After almost a year of frustration, negotiations and legal proceedings, the family of Howard Tobin finally has some closure.
Tobin’s remains were exhumed from Congregation Poale Zedeck’s cemetery in Richland Township on July 26, and re-interred in the Star of David Section of Homewood Cemetery in Point Breeze.
Tobin, who died in 1965 at the age of 45, now rests beside his wife, Roberta, and his son Steven.
“It felt comforting to know they [Howard and Roberta] were together again,” said daughter Shelly Frankel. Roberta Tobin passed away earlier this year. Steven died in 2008.
Although his father had been long buried in Poale Zedeck’s cemetery, Steven, who died suddenly, was buried in Homewood Cemetery so that it would be more convenient for the family to visit his grave. Because Steven was not married and had no children, Roberta wanted to be buried next to her son, when the time came, and to have Howard’s remains relocated to Homewood as well, keeping the family together.
Poale Zedeck had refused to allow the exhumation, saying that it would violate Jewish law. The Tobin family obtained a court order last spring from Judge Lawrence O’Toole of Orphan’s Court, allowing the disinterment.
The exhumation proceeded smoothly. Orthodox Rabbi Yeshaya Biller, of Washington, D.C., an expert in disinterment, supervised it. Two employees of Ralph Schugar Funeral Home assisted.
“Ralph Schugar was so helpful from the beginning,” Frankel said. “It was reassuring for me to know they were there.”
Old prayer books, scrolls and his Poale Zedeck headstone were placed in Tobin’s grave, before it was re-filled.
The casket was “pretty much in tact,” Frankel said. It was placed on plywood boards, moved into a vault, then transferred immediately to Homewood cemetery, where the family held a service officiated by Rabbi Stephanie Wolfe of Beth Samuel Jewish Center.
“We were so young when our father passed away, my mother didn’t want us to attend his actual funeral,” Frankel said, “so it was as if we were there for his funeral. It was emotional, but a good emotional.”
The Tobin family also unveiled a double headstone for Howard and Roberta at the service.
“I think everyone was as pleased as you could be at an event like that,” said Joel Ungar, who attended the exhumation as a representative of Poale Zedeck’s cemetery committee.
“Everything went well,” Ungar said. “Everyone got along. The Tobins are relieved everything went well, and we’re relieved everything went well. I wish the family well.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at tobyt@thejewishchronicle .net.)