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In This Issue
Convention Registration Info
Forest Lawn's Annual Remembrance Ceremony
Why You Don't Sell Cars to Cowboys
Renew your membership!
Cemeteries Seek Their Way in a Technological World
ICCFA's KIP Award: Best Practice/Best Personal Touch
Secret Histories of the Dead
Social Media & Funeral Home Employees
Assorted Useful Links
Suppliers: Interested in advertising?
Bulletin Board

Vol. II, Issue III

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Forest Lawn's annual remembrance ceremony

honors Seattle police

who died in line of duty


On June 4, 1994, Seattle Police Detect6ive Antonio Terry stopped his unmarked police car behind a disabled vehicle on an Interstate 5 exit. One of the occupants recognized him as a police officer and shot him, but he was able to drive to the South Precinct, where he gave a description of two suspects.


He died at a hospital three hours later.


Almost 19 years have gone by, but the time has passed quickly, his widow, Cheryl Terry, said Friday at the Seattle Police Memorial Day Remembrance at Forest Lawn Cemetery in West Seattle. Her stepdaughter and two sons, who were 13, 3 and 1 when their [father died], are grown up. And since 1994, five other Seattle police officers have died in the line of duty.


The remembrance is held to remember the fallen officers and pay tribute to the loved ones, colleagues and friends left behind.


"It's important to pay homage and remember our fallen officers," Southwest Precinct Operations Lt. Pierre Davis said. "It also lets survivors know they are not alone."


Being a survivor was a challenge, Terry told an audience of mostly law-enforcement officers. She wasn't sure what the next step would be after her husband was killed. She was angry, but she knew she couldn't let the anger consume her.


"A line-of-duty death is quite a big event," Terry said. "It wasn't something we could go through quietly."


One suspect was convicted of first-degree murder and was sentenced to 33 years in prison in 1997. The other pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 2008 and received a 20-year sentence.


Terry has never felt alone because the Seattle police family supported her. But whenever she hears about another fallen officer, the wound becomes fresh again, she said.


The most recent officer's death occurred on October 31, 2009, when field-training officer Timothy Brenton was ambushed as he sat in his patrol car at the corner of 29th Avenue and East Yesler Way.


"The remembrance brings it all home, that you never know what is behind the door, or at the next traffic stop," Davis said.


The tribute is an annual event organized by the Seattle Police Department and Forest Lawn Cemetery and held in conjunction with the National Peace Officers Memorial Day and National Police Week.


Seattle police and the cemetery are in the beginning stages of building a permanent memorial for [sic] at the cemetery, said Forest Lawn general manager Hank Kerns.


At the end of her speech, Terry talked about her husband's love of the police department and his dedication to his job. Some officers dabbed their eyes as they listened to her speak over the faint sound of their police radios.


"Antonio loved being a cop, and I would never have asked him to do anything else," Terry said. "He would be happy knowing you all were taking care of his family."


article  by Paige Cornwell, Seattle Times staff reporter; sourced from the Seattle Times online, originally published Friday, May 31, 2013 and is reproduced in its entirety with permission.


Milne 2013

Why you don't

sell cars to cowboys


April 29, 2013 by LA ads - a Marketing Agency © 2013


The year is 1913. The automobile is more than a novelty by this time. It is here to stay, and already, in the big cities, cars are beginning to outnumber horses on the major thoroughfares. Every young and growing family of any means has one of these contraptions. And the Ford Motor Company is pumping these babies out as fast as his factory will allow. In fact, if you're Henry Ford, in 1913, you can't imagine that ANYONE would want to be without a car, given its obvious speed, convenience and ability to vastly improve commerce.

crystal ball  

But that same year, anyone who is over 50 has grown up with the horse and buggy and they are far from abandoning the most dependable and affordable form of transportation there is. Out in the countryside, they're even more locked into the old ways. Of course, they're all a dying breed - literally - and one day, maybe in another decade or two, Mr. Ford will be right. But in the meantime, it still pays to be a blacksmith.


