Peter Stefan, the Worcester funeral home director who took on the unpopular task of giving terror suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev a proper burial, may not fit the common understanding of a hero. But by resisting understandable but nonetheless small-minded pressure from politicians and protesters — some of them demanding that Tsarnaev’s body be “fed to the sharks” — Stefan upheld the decency of the Commonwealth.
The body arrived at Stefan’s funeral home last week because nobody else would take it. Burying a body should not be controversial; presidential assassins, Mafia dons, and executed criminals have all been interred without protest. Still, demonstrators descended on Worcester, and municipal leaders in Boston and Cambridge ruled out burying Tsarnaev on their turf. Politicians, including Senate candidates Gabriel Gomez and Ed Markey, joined the bandwagon, demanding that Stefan ship the remains out of state.
It’s a mark of a civilized people to treat dead bodies, even outcasts and adversaries, with dignity. At a time when others succumbed to hysteria, Stefan held firm. The body left Worcester on Wednesday, and was buried in an undisclosed location.