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topThe Insider
News for Death Care Professionals
Vol. III
 Issue II

Spring Conference:

21st Annual College of

Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Studies





  • Cemetery Curb Appeal: The Proper Ergonomics For Your Hallowed Ground (John Zyck, TruGreen)
  • WOW-ing the Cremation Customer in the Cemetery (Dennis Boser)
  • Cemetery Operations: Trials and Tribulations in Changing Times (round table format with Marcia Wazny)
  • L & I New HazCom Standards & More! (Dalena Triplett)


  • Nuts and Bolts of Celebrant Services (Francis Lee)
  • Building an Effective Aftercare Program (David Lukov)
  • Trends in Our Profession (Kirk Duffy)
  • Green Burial Basics (Brian Flowers)


  • You Can't Do That Here! Oh Yeah? Who Says? (Paul Elvig)
  • Internal Customer Service and Employee Growth (Jack Norvell)
  • This Ain't Your Daddy's CRM! Kick-Ass Customer Relationship Management (Chris Rose)
  • Cremation Customers: Why Bother? (Jon Reece)



TWO Very Interesting General Sessions!

  • What Just Happened When You Weren't Looking ?! A panel discussion with Pat Hollick, Jessie Hansen, Scott Sheehan and Jon Reece, moderated by David Ittner
  • Leadership for Death Care Professionals: Dennis Boser

ALL presenters welcome and encourage your participation, questions and items of concern.

Please come prepared to join the discussions! 


Link HERE for a registration form

Link HERE for a Supplier information form

Link HERE for a sponsorship form 

Washington State Funeral & Cemetery Board met February 4: 


Link here for the meeting minutes.

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A baby girl for Megan Carlson Field! 


Megan Carlson Field, of Evergreen Memorial Gardens in Vancouver, and her husband Doug welcomed Ella Rose Field on February 16th. Ella was 7lbs 11oz and 19.5" long. Both mom and baby are doing great!


We expect Ella to eventually serve on the WCCFA board, following in her mom's, aunt Lindsay's and grandpa Brad's footsteps.


Ella will make her debut at the August convention. Congratulations to Megan and Doug! 


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The Ground Rules 


It's not the type of publicity any cemetery wants for itself - a story airing on the local TV station featuring outraged families.


But that's just the type of story that appeared on local ABC affiliate WSIL-TV in Southern Illinois is July 2012. According to the report, families were outraged after finding their loves ones' grave decorations in a massive trash pile at the Masonic and Odd Fellows Cemetery in Benton, Ill. The pile, according to devastated family members who were interviewed, included pictures, flowers and grave markers.


Cemetery Board President Howard Johnson was quick to defend the cleanup, pointing out that the cemetery has strict rules of what can - and cannot - be laid on a headstone. "No glass, no rocks, no shepherd hooks or any other object in the way of mowing," Johnson told WSIL. "And they (the families) come out and get made because we pick this stuff up."


The rules, Johnson noted, had been in place for years, and are necessary in order for the cemetery to do its job of maintaining the grounds. "That has always been the manner that we have done it," Johnson told the TV station. "We have a dumpster come in, and we load up that stuff and it's disposed of."


Reached later, Johnson declined additional comment, saying that the issue was blown up by the media and "we're made to look like the bad guys when we are just following the rules."


The issue isn't unique to the Masonic and Odd Fellows Cemetery. Cemetery officials at Memory Gardens Cemetery in Farmington, N.M., found themselves defending their cleanup policies after a TV station reported that workers had removed decorations left at children's gravesites without telling family members. And the Woodland Park cemetery board and the Mineral Wells City Council in Texas found themselves in the middle of a media firestorm after passing an ordinance that, among other things, prevented flags from being displayed at the graves of veterans at any time other than two weeks around Memorial Day and Veterans Day.


Reaction from veterans, residents and news outlets was swift. While no one was overly concerned about the part of the ordinance that banned hanging baskets, wind chimes, birdhouses, squirrel feeders and cement statues from cemetery grounds, the flying of flags became a lightning rod.


By all accounts, the city wanted to keep flowers and flags, but only in vases or brackets attached to markers, not beside them. But in writing the new ordinance, city officials only noted that flags could be flown alongside graves only around Memorial Day or Veterans Day without explaining that flags could always fly from a bracket or vase.


Faced with a growing backlash, the city council and cemetery board met soon after the original board met soon after the original ordinance was passed. The reason? To take action on a new and revised policy. According to the press release issued by the council following the meeting:


American flags and firefighters flags may be placed on individual gravesites at any time of the year. Flags may be displayed in either city-approved vases attached to the grave marker, plastic sleeves adjacent to the grave marker as installed by cemetery personnel or in other flag holders that may be provided by veterans' organizations. Flag holders are also available at no cost at the cemetery office. Flags placed on individual gravesites shall be no larger than 10" x 16" in size, and not to exceed 3 feet in height. Cemetery personnel will pick up all flags as they become torn, tattered or faded and these flags will be delivered to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post once a month for proper disposal.


  Cemeterians agree that decorating policies are necessary to the operation of any cemetery. But as Fred Wehr, general manager of Woodside Cemetery and Arboretum in Middletown, Ohio, points out, cemetery decoration is more than a single-pronged issue. "You have to look out for the customers (your families), the safety of your employees and what fits best for the management of your grounds," said Wehr, who has been at Woodside since 1980.


For example, some cemeteries permit fresh cut, artificial and dried floral arrangements; others limit arrangements to only fresh or only artificial flowers. Some cemeteries allow floral arrangements to remain for seven days after burial; others allow arrangements to re main for 14 days.


In years past, the placing of real flowers on the graves did not preselees ad 2012-13 for webnt too great a problem for Woodside, even on special occasions such as Easter Day and Memorial Day, Wehr pointed out. By the time the grass needed its next cutting the flowers had withered and were removed.


But with the advent of beautiful, lasting artificial flowers, maintenance became a serious problem. "We found it impossible to first remove flowers then mow the grass and finally replace them to their proper place," Wehr said. "Errors in replacing them occurred." Wind also blew many of the artificial flowers from the graves for which they were intended, he added.


To deal with the issue, Woodside adopted a policy that promotes the use of fresh flowers while limiting use of artificial flowers. The cemetery has added green plastic vases on a stand at each entrance for use by lot owners to place live flowers on a loved one's grave. When the live flowers had withered, the vase will be recycled and placed back in the strand at each entrance.


link here for rest of article 


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Time to throw a few rocks? Pat says "Yes." 


Guest Editorial by Pat Hollick

Richland Cemetery Association and Einan's Funeral Home, Richland


Greetings and welcome to the New Year. It would appear that we've been here before struggling with our own version of Ground Hog day or as Yogi Berra once said it "It's Deja vu all over again". I do not say this out of disrespect or malice but rather from a desperate hope that we can better understand each other as an association and grow younger in our thoughts and ideas instead of disconnected and withdrawn from one another.


What am I talking about? I'm talking about our responsibilities to each other as members of this association and what we can and should be doing at such a critical time in this profession's history. In 2013 the WCCFA Board set out to produce an ad campaign that would start to combat the negative media that this profession has been beaten over the head with for years, and take control of the narrative with a positive massage. Not a new idea for sure but one that's been a long time coming. Thinking there was initial buy in, a survey was sent to all of you regarding this subject via e-mail but only twelve responses came back from the entire membership. Twelve responses! I would have preferred 100 came back and told us to all go to hell than twelve trickle in like some drippy faucet you can't turn off.