The year is 2013. Social media is more than a novelty. And the digital universe will continue to play a growing role in how one makes choices in every area. But there's a market divide here as well: those under 50 who, growing up, depended on television and now the Internet as their major information sources, and those over 50 who grew up with newspapers, books and encyclopedias, news magazines, radio and eight channels of TV to inform their worldview. Those gray-haired Baby Boomers and pre-Boomers aren't ready to give up the old medium forms or use the full potential of the Internet the way their younger counterparts are. They still rely on traditional media and the power of face-to-face relationships to form their opinions. It's how they're hard-wired, even though many Boomers and older seniors may have Facebook accounts and smartphones.


For the visionary marketer under the age of 50, little wonder that he or she see the future the way Henry Ford did in 1913. Soon, EVERYBODY will be wired, interactive, and engaged in the multiplicity of online touch points.


But whoa! If you're reaching buyers over 50, which is the absolutely dominant market for funeral products and services, it still pays to know how to shoe horses!


I spoke last week to a funeral industry group, most of whom are Boomers or older, and they were very clear on the fact that for the next decade at least, Boomers and the older generations will remain the primary target audience. In fact, it was fascinating to note how many of these industry professionals struggled to understand how to use Facebook. Well they're over 50, just like their buyers!


If you're under 50, you might chuckle at these old codgers and say their ways are fast coming to a close. But do remember, the average age of the pre-need buyer is 73. And the bulk of those making at-need arrangements for their dying parents are silently in their 50s. So for at least another decade, these old-school marketers are more on-target then you are.


Young emerging funeral directors and cemeterians need to know how to adapt to the technological and social changes that are underway. But automotively speaking, this is still 1913, not 1930. The changes that should be happening right now aren't so much about how to use Facebook and Twitter but how to speak to the Baby Boomer better, understanding their culture better, speak their language better and show up where they are. That means more relevant branding, more choices of products and services, adroit use of surprise, humor and respectable irreverence in marketing, and the avoidance of anything that reeks of "your father's funeral advertising" such as clichés and stock or traditional messages.


Visionary thinking is wonderful, but while you're looking well down the path, it pays to watch where your very next step will be as well.




From LA ads' blog, Funeral Advertising for the Perplexed. The author, Dan Katz, will be a guest speaker at our August convention, on Saturday, August 24. He'll address "Creativity In All Things: How to Become More Idea Prone"  Visit LA ads Marketing to learn more.






Have you renewed

your WCCFA membership

for 2013?


Renewal forms were mailed at the end of Decemer, and reminders went out recently. However, if you can't find your form but know you need to renew, click on the appropriate link below. 


VOTING member cemetery, funeral home, municipal/cemetery district

VOTING COMBINATON cemetery/funeral home member

NON-VOTING municipal or cemetery district




Cemeteries seek their way

in a technological world


While technology can make life easier, many of the cemetery professionals who took our 2013 Technology Survey say it isn't living up to its promise.


Our American Cemetery Technology Survey drew responses from 101 cemetery professionals, and about 58 percent of them concluded that their current technology capabilities do not meet their needs. Interestingly enough, that number is very close to the 56 percent who stated that their cemetery does not have a specific line item for technology expenses.


The survey focused on all areas of technology, including information systems, how cemeteries use technology to aid marketing efforts, website optimization and more. In this article, we focus on technology budgets and cemetery software.


Nick Tempe, sales and marketing manager for webCemeteries.com in Virginville, Pa., sees many under-realized opportunities in leveraging technology, both for enhancing revenue and for operational efficiency. numbers1 "Fortunately, the cost of these technologies is declining, and more cemeteries are starting to computerize their records, or using mobile or Web-based technologies. With new industry mobile apps, cemeteries can leverage technology without the cost of computerizing their records by either creating self-navigated walking tours, or offering families digital memorials with GPS navigation to the grave."


Robert Boetticher, Jr., Director of Support, Carriage Services, West Region North, noted that many cemeteries pay plenty of attention to technology, but he added, "The big hurdle is the investment and the return on investment."

6-5-2013 matthews for web  

About the Respondents

About 40 percent of respondents said their cemetery houses the remains of at least 500 people, but the survey also drew responses from smaller cemeteries, with about 10 percent stating that there were fewer than 50 burials/interments on their grounds.


Diverse sections of the country responded, with 19 percent each coming from the Midwest, Middle Atlantic and New England states; 20 percent hailing from the Southeast; 13 percent in the Northwest; and 11 percent in the Southwest.


Likewise, there was a diverse set of responses for cemetery type. Thirty-seven percent work at a private cemetery; 28 percent at a memorial park; 22 percent at a municipal cemetery; and 13 percent at a religious cemetery.


