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

David Ittner is new Senior Vice President

at Fairmount Memorial Association

David Ittner has been promoted to Senior Vice President for both Fairmount Memorial Association and Fairmount Holdings, Inc.


Previously, in 2003, Mr. Ittner became the head grounds superintendent of FMA's 7 cemeteries, and then was promoted to General Manager of the Fairmount Memorial Association.

As Senior Vice President, Mr. Ittner will oversee all the operation of Fairmount Memorial Association's 7 cemeteries, and will be a key member of the management team.

David Ittner is a graduate of Washington State University with a B.S in Crop Science, and has an MBA from Eastern Washington University. He is involved with the Spokane South Rotary Club and has been a 6 year board member and current President of the Washington Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association.

Mr. Ittner and his wife Tiffany have been married for 10 years and have 3 sons. 

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Do's and Don'ts of Advance Sales 


Chances are purchasing a final resting place doesn't top many people's to-do list. While the reasons - or excuses - may be many, advance sales (the preneed of the cemetery industry) are an integral part of any cemetery operations. While it isn't easy - and does take a lot of work - there are things you can do to help put your firm on a better financial footing.




Gary O'Sullivan and friend

To ensure you are representing your firm properly and serving your prospects effectively, be acknowledgeable about your organization and its product offerings. "If you don't know what you're selling, how are you going to sell it?" says Gary O'Sullivan, president of Gary O'Sullivan Co., a consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, development, management and leadership in sales and marketing in Winter Garden, Fla. Take time to learn about what you're selling...and don't be afraid to ask questions, O'Sullivan says. "The more knowledge you have, the more confident you'll be...and that will benefit everyone," he adds.




Selling, just as any other profession, has skills that should be mastered. Work diligently to learn professional and ethical selling competencies. "No one is born a salesperson," O'Sullivan points out. "It's a skill that is learned...and learned correctly."




Tenured sales professionals understand the simple concept that says, "The more you serve, the more you will sell," O'Sullivan says. Look for ways to be of service, to be engaged and to build relationships. Over time, your efforts will lead to more opportunities to sell.




For years, Sullivan says he has taught a simple principle: "If you don't have people to see, then nothing else really matters." If you are not consistently gaining new prospects to share your preneed story with, he says, what you know will be of little value.




People don't buy products, they buy what a product does, O'Sullivan says. "We buy a can opener, because we want an open can. People buy the products and services we sell because of what it provides them," he says. "People don't want our products, they want to take away the burden of making these decisions at one of life's most difficult times, they want to save money, they want to provide for themselves and their families peace of mind."




When making your preneed presentation it's important to establish the value in making these important decisions. A simple way to remember this concept, O'Sullivan says, is to focus on the protection and peace of mind preplanning offers before discussing products and prices.




For Charles F. Christopher, vice president of sales for Jefferson Memorial Cemetery and Funeral Home in Pittsburgh, that means offering a variety of programs and events that will bring different groups of people onto your property. "The key is to create a niche for yourself in the market...whether that means holding a pet expo or offering a Cremation 101 seminar on your property," Christopher says. "You can't just go and try to sell need to know what is important to them."




While it may not always be possible, if you have resources, invest in a sales/marketing person to help bring advance sales into your cemetery, says Thomas Daly, founder and principal of CHS Consulting Group in Westwood, Mass. "That person will be able to communicate your cemetery's message effectively," Daly says. And without having to juggle a number of other jobs throughout the day, he or she will be able to focus on sales.

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Change is constant, and you have to evolve your sales to meet your new market, Christopher insists. "That means doing presentations to various groups, offering events and creating new resource opportunities," he says.




Knowing that families today have many needs for their dollars, you may want to consider offering a program that allows payment over time. "It's a way to get people who otherwise might not consider - or be able to afford - a cemetery purchase, a chance to do so," Daly points out. "Just because you've never done it before doesn't mean you can't offer the option now."




More often than not, families are going to find you through an Internet search. That means, at the very least, Daly says, that your property needs a website. And that website should be rich in content, he says, including everything from photographs to contact information. "How do you expect people to contact you if they can't find you? Daly asks.


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  OM Ad 6-2013

Tiny gowns become "such a huge gift" 


Marysville - Michelle Matthews has never met any of the hundreds of parents here and around the country for whom she has sewn and donated baby gowns.


The gowns are all for newborns who have died at hospital intensive care units.


The gowns are stored at medical facilities for such a sad occasion, and Matthews doesn't know when or to whom they'll be given.


That's all right, she says. "There are times when what is a small act to one person is such a huge gift to the other."


She sews her gowns in threes sizes; the smallest so tiny it's just a diamond-shapred wrap with a little pocket and a ribbon to close it.


That's because sometimes the babies who die are so tiny and fragile - perhaps a pound in weight, all of eight to ten inches in length - that putting them in that little pocket is all you can do.


Some of the babies have died from complications during the pregnancy, some shortly after birth.


