Header Image
In This Issue
President's Message
WCCFA Board, Member Meeting Notes
How cremation makes it seem the death rate is declining
Greenview Cemetery: new children's book by Seattle author
Why are we forgetting the importance of memorialization?
2011 Mortality Data
Assorted Useful Links
Suppliers: Interested in advertising?
Bulletin Board: Student Interns Positions sought
The INSIDER 

Vol. I, Issue VIII

Happy Halloween 

FairmountDirector's Line
by Dave Ittner, General Manager
Fairmount Memorial Association
WCCFA Vice President

Many times I have heard or read the old adage that change is the only constant in life. However, things that are often said frequently go unheard until you find yourself right in the middle of a situation. The past 9 months at Fairmount Memorial Association have been full of change; some of it easy and some of it requiring hours and days of research and hard work. As we get closer to the end of this long year, I am (gratefully) starting to see the first fruits of our labor.

 

Change is not always a function of the old way being bad (most of what I know about this business actually came before the changes this year at Fairmount); change sometimes becomes necessary due to external factors beyond our control. Obviously the cremation rate in Washington falls into this category. Some, including our operation, have been slow to alter their aim when it comes to capturing the cremation customer. Warren Buffet once said "In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks." I believe this is true for the cemetery business with regards to cremation and the changes happening at Fairmount Memorial Association.

 

I have come to learn that change is most easily accomplished by a team; getting people to buy in can be difficult but is necessary. By team of course I mean both management and staff members working together to forge a strategic plan for the coming months and years. However, team also extends further. As many of you know, I have leaned heavily on the "team" all across the state. Countless times I have sent emails and made phone calls to many WCCFA members (suppliers included), asking questions regarding pricing, endowment care, standard operating procedures and more. In every case, these members came through with extremely helpful information; most went above and beyond anything I could have expected. Speaking for all of Fairmount, we are tremendously grateful for the support and willingness to help by the members of the WCCFA; it speaks volumes about the value of belonging to this organization.

 

This sharing of information has proven invaluable to the strategic planning process at Fairmount and has initiated numerous changes to our operation. If you find yourself confronted by the necessity or inevitability of change, remind yourself that you do not have to take it on alone. There is a team out there willing to help. If you have been putting of making much needed changes in your organization and feel you don't have the time, remember this from Life's Little Instruction Book: "Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein." 

 

You can link to Fairmount Memorial Association's Facebook page here.

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Premier 2-29-2012 
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WCCFA Board,
Membership Meeting Notes
The board of the WCCFA met twice during our annual convention, and the membership met once.
 
Board meeting August 9, 2012
  • Accepted minutes of March 13, 2012 board meeting
  • Approved executive committee actions including
    • 3/16: approved executive director to sign her 3/15 paycheck
    • 4/29: approved supplier member application for Coastal BSG
    • 5/1: approved supplier member application for Brickman Group
    • 6/3: approved supplier member application for GroupSource
    • 6/11: directed rollover of First Savings Bank CD for a 3-month term, leaving the minimal interest earned during last investment period in the corpus of the CD
    • 7/3: awarded Student Convention Scholarship to Dana McLeod (who later had to withdraw, so it was awarded to Cassandra Englert, another application)
    • 8/2: approved Life Time Membership for Jack Harding
  • Discussed nomination process for director elections
  • Approved PMI Mortuary Service as a voting member funeral home
  • Reviewed YTD trial balance (distributed at meeting, available on request)
  • Directed rollover of First Savings Bank to another 3-month term
  • Discussed decision not to continue merger discussions with WSFDA

 

Member meeting August 11, 2012 

  • Briefly discussed decision not to continue merger discussions
  • President Duffy thanked outgoing members Dave Riggs, George Nemeth and Jim Fischer
  • Introduction of nominees for Supplier Director position
    • Lisa Bijold (Cold Spring Granite)
    • Erik Fermstad (Automatic Wilbert Vault)
  • Nominated to run for the two three-year Director positions
    • Denny York (Fairmount Memorial Association, Spokane)
    • Craig Hudson (Mountain View Cemetery, Auburn)
    • Jim Hammond (New Tacoma Cemeteries & Funeral Home, Tacoma)
  • Elections held. Denny York and Craig Hudson elected to three-year Director terms, Erik Fermstad elected to Supplier Director position
  • Reviewed and discussed Audit Committee 2010 Report and YTD financials (distributed at membership meeting, available on request)
  • Appointed committee for 2013 convention: Kirk Duffy, Jim Fischer and Erik Fermstad.
  • General discussion on enhancing membership services, legislative monitoring, etc.

 

 Board meeting August 11, 2012

  • Voted to retain current slate of officers:
    • Kirk Duffy, President
    • Dave Ittner, Vice President
    • Greg Simard, Past President
  • Kirk re-appointed George Nemeth as Secretary-Treasurer (though George no longer a WCCFA director, this position can be appointed from among members in good standing)
  • Retained same executive committee - made up of the current officers
  • Kirk will discuss with WSFDA's president possibility of forming a joint legislative committee
  • Miscellaneous discussions on ways to expand membership, encourage more municipal members, possible value-added member services, inviting People's Memorial to join WCCFA, enhance cemetery-oriented programming at conferences and conventions

 

The WCCFA board will next meet on November 8, 2012 at Evergreen-Washelli in Seattle. As always, the meeting is open to the membership.

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 Matthews new 1-12-12  

 

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How cremation makes it seem like the death rate is declining

 

We've all heard and seen it. It seems that the number of deaths each year is declining. How can this be? Until somebody passes a law against dying that can actually be enforced, every person in our ever-increasing population will eventually shuffle off this mortal coil.

 

But we hear it all the time: "Cremation isn't a big deal here; we hardly do any. But what I can't understand is why the death rate is falling." Many funeral directors and cemeterians are wondering the same thing. Why do there seem to be fewer deaths, even though cremation does not seem to be having a big impact locally?

  

 

The sky (or at least the death rate) is falling! Or is it?

Yes, many funeral homes and cemeteries are seeing a declining number of cases each year. But is that fact really due to fewer deaths occurring?

 

Let us first make clear that the death rate is not falling. People are continuing to die in ever-increasing numbers. Despite doom and gloom by some funeral pundits, this is not going to change. Everyone will die, though death may be delayed. Medical science has increased life expectancy in the last century, postponing death for many.

 

And death may be relocated. Population migration patterns affect local death rates. In other words, if all retirement-age people moved to Florida en masse, deaths elsewhere would drop while Florida's would dramatically increase.

 

Batesville adBoth of these related factors are relevant to local death rates, but in most cases, their impact is out weighed to some extent by population increases.

 

As long as the population increases in a particular area, the annual number of deaths also will increase. This makes intuitive sense. A certain percentage of the population dies each year. Nationally, in the U.S. this amounts to about 7.9 people per 1000 population annually (2009 figures).

 

This number, the annual death rate (ADR), varies predominantly as a function of the age distribution of the population and also is affected somewhat by medical and health advances.

 

Over the last 30 years (between 1979 and 2009), the average ADR in the United States dropped by 7%, from 8.5 to 7.9, while the population increased by 37%. However, it is important to note that annual deaths over that period increased by 28%.

 

In other words, the percentage of the population that died each year dropped, but since the population grew so much, the actual number of people dying each year (which in terms of death care services means the number of potential cases) went up.

 

Cremation doesn't matter. Or does it?

Cremation has been increasing in all states since the 1970s. Cremation rates now range (in 2010) from 13.8% in Mississippi to 73.5% in Nevada, averaging 40.6% for the country as a whole.

 

Cremation is least favored in the South and near the Mississippi River. Cremation rates generally increase as one moves away from the river to the north east and southwest and, most dramatically, to the west.

US-CR-Map    

This map shows the distribution of cremation rates by state (in 2010) with lower rates represented by cooler (blue) colors and higher rates shown in warmer (red) colors.

 

Though most ICCFA members know otherwise, many other death-care professionals, particularly in areas where cremation rates are still low, think the effect of cremation is overstated in the trade press. This is not so.

 

Despite what you may be seeing at your local funeral home or cemetery and regardless of what the current cremation rate is in your area, cremation is a very big deal. In fact, cremation has supplied all of the growth in the after-death care industry over the last 30 years and is expected to continue to do so for the next 25.

 

This may seem to be a rather bold assertion, so let's take a look at the facts that support it.

 

Cremation rates are increasing everywhere

In every state, regardless of the current rate (high or low) the cremation rate is increasing. This increasing cremation rate in most cases is outstripping the growth rates in both population and deaths.