While a good portion of cemetery employees surveyed - 44 percent - said that their cemetery has four or more computers, a number of cemeteries are still doing without much technology. Six percent work at a cemetery with no computers at all, and 18 percent are still making do with just one computer. Asked if they use technology in some way or aspect at their cemetery, 14 percent said they do not.


Asked to explain how they use technology, respondents cited things such as Microsoft Word and Excel; regular use of the Internet; management software such as HMIS, Aurora Family Advisor, Memorial Business Systems and SRS; monitoring security cameras; managing accounting records; blogging; cemetery mapping; management of various data; and other tasks.


Spending on Technology

Even though a number of respondents complained about not having enough money to spend on their technological needs, Wes Johnson, president and CEO of Continental Computer, said cost-effective solutions exist for cemeteries that are willing to look for them. "Software can be purchased for next to nothing," he said. "Cemeteries need to evaluate their needs and price accordingly. For example, maps can add additional costs. Maps can be added later, as needed or not at all. One does not buy a Mercedes on a Chevrolet budget, but you still need to buy a car."


numbers2 For respondents at cemeteries that do budget a dollar amount to technology needs, 24 percent said they allocate less than $10,000 per year; 6 percent allocate $10,000 to $15,000; 1 percent allocate $15,001 to $22,000; 3 percent allocate $22,001 to $25,000; and 10 percent allocate more than $25,000 per year.


The most common gripe about technology revolved around cemetery software, with many respondents stating that what they use - if they use any software at all - is outdated and doesn't meet their needs. One respondent summed up the sentiments of many by stating, "Updating to current programs is costly, and it's sometimes hard to justify the expense."

  premier 2013-2014 for web

The factors that cemeteries should consider when choosing what type of software to use should vary based on need, Timpe said. Whoever is in charge of buying decisions needs to consider whether a software package manages accounting, whether it uses GIS mapping or an alternative mapping solution and whether it needs to be updated. There are solutions, he noted, that are Web-based and are automatically upgraded and backed up. Buyers should also consider whether or not software can be integrated with other solutions that a cemetery uses in the field or on its website for e-commerce. "When evaluating software providers, keep in mind the platform they are developing on," he said. "Will it be simple and cost effective to transition into newer technology? Technology is changing rapidly, and to maximize your return on your investment, you need to be able to take advantage of the newest opportunities."


Click here for the rest of the story.



The ICCFA presented its KIP [Keeping It Personal] awards during its annual convention in April. Winning for Best Practice/Best Personal Touch was Trinity Memorial Gardens and its grief therapy dog, Sadie.


Sadie brings comfort to families, publicity to Trinity Memorial


Trinity Memorial Gardens is proving that grief therapy dogs can work just as well at cemeteries as at funeral home. Sadie attends services, has office hours and represents the company at community events.


Dogs have an incredible capacity for expressing empathy and because of this, they are being trained as bereavement therapy dogs. Trinity Memorial Gardens is proud to have one of he few in the country, named Sadie.


Sadie is an AKC-registered black Labrador retriever. Trinity directors Doug and Gail Manuel noticed that Sadie, who is very outgoing and has a very gentle and caring nature, had something special. Sadie worked for a year in training with her handler. In September 2012, she finished her journey to certification by passing her exam with a mark of 100 percent.


Sadie, the Grief Therapy Dog

Trinity Memorial Gardens was nominated as business of he year in part because of Sadie's work in 2012. Sadie also has been featured for her groundbreaking work on Disney's Babble Pets website and in the Charles County Chamber of Commerce's newsletter. Additionally, Sadie has been featured in both The Maryland Independent and The Washington Post.


sadie2 Sadie has made more than 100 community appearances during her journey. In October 2012, after her certification by Therapy Dogs International, a family requested that Sadie attend a funeral service at Trinity Memorial Gardens - her first funeral. She was well received and even brought some smiles to the family, especially the kids. One of the family members was so happy to have Sadie attend the funeral service that he ran to his car and got her a treat. 

Trinity staff members are thrilled to be able to provide warmth, compassion and comfort to families who are grieving.


Koppenberg 1/4 page Sadie loves her job and adores being around people. She takes the initiative to nuzzle those who are crying or expressing grief, and miraculously, it often brings a smile to their face.


