Post-Funeral Comments Cost Coach His Job

Andy Berg Headshot

A high school football coach was fired for attending a funeral where he was apparently unwanted.

According to Yahoo Sports, Jeffery Wood, head coach at Bedford High School in Temperance, Mich., attended the funeral of Maison Hullibarger, 18, a former Bedford High School football star who committed suicide Dec. 4. 

Maison’s parents did not want Wood at their son’s Dec. 8 funeral. According to Jeff Hullibarger, Maison's father, Wood has been bullying kids for years. In fact, four of Hullibarger's sons played for him. 

"We knew Maison would not want him at his funeral. He did not treat Maison kindly. So it was our wish that he would not be there," Linda Hullibarger, Maison's mother, said.

After he was asked to leave, Wood took to social media to air his displeasure with the grieving family's decision. "I was just asked to leave a funeral by a family member of a deceased football player," he wrote. "If you need someone to blame, I'm your man, I'm your fall guy. This is how society is when things go not as planned. We blame others for our own shortcomings. This tragedy is not about me or you. It's about looking in the mirror as a human being and being real and honest with yourself."

Wood was later fired for his comments.

The Hullibarger's suffering didn't end there. The Detroit Free Press reported that when Maison’s parents looked for comfort from their priest at the funeral, he went on to deliver a disturbing homily about suicide. The Hullibargers had asked that Father Don LaCuesta of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church celebrate Maison’s life and not dwell on how he died.

LaCuesta apparently didn’t get the message. "It was his time to tell everybody what he thought of suicide, [and] we couldn't believe what he was saying," Jeff told the Free Press, explaining how LaCuesta condemned Maison by calling him a sinner. People told Jeff there was almost a smirk on LaCuesta's face. 

"He wondered if he had repented enough to make it to heaven. He said 'suicide' upwards of six times," Jeff said. The homily was so disturbing that a few young men who were Maison's age left the church crying.

The Archdiocese of Detroit issued the following statement about the matter:

"We share the family’s grief at such a profound loss. Our hope is always to bring comfort into situations of great pain, through funeral services centered on the love and healing power of Christ.

"Unfortunately, that did not happen in this case. We understand that an unbearable situation was made even more difficult, and we are sorry.

"After some reflection, the presider agrees that the family was not served as they should have been served. For the foreseeable future, he will not be preaching at funerals and he will have his other homilies reviewed by a priest mentor. In addition, he has agreed to pursue the assistance he needs in order to become a more effective minister in these difficult situations.

"We have been in contact with the family since learning of this situation, and we will continue to offer our support going forward."

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