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Strunk Funeral Homes at center of family feud

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of July 15, 2021)

In a Peyton Place-like drama, the owners of the Strunk Funeral Homes and Crematory have accused the company founder’s widow of fraudulently selling the real estate on which the longtime local business operates to a new company that allegedly wants to offer similar services on the property.

In a lawsuit filed in Circuit Court in Vero Beach last month, Strunk Funeral Homes is asking Judge Janet Croom to “preserve the status quo” by issuing a temporary restraining order and injunction to prohibit the defendants from interfering with the funeral home’s operations until the properties’ ownership disputes can be legally resolved.

The lawsuit also requests the disputed properties be placed in a trust to prevent Dorothy Strunk from selling or transferring ownership of other local real estate in which the funeral home claims to have a vested interest.

In addition, the lawsuit seeks the voiding of Dorothy Strunk’s sale of the funeral home property to her nephew, James W. Young Jr., who owns Millennium Funeral Home and Crematory LLC.

Named as defendants are Dorothy Strunk, whose husband, Glenn, owned the local funeral home business since 1973, running it for 47 years before he died in February 2020; Young, who purchased the Strunk properties last month for $3.1 million; and Millennium.

According to state records, Glenn Strunk’s daughter, Mary Kopchak, is the president of Strunk Funeral Homes, having replaced her father on Feb. 24, 2020 – two days prior to his death at age 79.

Neither Kopchak nor her attorney, Richard Sneed, responded to phone messages seeking comment. Dorothy Strunk’s attorney, James Covey, declined to comment.

Reached by phone Monday, Young described the lawsuit as “frivolous” and said he’ll seek to have it dismissed.

“They’re grasping at straws,” Young said. “It was a legitimate sale. Look at the deeds to the properties. They’re in the names of Glenn and Dorothy Strunk, and when Glenn died, she owned those properties.”

Dorothy Strunk attempted to resolve the property-ownership dispute in March 2020, when she took the matter to court, where she opposed her three adult stepchildren: Kevin and April Strunk, and Kopchak.

However, County Court Judge Robyn Stone dismissed the case this past May because of “lack of prosecution.”

In its lawsuit, Strunk Funeral Homes argues that the disputed properties were jointly owned by the business, because business operations covered the costs of their acquisition, maintenance and capital improvements, as well as expenses such as taxes, insurance and debt service – even though the properties were titled in the names of Glenn and Dorothy Strunk.

The current lawsuit claims that Dorothy Strunk was aware of, participated in and benefited from the arrangement, which had been in place since 1981, and therefore knew she didn’t solely own the properties she sold to Millennium to enrich herself at the plaintiff’s expense.

The lawsuit also alleges that the conduct of Young, Millennium and Dorothy Strunk threaten interruption of the funeral homes’ operations, claiming the defendants have threatened to take possession of the funeral homes’ properties – and that such actions would cause irreparable harm to the business.

On June 17, in fact, Dorothy Strunk notified Kopchak in a hand-delivered letter that:

• The Strunk Funeral Homes owed $90,000 in rent it hadn’t paid since March 1, 2020.

• Rent would increase from $6,000 to $12,000 per month, as of the date of the letter.

• The letter served as a 15-day notice that the funeral homes’ lease was being terminated.

“She tried to work something out with Glenn’s adult children, but they wouldn’t do it, so she sold the properties to me,” Young said. “They stole the business from Dorothy on their father’s deathbed, two days before Glenn died.

“Now, they owe us more than $200,000 in back rent,” he added, “and we’re getting ready to evict them from the buildings.”

Along with injunctive relief and voidance of Dorothy Strunk’s sale of the properties, the plaintiff seeks damages and reimbursement for legal fees and court costs.

No trial date has been set.

Young said he plans to sue the Strunk Funeral Home and its owners for “clouding the title” of the properties he purchased from Dorothy Stone.