 

Chart 1 shows the annual cremation rate in the 48 contiguous states and the percentage of deaths each year between 1990 and 2010.chart 1

 

Note that sandwiched between the state with the lowest current cremation rate (Mississippi, shown in blue) and the state with the highest (Nevada, shown in red), all of the rates increased over that period. These rates have risen steadily everywhere since the 1970s and show no sign of slowing down.

 

Last one worry that the rates at the top and (as shown by Nevada at 73.5%) are near their peak, one need only look to the Canadian province of British Columbia immediately adjacent to Washington state. The cremation rate in this west coast province reached 81.4% in 2010 and has shown no sign of slowing down.

 

But that doesn't affect our operation! Does it?

Most people accept that the effect of cremation will be great in the states with high cremation rates, since this seems intuitively obvious. So if your funeral home or cemetery is in Nevada, for example, the state with the highest cremation rate in 2010 at 73.5% (compared to the national average cremation rate of 40.6%), you can expect your operation to be strongly affected by cremation.

 

You might think this logically implies that where the cremation rate is low, it will have a lesser effect. Surely, if you're lucky enough to be operating a funeral home or cemetery in a state with a low cremation rate, your organization won't be affected very much by cremation.

 

The counter to such intuition, the exact opposite is true. What is relevant is the growth in the cremation rate through time. Let us examine as examples the states with the highest and lowest current cremation rate, Nevada and Mississippi, respectively.

 

link here to read the rest of this article.

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book review:

Greenview Cemetery

(by Seattle artist Greg Lundgren)

 

Cemeteries can often evoke scary and uneasy feelings for children. Greg Lundgren, a founder of Lundgren Monuments in Seattle, decided to try and change that view with a new children's book called "Greenview Cemetery." The book, which was published this year, gives an imaginative look into the world of cemeteries.

Viewpoint  

 

Lundgren is a Seattle-based artist, designer and a founder of Lundgren Monuments. He has been a professional glass designer for 17 years with a strong background in architectural design, furniture, historical restoration and fine art. But Lundgren decided to try a new venture: Writing children's books.

 

 

The new book for children, titled "Greenview Cemetery," explores the fear that some people might have when visiting a cemetery. However, this book takes that fear and turns it into a fun-filled journey.

 

The book tells the story of Professor Harvey McGee, an eccentric inventor who dies and leaves behind a very strange invention - a robotic headstone named THEO 3000. Once placed in Greenview Cemetery by a man named Harold, THEO 3000 entertains the locals and transforms the once inactive and scary memorial park into a landscape rich with sculpture and legacy.

 

The story attemGreenview illustrationpts to convey the importance of art and individuality in the cemetery, and how cultural and family history is preserved in a cemetery.

 

Although the book will attract children with its unique story and easy-to-read format, cemeterians will love that the book focuses on the ways to memorialize loved ones in a personal way. "Greenview Cemetery" also shows that cemeteries can be a great place to visit, full of memories and personal stories.

  

What's most interesting about the children's story is that the beautiful illustrations, by Jed Dunkerley, are completely colorless. This gives the opportunity for children to color in the book however they wish.

 Maybe

Lundgren also recently published another book for children, titled "Maybe Death is Like a Light." The book uses simple, everyday events and ideas to help open up a healthy conversation and investigation of life and death, and  what exactly it may be. The book is written and illustrated by Lundgren, and it attempts to give children and adults alike a starting place to explore and reimagine what death really is, in a positive, imaginative way.

 

 

You can reach Greg Lundgren by emailLink to the Lundgren Monuments Facebook page here.

 

 

 

 

Article from American Cemetery magazine for October 2012, reprinted in its entirety with permission. Link to their Facebook page here.

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Why are people forgetting the

importance of memorialization?

by David Quiring, Owner,

Quiring Monuments, Seattle

 

I've recently been thinking a lot about are dramatically changing funeral industry. It seems to me that, as Dorothy said, "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." And, I keep wondering, if we're not in Kansas - where are we?

Deeker  

For example, take this quote by William Gladstone, former prime minister in England:

 

"Show me the manner in which a nation or a community cares for its dead and I will answer with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the law of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals."

 

We discuss this quote in my "Designing Meaningful Memorial" seminars, and most attendees agree that our world has changed since Gladstone's time - unfortunately, the changes are not all good. Many people in these classes tell me they feel powerless when discussing the value of funerals, burial and memorialization with the families they serve.