Although I was a Board member at the time and felt, as I still do, that an ad campaign would help this association immensely, that is not the point of my message to you. We can disagree on this idea and move on to other issues we are faced with as an association but what we cannot  afford to do is become disengaged and disinterested. Too often we replace a warm hello and friendly voice with a cold keyboard and emotionless e-mail. We text, fax and scan one another so much we've forgotten how to really communicate. I mean I don't know about you, but I'd at least like to be kissed first before you delete me. Maybe as a Board and membership this is where some of our apathy and disinterest comes from?  


Years ago the Board created a liaison committee in which each Board member was given a list of members to call and say hello to. These conversations I believe were effective in getting buy-in from the members and let them know the Board was listening to them and inviting their participation. The current Board has decided it's time to revisit this idea and reconnect with one another. So expect to be hearing from a Board member soon. You can run, but you cannot hide.


Big ideas start with conversations and ripple outward from member to member. Big ideas are hard work and take an engaged membership throwing rocks at its leaders once in a while to make them understand the issues. We as an association cannot create the future without each other.


This new year should be one full of wonder and possibility. These are exciting times; yes, they're a little scary, but if we don't feel a little uncomfortable when experimenting with some of our business practices how will we ever evolve ourselves from caterpillars to butterflies?


Less than three months from now (March 19) is the Spring Conference, our 21st Annual College of Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Studies. I'd like to challenge each of you to reach out and call-no texting or e-mail allowed-at least one death care professional and reconnect at the grass-roots level. Better yet call someone you don't know and make a new friend. Find out what excites them about this business then invite them to the Spring Conference. Over the next few months leading up to the March conference follow-up articles could be written on how this campaign of phone calls is progressing. Who knows? They could drive new membership and help create and inspire the big ideas that will move us to the future culminating with an active and recharged membership meeting in March.


Action begets progress. This should be more than just a New Year's Eve resolution that gets forgotten somewhere in mid-February, left to ride lonely atop last year's exercise equipment. I ask that all of us resolve to get involved in 2014 and get as many people as possible to do the same. This is your association! Where is it going and what is it going to look like when it gets there? It's up to you, and all of us.


So with that I'd like to leave you with a quote from Peter Drucker, "Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work."


-yours in progress,



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Wilbert Precast PNG

Tell me why 


Why aren't you using your celebrants to reach families and your community?


I have two amazing, adorable grandsons. Here is where I pause long enough for you to gasp and exclaim, "No way are you old enough to be a grandmother!" Thank you. But, yes I am - one is 12 and one is six. Ethan, the 12-year-old, has pretty well figured out the world: It revolves around Wii, PS3, video games, Minecraft or zombies and any other game he can purchase on his GiGi's iTunes account while she is not looking.


Six-year-old Parker is still in that delightful stage of wonder and marvel. He wants to understand his world and asks a million questions to help him make sense of the scenes swirling past him. He wants to know "why," because knowing "why" 2,000 times a day. Either is possible.


Parker's school was one of the two destroyed by the tornadoes that hit Moore, Oklahoma, last May. Fortunately, his other grandmother was watching the weather forecasts and had the foresight to pick him up just minutes before the school was hit, so he was not actually in the building when the world came crashing in.


Of course, he saw the news reports and, later, was able to actually see what had been the site of his happy kindergarten experience now lying in rubble and ruin. He asked me, "GiGi, why is my school flat?" You know, Parker, for some things there are just no good answers.


This brings me to the topic of this article, "tell me why." I've had the honor and privilege of being a part of the funeral profession as a trainer, a practitioner and an educator for the past 14 years. And there are still some things that just baffle me and make me want to ask "why?"


Why are so many firms still having trouble finding the words to offer a celebrant to families? Why are they not spreading the word to the world that they have something different to offer? (Isn't that what everyone's supposed to be after - differentiation?) Why?


Please join me as we tiptoe through these topics, and perhaps we can find some answers together.


Celebrants in the community

In my church, I'm seen as the parish funeral director. I'm the unpaid, on-call, go-to person when people have questions about funeral planning, or are at death's door and need to discuss their wishes, or when a family is trying to figure out what to do after a death has occurred. The ministers have it down pat. Got a question about death or dying? Here's Glenda's phone number.


Now you have to understand that I go to a very liberal United Church of Christ church where everyone is cremated. I can remember maybe three funerals in my 17 years where there was a body present. And the prevailing attitude among most of the members was, "If I'm being cremated and having the service at the church, why do I need a funeral director?"


The church has a funeral committee that will usher, hand out service folders and host a reception. They've even built a columbarium, so they see themselves as pretty self-contained when it comes to whole funeral and cemetery scene.


In my "parish funeral director" role, I have had the opportunity to visit with many individuals who had a million questions about funerals and funeral planning. I've accompanied many families to a funeral home just to sit with them while they make arrangements.


I've been able to advocate the value of having a service, the importance of using a funeral home and funeral directors and the impact of having a viewing before cremation.


I've even convinced the ministers of the value of these things, and they have become big fans of funeral homes and the directors who come to the church to be present for services. After one particularly large funeral where the funeral directors were wonderful, shepherding attendees and taking care of all the details, one of my ministers said, "This was great! Can they come every time?"


So, the point of this little story is this: People want to talk about planning their funerals. They just don't want to talk to a funeral director about it first. They want to ask their questions and get their proverbial ducks in a row so they are clear about what they want when they finally go to the funeral home.


I'm seen as a safe person who can suggest and guide because I'm not interested in their pocketbooks. I'm only interested in their experience and their grief journey after the funeral.


At this writing, I just finished my annual funeral-planning seminar at the church. This year we decided to hold it on the Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos) weekend and decorated the fellowship hall with plenty of colorful Day of the Dead skull art.


We called it Ashes to Ashes Day. During this hour-long event, more than 50 church members came to hear about funeral planning, about the decisions that need to be made and how to get started. People came with multiple questions written down so they could be sure they got them answered. "Oh goody, the parish funeral director is here to talk about the stuff we need to talk about but don't want to."


They were amazed when I talked about the value of having a service and using funeral professionals, shocked when I shared the importance of viewing and grateful to have a chance to write down all those details so they could have a family gathering to discuss their plans and wishes.


There is no one who works at or for a funeral home who is better able to express the value of the funeral than a Certified Celebrant. We spend a huge portion of our training time discussing the elements of the funeral, the realities of the grief journey that are dependent upon the funepremier 2013-2014 for webral experience and the life changing nature of a well-done service for families.


Firms with access to celebrants should be offering their services to churches, clubs, study groups, libraries, retirement centers and hospices. They should be hosting "lunch and learn" or dinner events themselves. They should be creating as many opportunities as possible for celebrants to talk about funeral planning and the importance of this life transition.


Celebrants don't go into these speaking opportunities as preneed planners; they don't go as funeral directors (although many are). They go as experts on funeral services and the varied aspects of grief. A celebrant can be seen as a trusted consultant and resource rather than someone who has a contract in his or her briefcase.


What a great public relations tool for a firm willing to provide this kind of learning experience, one with no strings attached but handled by someone completely passionate about the value of having a personalized and healing funeral experience.


Why doesn't every funeral home or cemetery with a Certified Celebrant on staff do this sort of community outreach?


link here to rest of article 


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10 Tips for Handling Cremation Customers


In today's marketplace, cremation rates can reach 50 percent or more, depending on your area of the country, and funeral professionals need to embrace the fact that cremation is here to stay and will continue to grow. Too many in the industry still dread the cremation customer, assuming they are only looking for the quickest, least expensive way to deal with the disposition of their loved one. Michael Devaney, cremation merchandising manager at Wilbert Funeral Services, provides tips for giving cremation families meaningful, value-added service.


  1. Cremation merchandising does not start when the family calls on you. Make sure you speak to the cremation customer in everything you do. Your facility name, staff communication, website and marketing messages should all embrace the cremation family as a valued customer. Never make them feel less important.
  2. Provide a tour of your facility before making arrangements. Introduce the family to staff and show them your facility (especially if you have a crematory). This will help them see what they will be paying for as well as imagining possibilities for service options. Better yet, consider holding "cremation open houses" for the public, providing an opportunity for education before the need arises.
  3. Take the opportunity to serve. If a family states, "We just want a cremation," create an atmosphere of communication. ask open-ended questions. If they say they want a "direct cremation," ask them to explain what they mean; they may think this is the only option. Never assume they know all service options available to them.
  4. Collect the story. Don't just be vital statistics collectors. Avoid asking only yes or no questions. Learn as much as you can about their loved one. Even if you meet with a family that has expressed a strong desire for a cremation without viewing or services, it's important to collect their story. Take time to listen to what they feel is important about the life of their loved one.
  5. Reflect back to the family what they say about their loved one. Often it is this time with a family that helps them to understand and see the need for a specific type of a personalized cremation product, ceremony or some sort of remembrance service of a life well lived.
  6. Provide answers. Families look to you as the expert. Use this time not only to listen, but to make suggestions based on their insights about their loved one. Providing answers does not mean telling families "what they want," but rather helping them understand the many options that are available and suggesting ways in which they may fulfill their needs.
  7. Use audio visual tools. It is always helpful to use short, informational videos during the arrangement conference to help families understand available service options, as well as decisions regarding final placement of cremated remains. Having these videos on your website can also be extremely helpful for families to view before the time of need. They will have more confidence in knowing what to expect from your cemetery.
  8. Package your cremation services. Once the family knows the type of service they want, it is helpful to hand them a list of cremation service packages in a customized printed booklet that has simple, easy-to-understand bullet points. Make sure there are visual images to correspond with each service package.
  9. Display products in an attractive setting. If you don't have the right display, don't expect to sell the products.
  10. Do everything you can to meet their needs. Always look for ways to do more for your cremation families. You are not promoting cremation but rather promoting service and value. Cremation will be at your doorstep no matter what you do. Why not be proactive and add value in everything you do? Family preferences may have changed, but your business model of service should not.

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Is a therapy dog right

for your funeral home or cemetery? 


A pet therapy dog is a wonderful addition to a funeral home or cemetery staff, but you have to make sure you  have the right dog, and the right situation.


Having a therapy dog on staff has become a growing trend in the funeral and cemetery business. The primary job of a therapy dog is to make people feel calmer and happier-exactly what is needed where people are grieving the loss of a loved one. Therapy dogs are non-judgmental listeners who want nothing more than to be petted, and to provide comfort to human companions.


What is a therapy dog? These working dogs are personal pets that meet certain requirements related to good manners and good health, and successfully complete testing and evaluation. Therapy dogs must:

  • Be at least 1 year old
  • Be good around other dogs
  • Listen to their handlers
  • Allow strangers to touch them all over
  • Not jump on people when interacting
  • Walk on a leash without pulling
  • Not mind strange noises and smells
  • Be calm while being petted
  • Not be afraid of people who are walking unsteadily
  • Be current on all vaccines required by local laws
  • Have a negative fecal test every 12 months
  • Be clean and well groomed

This sums up issues related to manners and health, but beyond these basic requirements, you need to get your dog certified. Testing through a therapy dog organization offers several benefits both to volunteers and to the facilities they visit. (I recommend Therapy Dogs International as a resource.)


Therapy dog registration typically costs a minimal fee of around $30-$60 per year and includes liability insurance that provides protection for you and your pet. Remember that your dog, despite training and certification, is an animal with certain instincts. Especially in today's litigious society, you need to make sure you and your business are protected in case the unexpected happens.


How will having a therapy dog affect the atmosphere at your funeral home or cemetery? Researchers from Azuba University in Tokyo found dog owners experienced spikes in oxytocin levels after playing with their dog for 30 minutes. Oxytocin, which is sometimes dubbed "the cuddle hormone," helps reduce blood pressure and decrease levels of cortisol, a hormone related to stress and anxiety. As a result, some doctors have suggested that dogs are sometimes better than Prozac.


The human-animal bond is extremely powerful. Very few people, even those who are not dog lovers, can find fault with therapy dogs.


A therapy dog not only can provide stress relief for staff members and clients, but also can act as an ambassador for your firm. Having a therapy dog will open up doors for you to go out into the community and speak about therapy dogs and what they do. This is just one more way your organization can stand apart from all the rest, can differentiate itself from the competition.


Other concerns

There are some logistical questions you also need to consider before you put a therapy dog to work at your funeral home or cemetery. 

  • Will he or she be present at your facility every day, and if so, who will be responsible for potty breaks and feeding?
  • If you have more than one facility and he or she will be working at each of them, who will be responsible for transporting him or her from one facility to another?
  • Who will be responsible for the therapy dog's schedule, for taking him or her to scheduled events and for handling veterinary appointments?

I'm a big proponent of therapy dogs working in funeral homes and cemeteries, but as with any program you need to do your research and plan before you act.


Tara at work, easing grief

Tara is an 11-year-old black Labrador who has been with me 24/7 for the last nine years and who loves to work. She is a registered therapy dog and works with me at Schoedinger Pet Services in Columbus, Ohio. Not only does she go to nursing homes and library reading programs, she also works as a grief therapy dog at human funerals.


She was asked to attend the funeral of a young father who had died of cancer. He had a little girl, eight years old, and a four-year-old son. While we were coloring pictures and writing a story to put in the casket with her father, the little girl looked at Tara and asked, "Has anyone in y our doggie family died?"


I answered, "Well, yes, as a matter of fact, Tara just lost her doggie sister Nika to..." (I paused, as I was about to say cancer) "...a dog disease."


"Oh, was it parvo?" she asked.


"No, it was lymphoma," I answered.


"That's a type of cancer," she said. She hugged Tara and said, "that's what my daddy had."


Later she asked if Tara could walk with her to put the letter to her daddy in the casket. As I watched the two of them march up to that casket. I knew Tara had helped that little girl more than any human could.


Author Roberta Knauf, CPLP [Certified Pet Loss Professional], is director of pet services for Schoedinger Pet Services, Columbus, Ohio, a division of Schoedinger Funeral & Cremation Service. She is assisted by Tara, who is certified by Therapy Dogs International.


Knauf has more than 30 years' experience in the pet industry. She is an evaluator for the AKC Canine Good Citizen program, an instructor and certifier for Therapy Dog International and a member of the American Pet Dog Trainers Association. She founded the first Prison Puppy Program in Pennsylvania. She has worked in pet death care for seven years, previously with Hillcrest Funeral Pet Funeral Home and Crematory, Heritage, Pennsylvania.


Knauf serves on the Education Committee of the ICCFA Pet Loss Professionals Alliance, which will hold its fifth annual conference as part of the ICCFA's 2014 Convention & Expo, April 8-11 at the Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, Nevada.


article sourced from ICCFA Magazine for December 2013 


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Rules Ground Rules continued

When it comes to artificial flowers, the decoration policy states:


Beautiful, and expensive, too, as artificial flowers and decorations are, we have no alternative but to restrict their use. Seasonal artificial decorations in good condition are permitted on monument stones only (or extensions where applicable) when securely attached or in permanently installed urns or vases and do not interfere with cemetery maintenance.


"There is just too much of a chance that the flowers can be blown away and never returned to the rightful owners," Wehr pointed out. "We have collected many arrangements over the years that have never been claimed by families."


