Nearly a year after her death at 96, the widow of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse finally has been cremated.
Joy Culverhouse's estranged son, Hugh Jr., said her ashes arrived by mail late last week at his Coral Gables home.
"While not a Chinese food box, they are in a cardboard box," he said today.
The cremation was the latest chapter in the bitter, sometimes bizarre fight over Culverhouse's multi-million dollar estate. Hugh Jr. and sister Gay — who accuse their mother's grandson and two other men of taking financial advantage her — had refused to allow disposition of her remains without an autopsy on her brain and access to her medical records.
But after a probate judge in Tampa denied the autopsy request in December, the two sides agreed to go ahead with the cremation.
"Enough time had passed and at that point Gay and I talked and said, 'Look, we'll get the info about mom during the lawsuit,'" Hugh Jr. said, referring to the ongoing probate battle.
After her death April 26, Joy Culverhouse's body remained at a Tampa funeral home until the cremation in Temple Terrace on March 13. Her son said he initially planned to scatter her ashes on the golf course at the University of Alabama, where she was the women's state golf champion and where she met her future husband while both were students. Hugh Jr. has donated $2.7 million to the school to endow golf scholarships in his mother's name.
After further thought, Hugh Jr. said, he decided to bury the ashes in his backyard "where I'm going to be buried."
"At least I'll have somebody to fight with when I die," he said. "Mom is going to be put right by my two cats and I right by my mom and when we get bored we can argue or laugh, which was normal for us."
According to representatives of Culverhouse's estate, she wanted nothing to do with her adult children and once called them a "greedy twosome" who had "gotten all they're going to get from me."
But the children say that Culverhouse's grandson, Christopher Chapman — who is Gay's son — had joined with attorney Robert Waltuch and accountant Scott Lynch to take advantage of a woman addled by age and alcohol abuse. In documents filled in probate court, the children allege that the trio siphoned off part of their mother's assets for "outrageous above-market salaries and bonuses and below-market loans." The three men have denied any wrong-doing.
Hugh Jr. and his sister also are suing Chapman, Waltuch and a South Florida auction house over the sale last year of thousands of dollars worth of Joy Culverhouse's jewelry and other personal possessions. The children allege that auctioneers were instructed not to sell any of the items to Culverhouse's relatives.
Hugh Jr. said he offered $100,000 for scrapbooks containing family photos as well as his mother's original Alabama golf scrapbook, a copy of which is on display at the university.
"The response was, 'Your mother wouldn't want you to have it but if you pay us the money and give us personal releases and drop that lawsuit we will,'" Culverhouse said. He declined.
Through their attorney, the representatives of Joy Culverhouse's estate said Monday she would not have wanted the albums sold to any party. "However, the estate did indicate that it was willing to give the photograph albums to Hugh Culverhouse, Jr. for no compensation whatsoever, but only upon Hugh Culverhouse, Jr. and Gay Culverhouse agreeing to end this litigation," attorney Eric Adams said.
While Culverhouse received most of his mother's cremains, the agreement on cremation called for a tablespoon of ashes to go to Chapman, her grandson. There was no word on what he plans to do with them .
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate