Syracuse mortuary school closure sad for some

After an investigation by the State Attorney General’s Office, a 100-year-old school in Syracuse is closing its doors for good.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – After an investigation by the State Attorney General’s Office, a 100-year-old school in Syracuse is closing its doors for good.

The Simmons Institute of Mortuary Science announced on its website that its current students will be allowed to graduate but the school will be accepting no more applications after that.

The school made the announcement the same week as a settlement with the Attorney General for a lawsuit against the school and its president, Maurice Wightman, for sexual harassment, inappropriately touching female students, and discrimination against pregnant students and teachers.

The school agreed to pay $30,000 to the victims and to change it practices in policies, but has now announced that it would close.

Despite the scandal, the school has more than a century of history educating funeral directors.

For many alumni, the closure brings sadness.

Joe Farrone of Farrone and Sons grew up watching his father and grandfather in the funeral business.

“And I guess you see the gratification that they have – to the family and they maybe instill it into you,” Farrone said.

The Simmons School’s legacy is evident throughout the Syracuse area.

Most of the funeral directors either attended the school, or they know someone who did.

“It was local and my father had a great experience there, my father had a great experience there. There were great teachers there, great class mates,” said Marie Farrone.

Five members of the Farrone family attended the Simmons School – and they hoped to send another generation there.

“My son is thinking about going into the business so now he can’t do it locally,” Marie Farrone said.

Mortuary Schools are hard to come by because they teach skills that can’t be obtained elsewhere.

“You learn about the law of funeral directing, and then we learn embalming, dressing and casketing, cosmetology, restorative art, biology, chemistry,” Marie Farrone said.

There are only four such schools left in New York State.

Because of its uniqueness, the Simmons School brought people to Syracuse from outside the area.

“I graduated with 30 and probably half were from out of state,” Marie Farrone said.

Students now pursuing the vocation will need to go elsewhere.

The Farrones want to keep the funeral business within their family, but they say it may be challenging without the Simmons School nearby.

Other mortuary schools are operated in Troy, Canton, New York City, and Long Island.

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