There is no question that cutting and trimming grass is one of the largest and most costly maintenance activities of a cemetery. Having to contend with artificial flowers, shepherd's hooks, toys, shells, ornaments, bottles, vases, glass, wood or iron cases, plastic blocks, Styrofoam, artificial animals, tin cans, wire, crockery and bric-a-brac creates not only additional work but also, more importantly, safety hazards.


"Pieces of wire, steel and all those other things are very dangerous in cemeteries," Wehr pointed out. "If the blade of a mower were to catch any of those things, they become projectiles. Those blades are moving very fast, and it is too easy to hit something when you're's a safety issue."


If safety is the primary concern for enacting a decoration policy - and what cemetery wants to face a lawsuit filed by a visitor or employee - coming in a close second is a cemetery's appearance.


For that reason, many cemeteries throughout the country have established cleanup days. At Forest Home Cemetery in Rhinelander, Wis., winter decorations are allowed from Dec. 1 to April 1. By April 1, all decorations must be removed, allowing for spring cleanup. All items remaining after April 1 are subject to removal and disposal by cemetery staff. Graves may be redecorated beginning May 1. Summer decorations are allowed from May 1 to October 15. By October 15, all decorations must be removed, allowing for fall cleanup and winter maintenance. All items remaining after Oct. 15 are subject to removal and disposal. Graves may then be redecorated beginning Dec. 1.


For the past 13 years, Gunder Paulsen has served as cemetery sexton for Forest Home Cemetery. Shortly after taking the position, it was time for a scheduled cemetery cleanup. Paulsen said cemetery workers collected more than a truckload's worth of decorations left after the deadline for families to remove their decorations. "There was an outcry that we had removed everything," Paulsen said. "We had to remind families that we were only following the cemetery's rules."


After that initial pick-up, cemetery staff collected only about half as many decorations during the next cleanup. Families, Paulsen said, have come to understand that the cemetery has rules that will be enforced. "You have to be very clear in what your rules are," Paulsen said, "and you have to be very careful in making an exception. If you make an exception for one family, you'll likely hear from another family, 'why him, but not me?' It's better to have one set of rules for everyone."


Paulsen said the twice-yearly chore is performed to keep the cemetery looking good. "If the policy didn't exist, deteriorating decorations would make the area look unkempt," he said. With cemeteries, appearance is important.


Wehr says he understands why people would want to leave mementos at a loved one's gravesite. And he sympathizes with parents who have to live with the tragic loss of a child. "But the fact is, that stuffed teddy bear that sits out in the rain is going to become water-logged and mildewed," he said. "And that is not attractive."


The attractiveness factor is why many cemeteries have specific policies in place regarding the length of time floral arrangements will remain at gravesites following burials, the length of time seasonal displays can be in place and whether families can plant their own flowers or plants at gravesites. Many cemeteries have also updated their decorating policies to include mausoleums and scattering gardens.


Decorating policies, though, will only work if families know about the policies. Paulsen and Wehr said it is important that policies are prominently displayed on cemetery grounds as well as copies handed out when interment arrangements are made.


"I think you need to do everything you can to let visitors know what your policies are," said Wehr, who noted that at Woodside, portions of the decorating policy can be found on the sign welcoming visitors to the cemetery, "But a big part of the problem is that, in many instances, the people who are not following the policy are not the people who made the arrangements. Instead, they're the friends and family of the loved one, and they're not really paying attention to what is allowed."


Taking the time to explain the policies - and the reasons for the policies - will go a long way in building rapport with families. "They might not like the policy, but if they understand why it's in place, it will go a long way," Wehr said. "You aren't going to make everyone happy, but finding a happy medium is what you strive for."


Article by Patti Martin Bartsche sourced from American Cemetery magazine for Sept. 2013


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To Re-brand or to Refresh, that is the question 


Over the weekend, my daughter wanted to update the look of her bedroom to reflect, as she told me on more than one occasion, the "new her." Well, as we finished painting and as she started moving the furniture around and bringing new stuff into the room as well, it occurred to me that she was just "refreshing" the look of the room and not "re-branding" who she was as a person. You see, while the color of her room had changed, a lot of other things remained the same because they spoke to who she is and what's important to her. And the same thing holds true for companies...maybe yours, as well.


And herein lies the question: When the need arises, should you be re-branding or just refreshing your brand?


As we know, re-branding your business - whether you're a cemetery, a funeral home, or a supplier to the funeral industry - can be an intensive process that can literally redefine your company from the ground up. It's more than just slapping on a new coat of colors. Instead, a re-brand is a complete redo of an already established brand because the brand has become somewhat stale, insignificant, or just dated. This often happens when the brand has been around for awhile, regardless of size or industry. Contributing factors include: aggressive competition, becoming "lost in time" with an aging customer base, or industry changes that begin to turn a company's brand irrelevant.


However, re-branding a company from the ground up might not be the best bet for several reasons. For one, re-branding a company tends to erase history in the mind of the customer and you not only run the risk of alienating current customers but confounding prospective customers. Oh, and don't forget about the money that's involved. Still, for many businesses, it's necessary in order to stay competitive.


However, it is possible to take a small-scale approach by simply refreshing your brand. Think of it as remodeling your home. It's still the same house that keeps you safe and warm; you're just replacing the dark brown shag carpeting with  hardwood floors and the yellow tile counter-tops with granite. It's more of a remodel of your existing brand than a complete rebuild.


However, it is possible to take a small-scale approach by simply refreshing your brand. Think of it as remodeling your home. It's still the same house that keeps you safe and warm; you're just replacing the dark brown shag carpeting with hardwood floors and the yellow tile counter-tops with granite. It's more of a remodel of your existing brand than a complete rebuild.


OK, so why should you be considering this option? Well, if your company has been around for a while, maybe it's time to revitalize your dated look, or make it more appealing to a contemporary audience, or target a new audience, or address current market conditions. This involves revising/reinvigorating a brand's positioning and branding imagery to ensure that the messaging is not only strategically sound, but that the brand's look is up-to-date and relevant while still keeping much of the brand's equity. In short, it's less of an overhaul and more of a clarification. The brand name is left untouched, but maybe there are changes in the logo design. Maybe it's the sizing, placement and type of images and graphics to be used, or additional shades of brand colors. It could be a new look to your website, packaging or a change in the tagline. Coke, for example, has updated their brand decade after decade, but they're still the same brand America's been enjoying for a hundred years.


With this in mind, here are five things worth considering:


  1. Regardless of the reason, make sure to clearly define why it's necesMatthews 7-1-13sary to re-brand or refresh a brand and then share your rationale with your team members and other key company stakeholders to encourage buy-in.
  2. Going back to the remodeling metaphor, you wouldn't grab a hammer and just start knocking down walls around your house without plan. The same holds true for refreshing your brand. in short, have a plan in place that takes into account budget, timeline, parts of your business that will be affected (i.e., marketing materials, logos, signage, etc.)
  3. You don't want to invest in a major brand refresh only to have to do it again anytime soon. Stay away from flavors of the month or trends that are popular today but may not have the staying power to keep your brand current long-term. That said, it would be a good idea to consult with marketing experts who know how to do this and have done so successfully for others.
  4. If you can, it's never a bad idea to let your most important customers know what you're doing. You don't have to let them know everything up front but it would be good to give them a "heads-up" prior to the rest of the world seeing it.
  5. Don't change for the sake of change. Don't refresh or redesign your brand simply because you're tired of it. It should be a clear-headed business decision that has a purpose.


