After struggling with the decision, Riposta Funeral Home has determined that "it's just not safe for the families we're serving" to hold its annual remembrance service this year, according to Katie Riposta, managing funeral director.

The event, which usually occurs between Thanksgiving and Christmas, is offered to all in the community who have lost someone, whether they have been a customer of Riposta or not, she said. Although the emphasis is on people who have died in the last year, there are those who attend annually as a way to remember a loved one.

There are poetry and scripture readings, the names of those who have passed are read (if their families give permission), and then there is a social time with refreshments. In addition, each family receives a glass angel ornament to display on a Christmas tree, or elsewhere, as a keepsake.

That aspect of the event will be preserved this year, Riposta said. People should call the funeral home, 338-9191, and let the staff know they would like an angel, and one will be ready for them to pick up. Staff can even bring the ornament outside to those who would prefer not to come in.

She said the funeral home staff will also miss having the annual gathering, which serves as a time for them to speak to families when they are not in as much pain as they were right after their loved one died. "It's heartbreaking for us all not to be able to do this."

Next year, she hopes to be able to have the service again, and to do it in a way that will accommodate any lingering concerns about health and safety.