New Orleans woman celebrated party-style at her unorthodox funeral

Posted June 14, 2014, at 8:19 a.m.
Last modified June 17, 2014, at 7:05 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS — When Miriam “Mae-Mae” Burbank succumbed to cancer earlier this month, her New Orleans family determined the funeral would be no ordinary celebration of her life.

Instead of a traditional casket, the deceased 53-year-old was seated at a table for the two days of services that concluded Friday, with a menthol cigarette in hand, disco balls overhead, a can of her preferred Busch beer in front of her and a bottle of Jack Daniels within reach.

“They wanted to do her the way she lived,” said Bishop Percy McCray, a longtime friend who officiated at her funeral. “That’s the way she lived her life. That’s what she liked to do.”

A lifelong New Orleans Saints fan, Burbank was dressed in the football team’s colors — gold and black — with matching nail polish.

The area around her at the Charbonnet Funeral Home, done up to look like a living room, was roped off, with the remainder of the room divided between areas resembling a church and a nightclub, McCray said.

McCray, who works at the funeral home, said visitors attending another funeral and passers-by from the street alike marveled at Burbank in her final glory.

“Some people said, ‘That’s the way I want to go out!’” McCray said. “It was exciting.”

It is not the first time the funeral home has honored an unorthodox funeral request, McCray said. Two years ago, noted jazz and blues singer “Uncle” Lionel Batiste was propped up to stand to greet his mourners for the final time.

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