 

Recently, I was talking with some friends about funerals and, as usual, one person was very adamant about not wanting a funeral. I recommended that they probably shouldn't take control of their own funeral. They won't be around, and it won't matter to them. Whether or not they have a funeral should be a decision that the surviving family member should make.

 

So, why are more and more people forgoing a funeral and permanent cemetery memorialization for their loved one these days? Has Jessica Mitford's attitude toward American death and burial become the rule rather than the exception it was 50 years ago? Has Gladstone's loyalty to high ideals fallen to such a level that disposing of a loved one's body is just taking care of business? Or, have society's values and morals actually changed? And, most important, can we change with it?

 

For thousands of years, man has found support in the funeral gatherings that are provided for survivors. When coupled with a permanent burial location and a personalized memorial, funeral professionals know that there is great value in going through these processes. Unfortunately, many of our customers don't understand the benefits like we do.

pontem new 9-2012  

To continue to provide these valuable services, we must first understand the issues that are compelling people to forgo traditional funeral services.

 

Cost

One of the primary issues I hear about is cost. 15 years ago, most funerals were paid for with life insurance. Today, many funerals are paid for out of pocket by the bereaved. I have also heard more funerals are being paid for with cash collected family and friends just before the service.

 

Certainly the recent downturn in the economy has much to do with the limited amount of money available for funeral, Cemetery plot and headstone. At Quiring Monuments, we provide permanent memorials in all price ranges, and I'm sure many of you do something similar. But, has the cost of death care risen to where clients can't justify buying them any longer?

 

Location and Community

Then, there are the location and community you choose. Will a person be buried in their hometown, close to their parents or across the country and close to their children and grandchildren? Family members may even have settled all over the world.

 

As families become dispersed, there are fewer people who will attend grandma's funeral. In decades past, communities were tighter knit, and many people would be likely to pay their respects. People attended funerals to support the community they belong to, not only because they were close to the deceased.

 

Perceived Value

While cost and location are reasons that are often used for not having a funeral, I think the biggest issue is of perceived value. Today, many folks are opting for direct cremation and scattering without understanding the lasting value that you will provide. A person will make this choice, and then tell their loved ones, thinking they're ensuring their death won't be a burden to their family. They are trying to make their passing is easy and painless possible by requesting recognition and expense.

 

It is easy to say, "I don't want a funeral for myself." But we in the funeral industry know that the value we provide is for the deceased. We know the funeral, the cemetery plot, and the memorial stone are services provided for the benefit of the bereaved.

  

A Solution

Can we turn this around or are these changes and immutable force that will compel our profession to go the way of the buggy whip manufacturers? Fortunately, I think it is possible for us to become a factor in the solution.

 

Maybe we aren't in Kansas anymore but if we come together make a plan and do something as an industry, we can re-educate the world on the values that will memorialization industry provides. It may take a marketing program on the order of "Got Milk?" with psychologist spokespersons and other experts in death and dying field advocating in public value funerals. Or, perhaps we energize a nationwide grassroots program that begins the cemetery and funeral directors, monument designers, bald manufacturers and florists.

 

We are a caring profession that does a lot of good for the families we serve. We must find a way to broach this subject on a national platform-properly educating our current and future clients. Together we could help families realize that it isn't a choice that is only about the money or avoiding the difficult decisions but one that could have lasting value to them and to the future generations of their family.

 

You can contact David Quiring at davidq@monuments.com. Link to their Facebook page here.

 

Article from American Cemetery Magazine for October 2012, reproduced in its entirety with permission.

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The gift of aftercare

 

This weekend, I was taken by all of the political signs around my neighborhood and how everyone is doing everything possible to pump up voter registration. There seems to be this big movement about being a responsible citizen, a responsible voter and responsible businesspeople.

 

It is amazing that we all get on the bandwagon about being responsible individuals, professionals and responsible businesspeople during election years. What happens the rest of the time? Aren't we supposed to be responsible all the time?

 

Wilbert 4-2012When it comes to our personal and professional lives, aren't we challenged with doing the right thing? If this is truly the case, then don't we owe it to our consumer clients to provide responsible professional services that truly provide the type of service we profess is the standard for funeral care? Aren't we as professionals supposed to provide services that not only take care of the deceased, but care for the family that is left behind as they try to create a new normal for themselves? After all, the funeral service profession has claimed forever that funerals are for the living. We have professed that the service is all about helping people adjust to their lives without the person who has died. We have told the media that funerals are about gaining the support of friends and family so the grieving individuals do not have to walk him the journey of grief alone. We tell the public that the funeral helps to celebrate a life. It is about helping the surviving family members and friends confront the reality of death.

 

But, does the funeral alone show that we care for the living too? Does taking care of the body show that we are dedicated to helping surviving family members and friends adjust to life without the person who has died? I would have to say no. I say no, because after working with grieving individuals for the past 29 years, I have learned that many individuals claimed they were so numb during the funeral process that they don't remember a lot of what was said or done. Their memories about the funeral are often times those things that they have heard about or learn about from others who were present for the visitation and funeral. It is the things that the funeral director and their staff did after the funeral that had the lasting impression. It was the fact that they received the follow-up phone call from the funeral home staff or were invited to attend a support group or special memorial program provided by the funeral home. It was the fact that someone from the funeral home remembered the anniversary date of the death of their loved one. It was the fact that the funeral home staff not only talked about but demonstrated that they cared long after the initial funeral process. It was the fact that they truly mattered to someone when they were feeling so abandoned by others.

 

LEES-4-2012You see aftercare or follow-up services are what the family remembers most because that is the time that their numbness has worn off. That is the time that most people have expected them to be back to normal. So when the funeral home staff reaches out to them, it seems that someone really understands their grief and realizes that the pain did not turn off at the gravesite.

 

Whether you make a phone call, provide special literature about grief and coping, send a magazine or newsletter, conduct a holiday program, send an anniversary card or conduct a monthly support group, you are simply being a responsible business person and a responsible citizen. You are showing interest in people you serve and doing the right thing. That alone has to be good for business.

 

Don't just be responsible during election years, be responsible all the time. After all, that is what we expect from our paid officials. And that is what others want from us.

 

Sherry L. Williams RN, BA, GMS, GRS, is the president and founder of New Leaf Resources, a division of Sherry Williams Enterprises, Incorporated. She was the cofounder of Accord Inc. and has been involved in grief and bereavement training and services for the past 22 years. She has an associate degree in nursing from the University of Kentucky extension program and a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Bellarmine College in Louisville Kentucky. Sherry is a nationally certified grief management specialist and has advanced certification as a bereavement facilitator from the American Academy of Bereavement and is certified by the Grief Recovery Institute as a Grief Recovery Specialist. She has been a featured speaker for numerous organizations including the National Funeral Directors Association and the Association for Death Education. She can be reached by e-mail at Sherry@newleaf-resources.com. Visit New Leaf Resources and Sherry Williams Enterprises, Incorporated at www.newleaf-resources.com.

 

Article from Nomis Funeral Home & Cemetery News for October 2012, reproduced in its entirety with permission.

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The Washington State Funeral & Cemetery Board welcomes

Jeffrey Wilson to the board

 

Mr. Wilson Graduated from Spokane Falls Community College and Mount Hood Community College Funeral Service Education. He has been a licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer for 33 years working at several locations in Eastern and Central Washington, including Telford's Chapel of the Valley in East Wenatchee and currently at Heritage Memorial Chapel in East Wenatchee. Jeffrey has been a member of Lions International for over 25 years and the greater Wenatchee Sunrise Lions for over 17 years. He has twice served as president of the Washington State Funeral Directors Association Central District and the Wenatchee Valley Chapter of Compassionate Friends.

 

Thank you,

Funeral & Cemetery Board Staff

Skip a trip - go online

www.dol.wa.gov

 

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Quiring Monuments Wins Two Awards at American Institute of Commemorative Art 2012 Memorial Design Contest

 

Seattle, WA, October 31, 2012 - The design committee of the American Institute of Commemorative Art, which is dedicated to increasing the artistic quality of cemetery memorials, selected Quiring's Josh C. Murdock memorial and its Tears Foundation memorial for 1st and 34d place awards in their respective categories.

 

David Quiring said, "We are honored to be chosen by this prestigious organization in North America from the more than 100 submissions from the USA and Canada. Personalized memorials reflect the uniqueness of our people and provide a permanent focal point for family and friends to work their way through the grieving process."

 

AICA1The Josh Murdock memorial won 1st place in the Single/Companion Markers category. When the Murdock family called Quiring Monuments with ideas for Josh's memorial they had some very specific ideas that David knew would be best captured in Quiring's tri-tone sand-carving process. Josh was an avid fisherman and the foremost image on the memorial is a portrait of Josh fly-fishing and giving the special "look" that reconnects his family to him every time they see his face. Josh is from the U.S. and his wife is from Canada. The Canadian and U.S. flags are symbols of their union and were present at their marriage. The tree in the upper right corner represents their family tree and the four leaves, their four children. Josh worked as a commercial pilot and his float plane is depicted in detail while the poem "High Flight" surrounds the outside edge of the memorial and is an expression of the joy flying gave him.

