San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Services lower funeral costs for U.S. vets

From the print edition

Retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Melvin Goldberg helps tend to the affairs of veterans from the United States who pass away in Costa Rica. Goldberg, recently inked a contract with Polini Funeral Home to provide special prices for cremation, and funeral and repatriation services to departed veterans.

“This is something I’m doing to help people,” said Goldberg, who is a member of American Legion Post 12 in Golfito, a southern Pacific port city. “I’m a retired doctor and that’s what my life was, helping people.”

The contract with Polini provides special prices for funeral services for U.S. veterans, members of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR), and family members.

“Our idea is to open coverage for veterans so that in the moment they need services, they don’t have to go to many places or worry about things,” Polini administrator Diego Ugalde said. 

Services include coffin, cremation, autopsy, transportation inside the Central Valley, processing with U.S. Embassy and Costa Rican authorities, embalming services, morgue space at the funeral home, chapel services and burials at sea.

“The prices are quite accessible when compared to other funeral homes,” said Ugalde. “When we made this agreement we made the prices better for funerals, cremations or repatriation of bodies or ashes. In many cases citizens want to return to the home country or their family wants the body or ashes returned. We offer that service as well.”

Cremations cost $750, which can be paid in one year without interest. A discount is offered for a full, one-time payment. Veterans, ARCR members and their families will receive 20 percent discounts on all funeral and repatriation services, or discounts of 30 percent if it is paid in advance. Advance payments can be made over a period of two years without interest, but if the individual dies before completion of payment, the difference must be paid immediately.

Services such as embalming and autopsies will require additional fees. Repatriation of a body back to the U.S. costs about $2,000, Goldberg said.

Goldberg said he has helped handle arrangements for 15 veterans since Memorial Day, including four since the beginning of the year.

“I have guys living here in Costa Rica on $500, $600 or $700 a month from Social Security,” Goldberg said. “That’s not a lot of money. So I feel like I’m helping people. I don’t get paid for this. I don’t get any kind of commission.”

Goldberg added that in the past he has had to help widows of veterans who have suddenly found themselves facing funeral or cremation costs of $1,600 or more. Bringing down that cost, he said, is the reason for the new contract with Polini.

Montesacro Funeral Home, which has locations in Heredia, north of San José, and San Pedro, east of San José, also offers special rates to veterans for basic cremation services.

Horacio Escobar, administrator of Montesacro Funeral Home in Heredia, said basic cremation service includes a box for cremation, transport of the body within the greater metropolitan area, all paperwork required by the Health Ministry, autopsy, cremation, an urn for the ashes, a wooden box to hold the urn and all paperwork and processes required by the Civil Registry. The cost is $800.

For more information, contact Polini Funeral Home at 2223-4333 or visit For Montesacro Funeral Home, call 2560-6711 (Heredia), 2253-8181 (San Pedro) or email

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