affiliation with Brooklyn funeral home under probe

Barbadian Alva Stuart (standing) with husband Andrew T. Cleckley, co-owners of Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home in Brooklyn.
Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services, Inc.

As state and city officials probe the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services, Inc. on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn after decomposing bodies were found inside two U-Hall trucks outside the home Flatlands, the Barbadian national who was listed on the funeral home’s website up to Wednesday morning as the co-owner of the home and wife of the owner, Andrew T. Cleckley, has strongly denied any affiliation with the home and Cleckley.

“I have not been associated with the firm or owner for the last two years,” Alva Stuart told Caribbean Life Wednesday afternoon. “We’ve been divorced. I don’t have access to anything over there.

“I have nothing to do with that, and I’m getting the blame,” added Stuart, her voice cracking, referring the discovery of the decomposing bodies at the funeral home at 2037A Utica Ave. “I’ve moved on.”

In addition to the probe, New York State health officials have suspended the license of the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services, Inc., in the heart of the Caribbean community in Brooklyn, after about 100 decomposing bodies were found inside the two non-refrigerated U-Haul trucks and a U-Haul van two Wednesdays ago.

Up to Wednesday morning, April 6, a notice on the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services, Inc.’s website described Andrew T. Cleckley as the “owner/manager” and Stuart as the “co-owner.”

However, later on Wednesday, information about the “owner/manager” and “co-owner” was removed after Caribbean Life published online a story after the state’s suspension of the funeral home’s license.

Before the removal of the information, the website said that Cleckley is “a graduate with honors from Nassau Community College, Class of 2011, and is a native New Yorker of African-American descent.

“Andrew is a devoted, compassionate and experienced Funeral Director, whose primary objective is to provide your family with the attention and care necessary during your time of bereavement,” the website said. “He is the master embalmer, responsible for restoring loved ones to their before death appearance.”

For Stuart, it said she was “born and raised in the beautiful island of Barbados,” and that she “graduated with honors from American McCalister Institute of Funeral Service as a licensed funeral director in 2011.

“Professionalism, integrity and attention to detail represent the core values that Alva is admired for and trusted by the people with whom she encounters,” said the website before the information was removed.

“Alva is responsible for ensuring your loved ones look as radiant in their passing as they did while alive. She also plans and directs the funeral services,” it added.

But Stuart told Caribbean Life that she was unaware that the information was still posted on the funeral home’s website, emphasizing that she and the owner are divorced and that she was not affiliated with the funeral home.

Caribbean Life made repeated calls to the two numbers listed on the funeral home’s website, in trying to reach Cleckley, but a voice message on one phone said: “That mail box is full. Good bye.”

When the other phone was dialed, the message said: “The number you dialed is not in service. Please check the number and dial again.”

This paper dialed the number again, but the same message was repeated.

Caribbean Life also in-boxed the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services, Inc. on its Facebook page, requesting to speak with the Cleckley; but, up to press time, the paper received no response.

Stuart had told Caribbean Life that Cleckley, since the incident, does not answer or return calls, stating that hundreds of people have been trying to reach him without success.

But up to Thursday morning, a “welcome” message on the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services, Inc. website, without mentioning anything whatsoever about the incident, states that “the caring and experienced professionals at Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services, Inc. are here to support you through this difficult time.

“We offer a range of personalized services to suit your family’s wishes and requirements,” the message says. “You can count on us to help you plan a personal, lasting tribute to your loved one. And we’ll carefully guide you through the many decisions that must be made during this challenging time.

“You are welcome to call us at any time of the day, any day of the week, for immediate assistance,” it adds. “Or, visit our funeral home in person at your convenience. We also provide a wealth of information here on our web site so you can learn more from the privacy of your own home.”

Cleckley had told reporters that his funeral home was overwhelmed by the unceasing dead bodies amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“I ran out of space,” he said. “Bodies are coming out of our ears.”

In announcing that his office will conduct a probe into the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services, Inc.’s fiasco, New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said that “funeral homes have a responsibility to manage their capacity appropriately and provide services in a respectful and competent manner.”

He described in a statement that the discovery of the decomposing bodies was “appalling” and “disrespectful to the families of the deceased.”

Guyanese-born New York State Sen. Roxanne Persaud, who represents the neighborhood where the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services, Inc. is located, had also called for a full investigation.

Persaud, representative for the 19th Senatorial District in Brooklyn, said she was informed by New York Police Department (NYPD) 63rd Precinct Sector D Non-Commissioned Officers that “a horrendous situation was occurring at an area funeral home located at 2037A Utica Ave.

“There were bodies of deceased individuals stored in two U-Haul trucks and a car on the property,” she said. “Also, a foul odor and fluids were coming from vehicles onto the street and sidewalk.”

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