Since her first service, Sadie's presence has been requested more and more. In addition, Sadie has office hours at Trinity Memorial Gardens and is on hand to help comfort new families who come in or to say hello to those she already knows.


One of the most common first questions when a family comes in is "Where's Sadie?" Sadie has more than 750 friends on Facebook and her journey is updated regularly on Trinity Memorial Gardens' website.


"Sadie has become so popular, we have even begun selling little Sadie plush toys so the families can take her comfort home," Gail Manuel said.


"Her presence has had a positive effect on our customers as well as our business. She has become the face of our business and provides a caring and comforting image of our company."


What the judges of the KIP contest said:


"Great idea! Such a comfort to many. Having her at community events is a great way to market the company. Overall an excellent idea!"


"Sadie seems to be a real asset to your PR/marketing efforts. Sometimes an animal can connect with a person in a way a person never would."


Article from ICCFA Magazine for March 2013 is reproduced in its entirety with permission.


lees ad 2012-13 for web



Secret Histories of the Dead


Author Dale Bailey

The scars tell the story, the secret histories of the dead.


Oh, we all have our histories, living and dead alike. We drag our pasts along behind us as we plunge into the future minute by irretrievable minute. The histories we share without trepidation, over dinner or cocktails, with friends and strangers who might become them - from the triumphs of our children on the athletic pitch or in the fields of academe, to the special thrill of owning our first new car, the low-slung speedster or the luxury sedan, the smell of the leather seats, the special quality of the sunlight in the wooden detail of the dash - or the other, darker histories, the shameful midnight broodings over what we cannot alter or undo - the secret adultery, the cruelty to a child, and others too, stories of shame or honor that we simply will not tell, that leave their scars upon us, the living and the dead.


Old Joe for one. That was his name, though when he came to the Oaks and lay naked on the table where someday we'll all lie, every one of us, rendered cold in our common humanity, I learned the rest of it, Joseph Allan Methany, printed right there on the death certificate, died ninety-one years old in the ward of Dane, West Virginia's community hospital reserved for paupers in life who would die a pauper's grave. Out on Stoneyard Road, that was, the pauper's cemetery. It had been there a hundred years and more - my father, before he came to rest himself, in Green Lawn, up on Claremont Street - had recalled it being there as early as the nineteen-twenties, and some decades before that, when he was just a boy. "It wouldn't be a bad place to spend eternity," he used to say when he prepared a body for rest there in a casket not much stronger than cardboard, and that was true. Stoneyard Road isn't much traveled and never has been, and there is a crumbling rock wall there and a surrounding wood of towering pine with needle-carpeted earth beneath. The cemetery is overgrown - the town chooses not to invest its money on a plot of land that's little used now - and that wouldn't be a bad thing either. Green Lawn collects most of us now, or Forest Hills just north of town. It's not the same world as it once was, the government safety net, such as it is (ah, the perils of being a closet progressive in a town as conservative as Dane), catches most of us, and usually a little money can be dug up for a proper ceremony, if not an ostentatious one. But you have to register for that - fill out forms in triplicate, surrender up your birth certificate, and answer questions you might not want to answer. Yet most folks do it all the same. Even the word pauper has fallen out of fashion these days, and how Old Joe afforded his poverty, if that makes sense (and it probably doesn't) I never did know. Not until he came to the Oaks and his scars, though not those alone, unveiled his secret history to me.


Pontem new 9-2012 Let me explain what I mean when I say a man has to have a way to afford his poverty. I went to New York City once when I was a much younger man than I am now, before my hands grew liver-spotted and began to tremble a little unless they were about their work, when they are steady as a stone. How those tall buildings dazzled me at night, all lit up like Christmas ornaments shining against the sky. And Central Park. Words fail. Magnificent is all I can say. But everywhere I looked I saw men leaning against corners or sitting on park benches - this was before they cleaned up the city - with a little cup or bowl before them to collect loose change. "Spare a dime, Mister," they'd say, and rube that I was, I surrendered one up. I'm still a rube, I guess, for I'd    surrender up one to this day, even to a man who's got hold of a bottle or who's let a bottle get hold of him, for I've had my own struggles in that line from time to time. I've got the white hair and the broken blood vessels in my cheeks to prove it. Why you even see such men to this day and in this place, where the Turnpike crowds up close to Dane. Men holding a hand-lettered cardboard sign that says Out of Work, Please Help and God Bless You, something like that. My wife always says they make more than the rest of us, those fellows, and they park their BMWs just over the nearest hill, but I don't believe that, and even if I did, well, what's the harm, the Oaks has been good to me as it was good to my father and his father before him, I've got a dime or three to spare.