 

The Tears Foundation memorial won 3rd place in the Public/Civic Memorials category. Quiring donated this memorial to an organization that is a national group assisting bereaved parents with the financial expenses of making final arrangements for their baby who has died. The central table features an inlay of newly-developed DuPont SentryGlas(R) that is interlayered with proprietary ink-jet technology and then laminated between sheets of special safety glass. This memorial allows for the names of infants to be added to the memorial thereby creating a permanent place for the grieving families to visit. More butterfly wing tablets will be added as needed.

tears duo 

To learn more about Quiring Monuments, you can visit their website at www.monuments.com or you can watch their movie explaining Living Headstones (R) - Internet Connected Memorials that were pioneered by this 62-year-old Seattle monument company. Link to their Facebook page here.

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Cremation Cremation rates continuedChart 2

 

Chart 2 shows the annual number of cremation burials in Nevada over 20 years. The population (hence the deaths) has been increasing in Nevada over the last few decades, and the annual number of deaths more than doubled from 9659 in 1990 to 20,367 in 2010 (a 111% increase).

 

Despite the fact that there were more than twice as many deaths in 2010 as in 1990,the annual number of casket burials increased only slightly, from 4650 in 1990 to 5405 in 2010 (a 17% increase over 20 years), supported by the rapid growth in deaths.

 

On the other hand, annual cremations tripled 5009 in 1990 to 14,962 in 2010 (a 199% increase). In other words, the growth in after-death care occurred almost entirely in handling cremations.

 

It is not as immediately obvious that the effect of cremation is just as dramatic in states with lower cremation rates. Nevertheless, cremation is the driver of growth even in those states. Take, for example, the state with the lowest cremation rate in 2010, Mississippi. Its cremation rate that year was 13.8%, compared to the US average cremation rate 40.6%. This would seem to indicate that cremation has had little impact in Mississippi, but that would be the wrong conclusion to draw.

 

Chart 3 Chart 3 shows the annual number of cremation burials in Mississippi between 1990 and 2010. The annual number of deaths grew much more modestly in Mississippi than in Nevada, increasing from 24,457 in 1990 to 28,302 in 2010 (a 16% increase).

 

The annual number of casket burials increased only negligibly, from 24,007 in 1990 to 24,384 in 2010 (a less than 2% increase over 10 years). Annual cremations, however, increased almost 8-fold, from 450 in 1990 to 3918 in 2010 (a 771% increase).

 

The growth in after-death care in this low-cremation state occurred entirely in cremation.

 

The moral of this story is that regardless of the current cremation rate in your state, be it low or high, what matters is the growth in the cremation rate. That growth-which is occurring in all states-will absorb all of the growth in deaths, resulting in flat or declining numbers of casket burials.

 

You can see in both chart 2 (Nevada) and chart 3 (Mississippi) that the annual number of casket burials has stayed relatively flat over the past 20 years. Virtually all of the growth in the number of deaths has resulted in more cremations being performed.

 

This is true regardless of whether the state had a low initial cremation rate or a high one. What makes the difference is the growth in the cremation rate, and that has occurred everywhere.

 

In fact, those states that initially have lower cremation rates have seen a much larger impact due to cremation than those with a higher rate.

 

Cremation rates have been rising steadily since the mid-1970s, as shown in chart 4. Over the last five years, that growth has averaged 1.7% per year (in an absolute sense), or 5% over the course of three years.

 

Consider a state with an initial cremation rate of 65%. In three years its cremation rate would have risen to 70%. If the annual number of deaths didn't increase over that period, the increase in annual cremation would be only 7.6%.

 

However, in a state with a 15% initial cremation rate and no increase in annual deaths, the rise in annual cremations would be more than 33%.

 

Those states with lower initial cremation rates have been more significantly affected by the rising cremation rates than others.

 

In states with exceptionally high growth rates in population and deaths, the number of annual casket burials was dragged upward slightly, along with the number of cremations, but the majority of growth still occurred in cremation.

