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Funeral Mix-Up for Virginia Family: 'This is Something You Read in a Fiction Novel'

Reports say that the funeral home mixed up bodies. Friends, family were gathered this weekend to pay respects to retired U.S. Army Col. Joseph Malvin "Mal" Chapman, who died Nov. 21.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Joseph Malvin "Mal" Chapman of Fairfax died Nov. 21. Photo: Everly-Wheatley Funeral Home
Retired U.S. Army Col. Joseph Malvin "Mal" Chapman of Fairfax died Nov. 21. Photo: Everly-Wheatley Funeral Home

By Mary Ann Barton

A man who traveled to Northern Virginia to mourn the loss of his 80-year-old twin brother got a shock over the Thanksgiving holiday when he looked down to see a stranger in the casket, dressed in his brother's decorated Army colonel uniform.

Alvin Chapman of Dyersburg, Tenn., came to Northern Virginia for the viewing and funeral of his twin, retired Col. Joseph Malvin "Mal" Chapman, who died Nov. 21, according to WJLA-TV.

Malvin Chapman, a Fairfax man who was to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, reportedly was buried in someone else's grave.

"This just isn’t right. This should never, never happen. This is something you read in a fiction novel or see in a movie on TV,” James McLain told the TV station. McLain is the son of Joseph Malvin Chapman.

A viewing was to be held at Everly Funeral Home in Fairfax on Friday night, followed by a funeral Saturday at Vale United Methodist Church in Oakton.

The family told WJLA that not only did the funeral home mix up the bodies, but they dressed the wrong man in Chapman's uniform, something that took their father 28 years to earn.

“My dad’s uniform... that’s degradation beyond words for a military man,” McLain told the TV station.

During his 28 years of service in the US Army as a Signals and Communications officer, Chapman served tours in Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and two tours in Germany. He also served in multiple stateside locations, including the Pentagon, where he met and married Carolyn Alderton in 1977. (Carolyn died in 2006.) His final active duty position before retirement in 1983 was as the Post Commander at Vint Hill Farms Station in Warrenton.

The funeral home refused to say where Chapman’s body is, according to WJLA. However, Everly's manager told McLain that his father has been buried in Winchester and that a judge will have to order an exhumation, the TV station reported.

"Mal" always looked forward to the bi-weekly Monday Morning breakfast meetings with the United Methodist Men's group, the Fuddy-Duddys, according to his obituary on the Everly website.

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