Matthews says that at least the parents won't have to go to a clothing store for babies and see other parents shopping for their healthy newborns as they find something for the memorial service.


Michelle Matthews, who works at Evergreen-Health Medical Center in Kirkland, turns donated wedding dresses into gowns for newborns who died at hospital intensive care units.

In her family home here, using a Singer heavy-duty sewing machine and a serger, Matthews sews her Angel Gowns all from donated wedding gowns. The adult gowns have nice fabric that "is soft and sweet and pretty, and delicate with the lace." And most gowns have been used only once.


Matthews began her project at the end of 2011 using her own wedding gown.


"I didn't see any reason to hang onto it forever in my closet," she says.


As word spread, she began getting emails from around the country from women offering their gowns.


Matthews has some 60 wedding dresses waiting to be cut up and sewn, all carefully folded in vacuum bags so they don't take up much room. She's thinking of putting a hold on accepting more dresses until she gets through these.


A grandmother from Canfiend, Ohio, enclosed this note with her donation: "Here is my wedding gown and veil. I know you will make good use of them, in memory of my grandson..."


A donor named Emily writes about her now-healthy son who was born at 33 weeks and the time he spent in intensive care.


"If my dress can provide any kind of comfort to someone when they need it the most it'd mean the world to me," she writes.


Although Matthews hasn't met the recipients of the outfits - she began giving them away first here and now throughout the country - every day she sees worried parents whose babies are in dire straits.


Matthews works near the entrance to the neonatal intensive care unit at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland, where she is a health-unit coordinator. She lets the parents into the locked area.


"I see them every day," Matthews says. "It's tiring and draining for them, also coping with the rest of life, having to go to work, other children at home."


If not for her baby gowns, the infants might have simply been placed in their hospital blankets when they were buried or cremated.


Only a very small number of newborns die.


Nationwide, according to federal health figures, in 2009 the mortality rate for children dying before 28 days of age was 4.2 per 1,000 live births, due to such causes as congenital malformations.


For babies between ages 28 days and one year the death rate was 2.2 per 1,000 live births, most often due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.


Combined, that means more than 26,000 children under age one die each year. That puts the U.S. at No. 29 in infant mortality rates among developed countries, with such countries as Norway and Japan having considerably lower rates, and it results in annual stories about our relatively high ranking.


At EvergreenHealth, the gowns are stored along with bereavement boxes that the hospital buys.


Inside the boxes can be placed such items as a mold of the baby's hand or foot, and even photos taken by a volunteer photographer.


"I think it does matter," says Dr. Barry Lawson, director of women's and children's services at the hospital. "The keepsakes don't bring them back, but at least it makes you less lonely as parents."


Trish Anderson, a nurse and director of women's and children's programs at the hospital, says she's heard from parents who take the boxes and for a long time can't bring themselves to open them.


But when they do, she says, "They're very appreciative."


Matthews, 42, works three 12-hour shifts a week, and her husband, Jerry Matthews, also works long shifts with sometimes mandatory overtime as an oil-refinery operator in Anacortes.


That gives her some long stretches at home by herself. She finds relaxation in sewing the gowns, sometimes for six or seven hours at a time.


"It's almost meditative. When I'm working on a gown, it takes my mind off my son who's across the country in the Navy, or my mother who has cancer," says Matthews.


She's gotten fast enough that she can sew a baby gown in an hour.


When she started, Matthews was given some gown patterns by Vicki Gillette, a Bothell woman who was co-founder of Evan's Embrace.


Evan was Gillette's grandson who died three days after being born on June 18, 2010. It was a breech birth (feet first) and he wasn't getting enough oxygen.


So Gillette puts together what she calls "comfort baskets" in his memory that she delivers to local hospitals to be given to grieving parents. The baskets include everything from some candles to a disposable camera "because not everybody has their cellphone charged."


Gillette is a seamstress, and had constructed patterns by using dolls because of their small size. She has sewn some baby outfits but mostly concentrates on the memorial boxes.


On a wall in her sewing room, Matthews has put up a small photo of a little girl named C.J., whose aunt donated a wedding dress in the girl's memory. It reminds Matthews why she's sewing the gowns.


"I thought it was a sweet picture of a beautiful little girl," she says.


And so at her home in Marysville, the wedding outfits keep arriving and Matthews stores them carefully for when th ey'll be used.


"I've been entrusted with these dresses," she says.


Article by Erik Lacitis sourced from the Seattle Times, March 10, 2014. Times researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.


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Kelso funeral home placed on probation for accidentally switching bodies 


A Kelso funeral home that mixed up two bodies in October - an error that led to one man being cremated against his wishes - has been fined $12,500 and placed on probation for a year, the state Department of Licensing announced Monday.


The Washington State Funeral and Cemetery Board fined Dahl-McVicker Funeral Home following the mismanagement of the remains of Jerry Moon, who was mistakenly cremated against his wishes, and Robert Petitclerc, who was nearly buried in Moon's clothes and grave. Moon, of Castle Rock, was 72 years old when he died in October, nearly three decades younger than Petitclerc, who was 97.