Refreshing your brand is not walk in the park. It takes a lot of preparation and hard work to do it right, but it can help to ensure your brand stays fresh and continues to resonate with your customers. What better way to say "hey, we're changing with the times" than to refresh your company image!


Feb. 19, 2014 by LA Ads - A Marketing Agency (c) 2013


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Returning to the extremely popular Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, the ICCFA Annual Convention & Expo offers the best programming, the best trade show and the best overall experience of any of the national death care conventions!


Link here for the complete event information and registration form. 


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Roadside Memorials:

How They Began, What They Mean 


The need many people feel to erect roadside memorials at the site of fatal crashes has caused some states to regulate them, but their existence does speak to the importance of memorialization.


We've all seen them as we travel the nation's roadways: shrines erected by people in grief to memorialize a tragic death. We see them in every state. They are usually placed in the location where a motor vehicle accident has taken a person's life. They may be as simple as a white cross or as complex as an elaborate shrine with balloons, flowers and personal mementos.



Memorials have been placed on roadways for a long time, as it was customary in the 19th century to bury people where they succumbed on their journeys. America's westward expansion was marked by the graves of those who perished during the long trek.


The practice of erecting roadside memorials is rooted in a Catholic tradition that began in areas with a large Hispanic population. It stemmed from a practice brought to the Southwest by Hispanic settlers.


By tradition, these memorials, called descansos (resting places), marked the spot where funeral processions paused to rest on their journey from the church to the cemetery. The first descansos in the United States were in New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo Mountains.


A priest or preacher led the procession, followed by mourning women in funeral garb. Four to six hardy men carried the heavy pine coffin on its journey. When the men stopped to rest, the spot was marked by stones, branches or flowers and a cross.


The priest recited prayers at the resting spot as the others contemplated death and were reminded to pray for the dead. After the respite, the coffin would again be lifted, and the processional to the cemetery continued.


On November 2, designated as the "Day of the Dead," Mexicans and other Hispanics still place a cross at the spot where a family member lost his or her life through a car accident or other violent act.


In the United States, the tradition gained traction after the erection in 1984 of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., with visitors leaving mementos of loved ones lost in the war at the base of the monument. This practice continues to this day.


Significance and themes

Today roadside memorials appear randomly along highways and country roads. They are set up by family members or friends of the person whose life was lost. Erected at the place where the victim took his or her last breath, they mark the spot where the spirit left the body for its journey into the next life.


These memorials do not replace the conventional gravestone but rather are an addition that sometimes holds deeper meaning for those creating them than traditional gravestones. A Virginia mother, when asked about the shrine to her son, said, "He took his last breath there. He didn't die at the cemetery."


The memorials evoke questions about the deceased: Who was this person? How did the accident happen?


But above all, they are a stark reminder to drive safely.


The most common theme among these memorials is the simple white cross, but others include plaques, pictures, personal artifacts and notes, religious items, car fragments or ornate combinations of all of the above.


In most cases, memorials are maintained by family and friends of the deceased, who usually update them with flowers and other decorations, particularly at holiday times and around the anniversary of the tragedy.


The state of Montana marks the sites of fatal traffic accidents with simple white crosses. The Montana American Legion White Cross Highway Fatality Marker Program is intended to promote safety rather than to serve as a memorial program.


It was spearheaded in 1953 by Floyd Eaheart, a member of the Missoula, Montana, American Legion Hellgate Post #27, after a Labor Day crash that killed six people. The program was adopted statewide, and Eaheart served as Montana's White Cross Program chairman for several years. Today, Legion chapter volunteers throughout Montana continue marking fatal accident sites with white crosses.


Memorials and the law

Roadside monuments are not popular with everyone. Many states object to them, saying they distract drivers and are obstacles for those working on road maintenance.


In Pennsylvania, erecting memorials along state roads is against the law. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation suggests that family and friends of the deceased participate in the "Adopt a Highway" or a scholarship program in their loved one's name rather than setting up a roadside memorial.


When the roadside shrine obstructs routine maintenance, such as grass mowing, the memorials are removed. In this case, the DOT attempts to contact the families of the deceased and keeps the articles for about a month before discarding them.


Georgia transportation officials view the memorials as an unsafe driver distraction, but have suggested an alternative, a simple 15-inch oval white sign with the words, "Drive Safely, In Memory" followed by the name of the person or persons who have died.


The price of Georgia's markers is $100. These markers are the only ones allowed on Georgia roads. Each sign remains in place for one year and is then turned over to the person who requested it. For safety reasons, all other markers are removed


Like Georgia, Florida has established its County Road Memorial Marker Program to increase public awareness of highway safety and to mark the spot of traffic fatalities on county roads.


Florida's markers are 15-inch-diameter round aluminum markers with a white background and black letters. They are mounted to a 5-foot steel U-channel post and uniformly inscribed "Drive Safely, In Memory" followed by the name of the deceased. These markers are manufactured at the county sign shop at no cost to the person requesting it.


The Virginia Department of Transportation will install a roadside memorial sign along a state-maintained highway, normally for a period of two years, but the guidelines are stringent. The entire cost of fabricating, installing and removing the sign is the responsibility of the person requesting it, and there may be no deviation from the standard roadside memorial sign specifications


However, VDOT is not an enforcement agency, so unofficial memorials still adorn the state's roadways. Unless the memorials become an eyesore, deteriorate into the roadway or become a safety or road hazard, they remain undisturbed.


One organization that absolutely supports erecting roadside memorials is Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). This organization's viewpoint is that, if nothing else, the memorials will increase drivers' awareness of highway deaths and perhaps encourage them to slow down.



link here for rest of article 


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Grave Houses


If you want to visit the Agee Cemetery in Hasty, Ark., you have to open a cattle gate, close it after yourself, drive over a rutted road dotted with cow patties, and avoid hitting any number of black angus steers, before pulling up to the cemetery's old iron gates. I've made the trip, and it is quite an adventure. But it was worth it.


Around 1914, William N. Christian hand-built two grave houses in Agee Cemetery. The smaller one was built over the grave of his unnamed grandson, who was stillborn in 1910. Christian's daughter, Nancy Christian Agee, and his son-in-law, William N. Agee, had another son, Guffrey, in 1912. He died in 1914 and the larger grave house sits atop his grave.


  Christian built the grave houses to protect the graves, making Guffrey's larger so a splint-bottomed chair could be kept inside the larger house. Every day, Christian would walk the two miles from his home to the cemetery, take out his chair, and whittle, remaining in the cemetery, to "be with the babies," until evening.


I drove to Agee Cemetery to see those two grave houses, which remain in remarkable condition. Displayed on the larger house inside a glass frame is a note telling Christian's story, and a photo showing what the houses looked like when new. I read the story, studied the photo, and paid my respects to Christian and his babies.


Grave houses, also called grave shelters, are not unique to Arkansas although they are symbols of Southern graves, especially mountain or hill country graves. Frederick Smoot, author of an article titled "The Grave House," defines a grave house as "a shelter erected over or near a grave." Smoot states that grave houses were rude or clapboard shelters built over an "in earth" interment, to protect "the grave from the elements and that fiendish ghoul, the grave robber."


Not all grave houses look the same. Clapboard houses often resemble sheds with no ornamentation. Other wooden grave houses are decorated with scrollwork. Christian built the two grave houses at Agee with wooden shake roofs and "head and shoulders" slats. Head and shoulder slats were designed to look like a standing person. Today, these two houses still show signs of the builder's designs, but both houses now have composite shingles on their roofs.