Click here to read the rest of this story.


Fortune bank 4-2013



Column: There's More to it...Advance Funeral Planning


Tips for Funeral Home Employees Using Social Media



Social networks and the Internet provide incomparable opportunities for speedy knowledge exchange and dissemination among many people, but this exchange does not come without risk. Funeral home employees have an obligation to fully understand the nature, benefits and consequences of participating in social networking sites. Your online content and behavior has the very real potential to enhance or undermine not only your individual career, but also the careers of everyone you work with; the funeral home in particular and the funeral profession in general.


Please adhere to these guiding principles when you are online communicating with anyone, at any time, about anything. Do not share or place online individually identifiable information about any family or individual your funeral home is current serving; has served in the past or might serve in the future. Funeral homes must observe ethically prescribed professional family-funeral home boundaries. Know that anything you place online stays online forever and can be viewed by anyone - good or bad. Take advantage of privacy settings and seek to separate personal and professional information online. If you notice online content that could harm a family's privacy, rights or welfare, bring it to the attention of appropriate authorities. Funeral home employees should work towards developing funeral home policies governing online conduct. Remember that standards of professionalism are the same online as in any other circumstance.


Avoid these problems. Do not share or post information or photos gained through the family-funeral home relationship, without the express written permission of the family. Maintain professional boundaries in the use of electronic media. Do not make disparaging remarks about the company you work for; your immediate supervisor or company ownership; the families you serve; co-workers; vendors, delivery personnel - even if they are identified. If you can't say something nice, keep your mouth shut and don't say or share anything at all. Do not take photos or videos of any family or individual you serve on personal devices, including cell phones. If a breach of confidentiality or privacy occurs, report it immediately to the proper authorities.


I encourage you to think before communicating through social media. Take a moment and ask yourself the following questions before posting:

  • Should I target a specific audience with this message?
  • Will anyone really care about this content besides me?
  • Will I offend anyone with this content? If so, who? Does it matter?
  • Is this appropriate for a social portal, or would it best be communicated another way?
  • How many times have I already posted something today? (More than three can be excessive.)
  • Did I spell check?
  • Will I be okay with absolutely anyone seeing this?
  • Is this post too vague? Will everyone understand what I'm saying?
  • Am I using this as an emotional dumping ground? If so, why? Is a different outlet better for these purposes?
  • Am I using too many abbreviations in this post and starting to sound like a teenager?
  • Is this reactive communication or is it well thought-out?
  • Is this really something I want to share, or is it just me venting?

PCM 1/2 page Run through these questions in your mind - before clicking "post." Trust me - you'll be happy you double-checked before sharing with the world.


Author Christopher Kuhnen of Edgewood, Kentucky is a 26 year veteran of funeral service. He is perhaps best known as a charismatic, progressive and highly innovative funeral industry specialist. As an insider into excellence, Chris is a trusted advisor to many in the death care industry.


Mr. Kuhnen is the Founder, Chief Executive Officer and President of Funeral Profit Protectors, LLC, which is a funeral business profit counseling business serving independently owned and operated funeral homes. The company specializes in teaching, providing and engaging our clients in successful strategies, products and services to secure and/or increase their business profits. Chris has considerable first-hand experience in this area, as well as funeral home marketing and public relations; individual funeral home employee training, coaching and mentoring; preneed sales training, lead generation and marketing support; consumer and business to business direct sales and management. Over the course of his distinguished career Chris has provided comprehensive consultation, education and positive, meaningful support to funeral directors nationwide to help them coordinate, develop and implement their distinctive business strategies.

Christopher is a Kentucky Licensed Funeral Director, Life Insurance Agent, Certified Preplanning Consultant (CPC), Insight Institute Certified Celebrant and Certified Marketing Specialist. He can be reached most anytime at 859-307-7223 or funeralprofitprotectors@gmail.com. Visit his company website anytime at www.funeralprofitprotectors.com.