 

Chart 4 It can be shown that over the past 40 years, virtually all of the growth in after-death care has occurred in cremation. Chart 4 shows annual deaths, burials and cremations in the United States between 1960 and 2010 as well as forecast to 2030.

 

Note the total annual deaths (as shown by the top of the red area) have increased from 1.7 million in 1960 to 3.2 million in 2010. Though there are individual years in which the annual number of deaths decreased, the inevitable trend is that as the population increases, the number of deaths also increases.

 

What is particularly striking is the slight decline in annual casket burials (shown in the brown area) between 1970 and 2000. This trend accelerated in the last decade, with a rapid decrease in the number of casket burials between 2000 and 2010, a decrease that is projected to continue (as depicted on chart 4, which shows the brown area continuing to decrease between 2010 and 2030).

 

Cremation (as shown in the red area) can be seen to accommodate all of the increase in deaths, as well as making inroads into the number of casket burials. This trend is expected to continue for the next 25 years as cremation rates continue to rise.

 

You may think the U.S. Census Bureau's published forecast for deaths between now and 2030 is too high, but as the population continues to grow, the annual number of deaths will continue to rise by some amount. But rising cremation rates will mean that despite more deaths, there will be fewer traditional casket burials.

 

If casketed burials aren't disappearing, can't I just hold onto that business?

Casket burials will not disappear; they will continue to be chosen by consumers for a variety of cultural, religious and personal reasons. But there will be little or no growth (or even a decline) in casketed burials in your area.

 

 The upshot of this is that in the absence of competitive pressure, the funeral home or cemetery will be holding a share of a declining market. If you want to perform the same number of casketed burials in the future, you will have to do so at the expense of competitors.

 

Every funeral home and cemetery will have to fight for an increased share of this declining market just to keep stable numbers. Unlike the past, it will be impossible for everyone's operations to grow together in a declining market for casketed burials.

 

Cremation, on the other hand, provides the opportunity for all operations to grow, as a rising tide raises all boats. Even if you merely maintain your market share (of local cremations), your annual number of cremations will increase as the total market size increases.

 

All of this is not to suggest that anyone should neglect casketed burials in future business plans. To the contrary, as long as your competitors are not increasing market share at your expense, casketed burials likely will continue to represent a similar unit volume year-over-year.

 

But if you want to expand marketing efforts to increase the casketed dispositions your organization handles, you must, as noted above, take that increased volume away from competitors. Cremation may offer better value for marketing dollars if only because that is the market segment accruing all of the growth in after-death care.

 

Article by Fraser Drysdale, MBA, who is a senior consultant with Hilton Landmarks, Waterloo, Ontario, a full-service cemetery consulting firm, which offers cemetery and feature design; business, market and cemetery master planning; and project management. Drysdale has spent the last 11 years focused on the death-care business, primarily on cemetery management. He has completed cemetery business plans, marketing plans, feasibility studies, and down care adequacy analyses and demand/need analyses for cemeteries of all sizes. He has an MBA from the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary and experience in the oil and gas, manufacturing and investment industries. The article is reprinted in its entirety with permission from the ICCFA Magazine for October 2012.

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Wilbert Precast PNG
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2011 Mortality Data for Washington state now available

 

Follow the links below to view three reports: 1) counts by funeral home, 2) counts by autopsy and disposition by county of residence, and 3) counts by autopsy and disposition by county of occurrence.

 

Autopsy & Burial by Residence 

 

Autopsy & Burial Occurrence by County

 

Occurrence Counts by Funeral Home

 

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Assorted Useful Links

 

Washington State Funeral and Cemetery Board

 

WSFDA: Washington State Funeral Directors Association

 

ICCFA: International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association

 

CANA: Cremation Association of North America

 

NFDA: National Funeral Directors Association

 

CAO: Cemetery Association of Oregon

 

OFDA: Oregon Funeral Directors Association

 

MBNA: Monument Builders of North America

 

PNMBA: Pacific Northwest Monument Builders Association 

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Student Interns - Positions Wanted

 

If you are willing to take on an unpaid funeral student intern for a 12-week period, please contact Erin Wilcox at Lake Washington Institute of Technology Funeral Service Education program. 360-320-8438 or email to:erin.wilcox@lwtech.edu.

Students are in the last quarter of the program, have an academic intern license issued by the State of Washington, OSHA training, and required immunizations.
  
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THE WCCFA INSIDERis published by and for the members of the Washington Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association. News articles and press releases are welcome and are published on a space-available and suitability basis.

 

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