  Marcy Frantom, author of the article "In My Father's House: North Louisiana Gravehouses as Art and Technology," wrote that grave houses may have protected graves from excessive settling, "but their primary function was to protect graves from desecration by animals before cemeteries were fenced." The grave houses built by William Christian may have protected his grandsons' graves from cattle desecration.


Frantom goes on to write that grave houses may have served two other purposes. "Solid wall grave houses were built in South Louisiana in predominately Catholic cemeteries, and are reported to have been built 'to keep rain off the face' of the deceased. American Indians from Louisiana also probably practiced a tradition in which the structures (grave houses) functioned as spirit houses."


In the article "A Grave House from Hill Country," Terry Thornton pointed out, "Grave houses were once common throughout Hill Country-but few have survived." They may have had their "origin in the older custom of building 'spirit houses' so that the spirit of the deceased would stay near the body until judgment day," the article continued.


Research reveals that grave houses are not limited to Southern hill country. The Snohomish Indian tribe in Washington state has built variations of grave houses over its interred for hundreds of years. And there are other Northern Indian Tribes that used grave houses as forms of spirit houses.


  Isa Milman, author of the article, "Letter from Saskatchewan: Little Houses on the Prairie," which was published in Hadassah magazine, wrote about "a variety of little houses with gabled roofs built atop the graves" in the Lipton Hebrew Cemetery near Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Milman entered the "cemetery's office and unofficial museum" and read from a loose-leaf binder that was filled with "tantalizing fragments" about the cemetery. A newspaper clipping inside the binder described the grave houses as a means "to protect loved ones from the ravages of wild animals and spirits." 

Milman continued researching Jewish burials, and in Jewish stories and traditions, she "found the answer to the mystery of the grave houses. Anthropologist David Mandelbaum wrote, in 1936, that the native Cree in the Qu'Appelle Valley, near Lipton, erected 'small gable-roofed board houses over graves.'" Later, Milman found an 1885 photograph of a Cree cemetery full of wooden grave houses.



The Cree are considered one of the first nations of North America, so it is reasonable to hypothesize that the Cree may have been the first to build grave houses, passing this burial custom to the French, who took it to New Orleans, and from there the custom spread.



Grave houses did, however, adapt to the South quite well. Smoot recalled a tale where "there were a lot of hills, and hillside grave houses, but only very narrow 'hollars.'" Smoot said that graves occupied hillsides because they "are out of the way, they won't be plowed up, and you do not waste precious farm land." Smoot pointed out that the departed prefer to be buried on a hill facing eastward, noting "that way, the interred souls may be the first to see the next coming of the Messiah."


One thing seems traditionally true about grave houses-they honor special people. "They are usually small children, mothers who died young, and soldiers," according to Frantom. My experience-as with the Agee grave houses-indicates that the majority of grave houses cover children, acting like small, special playhouses protecting their charges for eternity.


Unfortunately, eternity comes rather quickly for clapboard grave houses. The two in the Agee Cemetery are still in good condition because the family has taken care of them. The Agee and Christian families, no doubt, have "cemetery homecomings" where they maintain the gravesites and houses. Other grave houses have not fared so well.


Sightlife 6-2013 Smoot describes "the discovery of the ruins of a grave house," and "many abandoned early grave houses that would have totally disappeared as the wooden parts rotted away." He continues, "Those grave houses that had a stone perimeter foundation may today appear simply as old stone walls-and if no headstones remain-may be passed over as a cemetery-looking too much like the foundation of a small building." Frantom echoes Smoot when she wrote, "...rural communities quit taking care of their local cemeteries, and most of the grave houses, many more than 100 years old, had fallen down or been destroyed."


The loss and destruction of grave houses and other funerary buildings have prompted, according to Frantom, a resurgence of interest in maintaining these structures, giving us insight into the way in which our ancestors honored loved ones with innovation and graceful artistry. For me, grave houses do much more.


John 14:2 states, "In my Father's house are many mansions." Cemeteries are considered hallowed ground, and what better evidence of God's eternal mansions than a grave house, covering the earthly remains of a child?


There are moments when I walk through a cemetery and am moved by a particular tombstone or general feeling. Standing before the Agee grave houses, I was so moved. I pray that these houses stand the test of time and continue to offer their protection and beauty to William Christian's children and to visitors, such as myself, for eternity.


Article by Larry LeMasters sourced from American Cemetery Magazine September 2013. 



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celebrants Tell me why 

Celebrants and holidays

One of the community outreach events many funeral homes and cemeteries offer each year is an annual holiday memorial service. Some firms invite all the families they have served that year, while others open it up to their entire community. And some organizations offer events to observe other days, such as Memorial Day or Veterans Day.


Traditionally holiday memorial services feature one or several local religious leaders, carols, candles, perhaps a video and maybe a gift for attendees such as an angel or an ornament. The service can be one of those important feel-good opportunities when a firm reaches out to their families to say that they still care about their grief journeys even long after the funeral is over.


Milne 2013 The problem with using a minister or other religious leader to preside at such services is that clergy have very specific words, traditions and beliefs about this time of year, and they feel most comfortable using the scriptures, the readings and the age-old stories of Christmas past. And we should not expect anything different - this is their training, this is their story.


However, just as we advocate for individual, personalized services for families from all walks of life and beliefs, we must recognize that not everyone who comes to your holiday service is Christian. As a matter of fact, according to the research, only about half of the people attend a church or have a faith-based tradition.


So, other than seeing a photo of their loved one and receiving a gift, how meaningful are such clergy-led services to those who gather up their hurting hearts and broken souls and make the effort to attend, hoping for a little solace and peace during the most dreaded time of year?


Perhaps, if you are going to offer a holiday service, you should plan it by taking a few steps back and considering everyone who might be attending. How do Christmas carols feel to that little widow who just lost her husband of 60 years? How does the description of a babe laid in a manger assist that couple who just lost their child? Providing a safe place for grieving every loss is the very best gift you can give your families and community.


Enter the celebrant. Celebrants can work with local clergy to blend the sacred and the secular into a service that fits all who attend.


I had a call from a newly trained celebrant the other day who was so excited that she had been asked to be part of the holiday service this year. The firm had invited a rabbi, a cantor and a Certified Celebrant and asked them to coordinate the service together.


The celebrant was giggling because she is Jewish, but her firm saw her as the right person to be sensitive and able to articulate comforting words for those who do not have a religious tradition.


Certified Celebrants also can, if you choose, provide an entire service focused on the grief journey and rocky road of the holidays to comfort everyone there, to let them know they are not alone and are among those who understand.


Each year I am asked to provide a holiday memorial service for several firms in my area. Here is a sample of the opening lines that could be used to begin a service:


To everything there is a season

A time of love, a time of sharing and a time of memories.

In each season let yesterday's memories lead you

In every time of need

Count your blessings as well as your tears

Fill your heart with the best of the past

And hope will come to you

Keep your eyes on the good times

And feel the love surrounding you

There will always be times of trial

But for every sorrow, there is hope

For every tear there is love.

As you work your way through your valley of sadness

May strong and lasting memories be your comfort

As you journey down this road of many branching paths

Let's walk together.


Welcome. My name is Glenda Stansbury and I'm honored to be the life tribute celebrant on behalf of (name of funeral home or cemetery). We are honored that you would come spend this time with us as we set aside a special moment for remembering.


The holidays are a time for family. A time of gathering. A time to bring hearts and minds home. As the popular song goes, "It's the most wonderful time of the year."


But, for those who have experienced a death, the carols ring hollow, the lights are too bright, the presents are too trivial, the gatherings are too sad with an empty space in the circle of the family. It can be the most difficult time of the year.