Article sourced from the March 2013 Funeral Home & Cemetery News, reproduced in its entirety with permission.


Software products can be "large and expensive" or "small and insufficient," Johnson noted. "There are software products available than can start small and grow as needed or as funds become available," he said. "Cemeteries need to simply ask questions. There is affordable technology for all cemeteries - large and small." Johnson recommended researching any company before giving it your business. "How long have they been in business?" he asked. "What is their core business? I don't recommend buying brain surgery from an auto mechanic." But a provider that's been around for a long time "must be doing something right," he said.


It's imperative to put in the time to research options to come up with the best solutions to meet the technology needs of your cemetery, Johnson emphasized. "There are many different technology options available that many are not even aware exist," he said. "Many cemeteries are dependent on the local funeral home and previous sales for future revenue generation." But that should not be the case, he added.


Justin Baxley, general manager of Hiers-Baxley Funeral Services and Highland Memorial Park, which has multiple locations in Florida and is owned by Foundation Partners Group, said that some software is well suited for multiple locations whereas software hosted locally may not work well in that regard. "Some software has individual license costs that make it prohibitive for large numbers of users," he added. "It's important to consider not only the functionality of the software but also the administrative ease and the application of the program in light of any specific needs/conditions the cemetery may have." You should also consider what type of data you need to access and for what purpose - be it working on inventory, pricing, commission, trusting, customer relationship management or some other task.


Dennis Werner, general manager of St. Michael's Cemetery in Queens, N.Y., noted that another key aspect of choosing a software provider is what type of support you'll get. "Having the technology is the first step. Being able to utilize all aspects of the technology takes a lot more time, support from your provider and a staff that is willing and able to utilize it," he said.


That support should include the ability of your provider to dial in remotely and make repairs and improvements as needed, Werner said. "You should also ask about converting current software into the new system and what kind of interruption that would entail," he said.


Throwing money at the problem - while it could help - doesn't always fix the problem. For instance, one respondent stated, "We would benefit by having some cemetery software, but the issue is we do not have an office on site, and those that would use the software either do not have a computer or are not computer literate."


Others complained about having a board of directors or managers that are simply behind the times and reluctant to spend any money on technology for management or marketing purposes. Others just don't know where to start, including one honest respondent who confessed, "We have no clue on what to do!"


Wilbert 4-2012 No matter what you do, don't tackle a task that you aren't qualified or equipped to handle, Baxley advised. "If you aren't an IT person, don't try to play one on TV," he said. "All software companies can share a great story when it comes to selling their product, and it can be easy to get snowed or simply overwhelmed if you do not speak the lingo. It has never been my best language, so I'm thankful to be blessed with access to others who know it well and can ask the right questions."



  • If you aren't sure where to start when evaluating software providers, get on the phone and start seeing what other cemeteries are using. Boetticher suggested. "Stay away from a software designer who has no experience in our profession," he advised.


  • Don't forget to look at your hardware requirements. "Do you need a server, additional workstations, and what are the costs associated with this?" Boetticher asked You also need to consider whether you need to upgrade your Internet service speed and cable and networking hardware.


  • Systems that are not browser-based are not as easily upgradable, Boetticher said. "Therefore, I'd have to say they are more expensive," he said. "The last thing you want to do when investing in software is to have a system that you cannot easily upgrade."


  • When evaluating providers, be sure to ask this key question: "What do you want the software to do for you?" Boetticher said. Once you decide on the features you want, you need to evaluate how easy you can implement various options into your business infrastructure.


  • Get involved! That means going to conventions, seminars and talking with your peers. "You will find there is someone else out thee who has the same needs as you!" Boetticher said.


Looking Ahead

In a future issue, we'll share additional results from our Technology Survey, including how cemeteries are getting the most out of their websites, tips on collecting and using email addresses, best practices for social media and more.


Article by Thomas Parmalee sourced from American Cemetery Magazine for February 2013. Parmalee is the Executive Director for the magazine, which is published by Kates-Boylston Publications.

What I'm saying here or trying anyway to say, is that even poverty has its expenses - for that next bottle of MD 20/20 (Mad Dog we called it when I was a boy, and we were well acquainted; I liked the grape the best) or a pack of Parliaments and a book of matches to help wash that lighter fluid down. Not to mention a box of fries and a cardboard shack or a rusty El Camino in which to lay your head at night. And fortunate as I've been - and I've been fortunate indeed - I've never minded helping a man in need or one who thinks he is.
Which brings me to Old Joe. He was a Mad Dog drunk, Old Joe. You'd see him limping down Main Street - he was gimped up bad - or leaning against a light post out on New Hope Avenue (where there never was much hope for him, I used to think), a paper bag in hand, now and then taking a pull of whatever it was he had inside. Face seamed by years of hard living. Dressed in a pair of dirty jeans, a button-down flannel shirt, and a woolen coat no matter how hot it was outside (and it gets plenty hot in Dane), a canvas sack or two on the pavement between his legs. A man without a home has to carry his home with him, I suppose. Where he slept at night no one could say, and when the February snows blanketed the shoulders of the mountains you'd never know either. You'd find him at his post the same as always, pulling occasionally on that bottle or lighting up a hand-rolled cigarette, his breath unfurling in the cold, and if you got close enough to speak to him - no matter how he stank, he was always cordial, Old Joe, tipping an imaginary cap and saying, "How are you today, sir?" - you'd know he was a grape man himself.
But this was the mystery of it: in all the years I knew Joe, and he was growing old when I was just a boy, I never saw him shake a cup or wave a cardboard sign or ask anyone for a dime. Somehow - and I never did know how, not until he was cold on my table - Joe always seemed to have enough money for that next bottle of Mad Dog or package of cheap tobacco. Then came the end, of course. Somebody - I heard it was Jim Walton - found Old Joe lying in a ditch over on Sandy Springs Road, just by the pawn shop, and called it in. It was quick after that: the emergency room and then the paper's wing of Dane Community Hospital, the delirium tremens as they weaned him. Curtains. They say he died screaming for cover. Not two hours later, I got the call - I do the town's pauper work. It doesn't bring in much, but it pays a little, and a little, as my wife likes to say, is better than nothing at all. And not two hours after that, I had him laid out naked on my table. We treat them all the same here at the Oaks, we wash them good, and embalm them, and try to make them look as natural as we can, whether they're in the cheapest box we have to offer or the limousine of caskets. It was during the washing that I noticed it: the archipelago of white scars all down his sagging, hairless old man's torso and the length of his right leg, source of that limp I was telling you about.
As I was saying we all have them, secret histories every one.
But Joe's would have remained a secret if it hadn't been for Lister Cunningham, five times mayor of Dane, who pulled up in the driveway of the Oaks later that day. He climbed out of his brand-new brown Cadillac, pulling at the doorframe to lever his old body out of the seat. He was no young man himself, Mr. Cunningham, ninety if he was a day, a hale man still but not far from the earth himself.
"What brings you here, Mr. Cunningham?" I asked, since he'd completed making his own arrangements thirty years ago.
"Private business," he snapped.
"Well, if it's private, I don't see how I can help you, much as I'd like to," I said.
"I came to see Old Joe, if you must know," he told me.
So I led him inside to where I had Old Joe laid out in our cheapest box, his hands crossed upon his chest. We'd laundered his clothes by then, and combed his hair proper. He was probably cleaner then than he had been in forty years, and maybe longer. Mr. Cunningham stood there looking down at him for a long time, and then he reached out and did something I would never have thought I'd see Mr. Cunningham do: he cradled Old Joe's face with one hand, about as gentle as I could imagine one man touching another one, and he said, "Thank you, my friend," and suddenly it all came clear to me, who'd been keeping Old Joe in Mad Dog and home-rolled cigarettes all those years.
I followed Mr. Cunningham back to his Cadillac afterwards. I couldn't help myself for asking, though I usually made it a strict policy not to. Just one word: "Why?" I said.
His answer was about as brief as a man's can be. "Omaha Beach," he said. "June 6, 1944." And then he turned to look me in the eye. "He saved my life," he said. "He was the bravest man I ever knew, and he never got over it."
Captain Joseph Allen Methany rests up in Green Lawn today, in the finest casket money can buy. I ought to know.
I paid for it.
Sourced from the March 2013 issue of The Dodge Magazine, by Dale Bailey, an educator and author who lives in North Caroline with his family. Visit him and read more online at www.dalebailey.com. Reproduced with the permission of the author.
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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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