Today each person brings his or her individual journey to this place, to this sacred time, feeling alone and isolated in grief. You come from a myriad of backgrounds, of beliefs, of experiences. But the defining trait that everyone in this room shares is a death, a loss - your heart has been broken and you are searching for a way to put the pieces back together again.


Each grief journey is unique. It is singular to you. You may be overwhelmed by emotion and debilitated by pain. Or you may quietly tuck your sadness inside and walk along in silence, buffeted by the jostling crowd and the frenetic activity.


What better way to deal with the holidays than to share this time with others who understand what you are feeling? An opportunity to meet someone, to exchange a word, a knowing look or a hug. Today we are companions, fellow journeyers with the hope that the weight of your burden will be just a little lighter from the sharing, as we acknowledge and honor the special people in each of your lives.


We will light candles to remember your loved ones and you will be invited to receive a special ornament from the tree of remembrance. We will let our spirits be lifted by beautiful music, we will give ourselves time to meditate and reflect and hopefully you will be better prepared to face the season in a way that is right for you.


The longer I live in this world and the more I am present to people deep in the pain of loss, the more I've come to believe that part of the process of learning to live again, finding the ability to put one foot in front of another, is to find a small joy each day. Something that is simple. Something that is surprising. Something that touches your heart and allows even a moment of relief, of inspiration, of a chance to smile.


So, our hope for today is that you can find a moment of joy during our time together which you can carry with you throughout the season and beyond into the new year.


Let us begin with a moment of silence to focus your thoughts, to quiet your hearts and to gather your best memories of your loved one as we light our first candle of remembrance.


That is just one example of how a celebrant can preside at a gathering in a way that includes every person attending and send each of them home with the knowledge that your funeral home or cemetery cares about being present for each person's grief journey.


If you have a celebrant on staff or work with a freelance celebrant, why wouldn't you start thinking about how that person can help organize this year's holiday service? Why wouldn't you expand your offerings to include a celebrant into every special service of remembrance you provide as community outreach?


"Celebrant in a drawer"

Another way celebrants can impact a firm's community outreach is simply by handling more of your services. This is probably my biggest "tell me why" moment.


It never fails. We have just completed a celebrant training - three days of intense study and preparation for people who have seen that families need options when it comes to choosing a funeral officiant. They have absorbed the fact that a growing number of people identify themselves as spiritual but not religious.


These newly-minted Certified Celebrants have worked hard to develop the skills needed to listen during a family meeting and then to use their creative talents to write and present a special and personalized service no matter the situation or the manner of death. These 30 brand-new celebrants are ready to go back to their communities and serve all of the people, all of the time.


And then, someone in the course says:


  • "So, how do we convince our staff people/our arrangers/our funeral directors/our owners that we should offer celebrant services to all families?"
  • "What kind of tools do you have to persuade the rest of the staff that this is an important part of our offerings?"
  • "I just know I'm going to get shut down when I get back home and be told that we don't need to offer celebrants."

I do my very best to smile, to encourage, to offer PowerPoints or other tools for show and tell, to pep talk them through so they'll carry home some conviction and confidence. But I know that out of that 30, probably only one-third will be actively involved in offering celebrant services to families.


Some will get home and realize that without a redefinition of roles and responsibilities, they simply will not have the 8-10 hours it takes to design a special and meaningful service. And that there is no support or inclination to hire more staff or change job expectations in order to accommodate offering these types of services.Polyguard 7-12


Some will get home and be told either in words or through actions that "this funeral home doesn't need to offer celebrants. We've gotten by just fine all these years with the Rev. Rolodex, so why should we change now?"


Some will actually be instructed not to tell families that they offer celebrant-led services, so as not to upset the mythical apple cart. They keep the celebrant option "in a drawer" and pull it out only for those strident, anti-church, atheist families, saying, "Oh, well, we do have a celebrant," as a last-ditch effort to keep them from walking out of the arrangement room.


But some celebrants will find a warm welcome when they return to their jobs. They will be given the opportunity to discuss and define and demonstrate what a celebrant funeral is and what it can mean for families, and for the future of the funeral home or cemetery where they work.


Yes, I said cemetery. Do you tell families you have a celebrant who can conduct a graveside service at your cemetery? Who can create a ceremony for inurnments or entombments or scatterings? If your answer is no, well, you know what my next question is.


Smart organizations will embrace the celebrant concept and it will become part of the normal and daily offerings of the firm. Think of how often you've heard the mantra "every option, every family, every time." Guess what? That includes the celebrant option.


Those celebrants who are kept busy are the ones who give us hope and keep us packing up our training cases and climbing on yet one more airplane. If we can find some visionary and inspired souls from forward-thinking organizations each time we conduct a training, the end result will be more families served in a healthy and healing manner.


Tell me why it is not a good thing for a funeral home to be seen as providing amazing, touching and memorable services for families.


Tell me why we ignore the fact that our potential future customers are the ones sitting in our chapel, attending the services we deliver today and judging whether or not they want to go through this experience when the time comes in their own lives.


Tell me why this is not the best advertising one could possibly have: a service people leave saying, "When I die, that's the kind of service I want and this is the funeral home where I can get it."


So, as I tell my little grandson, Parker, for some things in life there are just no answers. However, perhaps this conversation has caused you [to] pause and ask your own "tell me why" questions about the opportunities and challenges facing your organization.


Maybe the answers are as easy as finding ways to use celebrants in every aspect of your outreach efforts, your services and your identity.


Maybe the "Why do I need to use a funeral home?" mentality that seems to be growing will be replaced with, "Why, I couldn't have done it without you."


That would be the very best answer.


article by Glenda Stansbury sourced from ICCFA Magazine January 2014


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New WCCFA Member/Director Liaison List 


As mentioned in Pat Hollick's article above, the WCCFA Board has put together its 2014 Liaison Committee. You can link to it here. Member properties are listed alphabetically in the yellow-highlighted column. Your Liaison on the board is listed in the far-left column.


The purpose of the Liaison Committee is to link every voting member of the association directly to a board member, someone you can call when you have a question, an idea, a problem or, yes, even a complaint. More active members already know many of the board members, but those who can only attend conferences and conventions occasionally may feel somewhat isolated.


For the board's part, they can come to you with questions when the board is seeking member input, or let you know when something is going on you should know about right away.


Your Liaison contact will be in touch with you soon - but don't wait. You can contact your Liaison anytime you like. Link here for the list, including how to contact your own Liaison.


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RoadsideRoadside Memorials 


Other memorials

Another somber memorial which is not quite as common as the roadside shrine is the "ghost bike" This is a bicycle painted completely white and locked to a street sign in memory of a bicyclist killed or injured close by.


As with other roadside memorials, ghost bikes remind passersby that a tragedy occurred near that street corner and encourage drivers to be aware of bicyclists on the street, who face the same risks as do drivers.


The practice of creating these ghost bike memorials originated in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2003. They can be found throughout the world in over 180 locations, and a website ( has been established as a resource for the worldwide cycling community.


The state of Utah and the Utah Highway Patrol Association fought and lost a battle with American Atheists Inc. to memorialize state troopers killed in the line of duty. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court ordered that 14 steel crosses in Hurricane, Utah, each honoring a Utah state trooper killed in the line of duty, be taken down because of the atheist group's lawsuit, filed in 2005 against religious symbols on public land.


Each cross was 12 feet tall with a 6-foot crossbar, on which was printed the trooper's name, rank and badge number. The UHP's beehive symbol appeared below where the two bars met.


Though the crosses were privately funded and owned by the UHPA, most of them sat on public land. The trooper association took down the crosses and plans to move them all to private land with permission of the landowners. The settlement also ordered that the UHP logos be removed.


Probably the most controversial memorials are the white crosses that appear in early September on lawns and churchyards in memory of aborted fetuses and as a reminder that abortions are performed daily. Anti-abortion groups hold prayer vigils on September 14, the National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children, throughout the country.


Over the years, some of these displays have been trampled or destroyed. A non-profit called Online for Life has launched a website ( where tributes can be posted to memorialize these lives and to provide a place where those who have had abortions can acknowledge and grieve their losses without recrimination or politics.


Another type of roadside memorial, hard to ignore because of its sheer size, is the cluster of triple crosses along roadways in the United States, Zambia and the Philippines. The crosses were erected by Bernard Coffindaffer, a West Virginia businessman who became a Christian at age 42 after two heart bypasses.


After liquidating his business, Coffindaffer had a vision to "plant crosses" throughout the world. He began his project in 1984, raising and spending over $3 million on it. His first trio of crosses was erected 65 miles north of Charleston, West Virginia, and stood 25 feet in height. The crosses are symbolic of Christ and the two thieves crucified with him.


Coffindaffer, who died in 1993 of a heart attack, is quoted as saying, "The crosses speak peace within as we struggle without." His work is continued by an organization called Crosses across America (, founded in 1999 by Sara Stevenson Abraham to continue Coffindaffer's vision and build crosses every 50 miles along North America's roadways.


Temporary vs. permanent memorialization

As funeral professionals, it is our responsibility to the families we serve to educate ourselves with laws regarding roadside memorials in the states where we are licensed. In this way, we can help families who want to do so honor a loved one's memory with a roadside memorial, but we also should educate them regarding the reasons for permanent memorialization in a cemetery.


Since roadside memorial guidelines vary from state to state and often limit the amount of time memorials are permitted to stand, it is up to us to assist families in finding a safe and permanent resting place where they can remember their loved one.


Our commitment to families also should include becoming familiar with personal injury protection insurance guidelines. Though you should not offer legal advice (unless you are also licensed to practice law), funeral professionals should be able to at least direct the family to the proper resources for obtaining the death benefit in the case of death due to a motor vehicle accident.


For example, in Florida, in most of these types of cases, the family is entitled to receive a $5,000 death benefit if certain requirements are met.


Memorials dot our nation's roads from coast to coast for many reasons. No matter what the motivation may be for a roadside memorial, its interruption of the drive's monotony provides us the opportunity to pause and reflect on our own circumstances, and perhaps keeps us safer on our journeys.


Article by Tanya Scotece, CFSP, sourced from ICCFA Magazine for January 2014.


The author is a funeral director and Certified Celebrant with Farley Funeral Home & Crematory, Venice, Florida. The family-owned company also owns a cemetery, Venice Memorial Gardens.


After working in a medical office setting for nearly 20 years, she started mortuary school in 2003, graduating in 2005. She ten obtained a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and a master's degree in criminal forensics. She has completed all of her coursework and qualifying exams for her Ph.D. and is now a doctoral candidate at the University of South Florida (Tampa) in curriculum and instruction with emphasis on adult education. Her research has focused on funeral service.


In 2008, she became a trained funeral celebrant through the ICCFA University College of 21st Century Funeral Services. She graduated from ICCFAU in 2011 and was chosen as valedictorian.


Despite her late entry into funeral service, Scotece had wanted to be a funeral director since the age of 12, when her mother took her to a visitation, where she was fascinated by the process. She surprised her mother by asking if she could attend the other visitation occurring at the funeral home. "I actually went by myself to the other side of the funeral home and paid my respects." 


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Get your 2014 music license now! 


We have again joined forces with the International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association's Music Coalition. We are pleased to inform you that your membership in the Washington Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association now entitles your company to music licensing with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC for only $258 for the 2014 calendar year. If you have not already purchased or renewed your Music License for 2012, simply complete the 2014 Music License Application and return it to ICCFA with payment, and your music license requirement for 2014 will be covered. Please note that the $258 price will be in effect until January 25, 2014. After January 25, the price increases to $270 per location.  


Click here for application form.


Music licensing is the law, and failure to obtain a license where one is required can be costly: Copyright law provides for damages similar to fines of up to $30,000 for each song that is infringed. If your cemetery, regardless of size, hosts performances of copyrighted music - whether the music is performed live or played from recordings - music copyright owners say you are legally required to pay an annual licensing fee.


Click here for application form.


As a partner in the Music License Coalition, WCCFA now provides our member companies the opportunity to be in full compliance with the law and ensure you are covered for any music a client family might request. Licensing directly with the agencies this year would cost nearly $600 per location, so the Coalition price, which requires no additional membership fee, is still the lowest available in the funeral industry.


Click here for application form.


The Music License Coalition is a partnership of numerous associations representing the cemetery, cremation and funeral service industry and administered by the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association. Its goal is simply to continue to attract more licensees, thereby increasing compliance within the profession and qualifying for even bigger volume discounts in the future - so your company can save even more money!


Click here for application form.


Please note that if you receive another 2014 Music License Coalition Renewal notice for $258 licensing from another Coalition organization, you only need to pay once and you can simply remit payment with whichever invoice you choose. Some cemeteries may be on more than one Music License Coalition partner membership list. As long as you pay the low $258 fee for each location where music is played, you can rest assured your company will be covered with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC for 201 4.


Click here for application form.


If you have any questions, please call us at 360.668.2120. We look forward to your participation and support of the WCCFA/Music License Coalition program.


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Washington state Department of Health releases 2012 mortality statistics 


The 2012 mortality data for Washington State has been finalized.  Attached you will find 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.


Please feel free to contact me if your e-mail address has changed or if you would like to have anyone else from your facility or department receive these reports.  Also let me know if there is anything else I can assist you with.



Amy J. Poel


Center for Health Statistics

PO Box 47814

Olympia, WA 98504

Phone:  (360) 236-4326

Fax:  (360) 753-4135

Physical Location:  101 Israel Road SE (Town Center 1) Tumwater, WA


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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 




Do you have a job position to fill?

Cemetery or funeral home equipment to sell?

Are you looking for a job?

Classified ads for WCCFA members are FREE.

Send your information to the WCCFA at 

SCI Seattle Market job postings


  • LOCATION MANAGER: Bauer Group Funeral Homes - Snohomish and Monroe, WA (link here for job description) 
  • LICENSED FUNERAL DIRECTOR or LICENSED INTERN: West Seattle Group (link here for job description)

The WCCFA Insider is published ten times per year by and for the members of the Washington Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association. Portions of the information in this publication are taken from other sources which we believe to be reliable and which are not necessarily complete statements of all the available data. The services of an attorney or an accountant should be sought in connection with any legal or tax matter covered. Conclusions are based solely upon our best judgment and analysis of technical and industry information sources.

MAIL ONLY 16212 Bothell-Everett Highway, F183, Mill Creek, WA 98012

Phone 360.668.2120 or 888.522.7637 Fax 360.282.6535

News articles, editorials, press releases, commentary are all welcomed.

For information about membership, advertising or editorial policy,

contact Judy Faaberg, Executive Director.


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In This Issue
College of Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Studies
Washington State Funeral & Cemetery Board Meeting Minutes
A baby girl for Megan!
The Ground Rules
Time to throw a few rocks?
Tell me why you aren't using celebrants
10 Tips for Handling Cremation Customers
Is a therapy dog right for your funeral home or cemetery?
To Re-Brand or to Refresh?
ICCFA Convention 2014
Roadside Memorials: How They Began, What They Mean
Grave Houses
Liaison List Updated
Get your 2014 music license now!
Bulletin Board
SCI Market Job Postings