Dahl-McVicker has until May 7 to accept the penalties or request a hearing, a process that could take months. Dahl-McVicker declined comment.

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The two men died 50 minutes apart between 1 and 2 a.m. Oct. 13 at Community Hospice. Dahl employee Norm Burns arrived to remove Peticlerc's remains but did not place an identifying tag on the on the body, according to the state. Burns then drove to another hospice entrance to claim Moon's remains, which he also failed to tag immediately. It wasn't until Burns returned to Dahl-McVicker in that he attached identification to the bodies, and it was then that the misidentification took place. State law says that claimed bodies have to be identified immediately upon removing them from the place of death.


Moon, in correctly labeled as Robert Petitclerc, was taken to Longview Memorial Park Crematory and cremated Oct. 17. Moon's family said at the time that Moon had made burial arrangements years ago and was staunchly opposed to being cremated.


Petitclerc's remains were supposed to be cremated, but were instead shipped to Brown Mortuary in Chehalis, which was cleared by the state licensing board of wrongdoing.


"We found during our investigation that Brown was unaware (of the switched bodies)," said Christine Anthony, a spokeswoman with the Department of Licensing.


It was during a final look inside the closed casket at Jerry Moon's funeral services at Brown Mortuary that Moon's family discovered Petitclerc's body in Moon's casket.


Helen Petitclerc, the widow of Robert Petitclerc, said about the long legal process that led to last week's proposed agreement: "I think it's about time."


Moon's relatives declined to comment.


If Dahl-McVicker decides to request a hearing, it could bring in witnesses and present its case, and the state would present its own findings.


Dahl-McVicker's license probation states that "(Dahl-McVicker) shall not commit any violations of the laws or rules governing funeral practice and must pass inspections and audits conducted by the Department (of Licensing) at its discretion," according to state documents. The probation would essentially put Dahl-McVicker under closer watch for a year, with more inspections and audits than would normally occur.


article by Brooks Johnson sourced from for 4/21/2014


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Clean Sweep: Balancing needs in the cemetery   


by Patti Martin Bartsche


The reason for having rules and regulations in a cemetery is a simple one: to protect the interests of plot owners and preserve the beauty and safety of the grounds. The challenge is ensuring that the interests of all concerned parties are equally addressed.


Until 20 years ago, Metro, the regional elected government in the Portland, Ore., metropolitan area, wasn't in the business of operating cemeteries. But when ownership of the 14 pioneer cemeteries in Multnomah County was transferred in 1994, Metro became the steward of the properties.


"When we got the cemeteries from the country, we didn't realize how significant an effort it was going to be to operate and maintain the properties," said Paul Slyman, director of parks and environmental services at Metro, which oversees cemetery operations. "We don't have an onsite staff at any of the cemeteries, and there is no fencing around the properties.


The cemeteries also didn't have a decorating policy that was being enforced. "Over the years, people just kind of did what they wanted," Slyman said. "They planted bushes, put up monuments, built structures and installed benches."


In many cases, Slyman said, a person saw someone else putting something at a gravesite and decided to follow the lead. "There was an assumption that if one person did it, it was OK," Slyman said.


But it wasn't, and over the years it became increasingly difficult to properly maintain the cemetery properties. Staff had a difficult time maneuvering around the enclosures, borders, plantings and other embellishments at gravesites, Slyman said. In addition, he said, some of the cemetery properties were becoming unsightly.


So about two years ago Metro commissioned a cemetery business plan and established an external advisory committee. "We wanted to know what the best cemetery practices are," Slyman said, "so we turned to the experts for guidance and advice."


Not surprisingly, stopping the proliferation of personal memorialization was at the top of the list. "There wasn't a single adviser who said let it be," Slyman said. "They told us it wasn't going to be fast and it wasn't going to be easy, but we had to start enforcing the rules."


Before enforcement started, though, Metro reviewed the existing rules, updating policies to meet the times. It also added specific language spelling out clearly what was allowed - and what was no t.


In October 2012, Metro began informing lot owners and the general public about the updated policies. Cemetery decorations like flowers and easels would be allowed for two weeks after a burial. Flowers around Memorial Day, artificial flowers during the winter and plantings with written permission would also be allowed. Toys, vases and other mementos would not be allowed after Nov. 1. Also not permitted: trees, shrubs, plants and temporary grave enclosures like bricks, fencing or stones.


Notices were posted in multiple languages around the cemeteries, and stories appeared in local newspapers explaining the changes. Letters were also sent to site owners announcing extra displays had to be taken down and removed.


"We have to remember that the cemetery is for everyone," Slyman said. "It's for the people that are buried here. It's also for the people that visit the cemetery. So on our minds there's safety, respect and responsible care of the cemetery."


Slowly, the rules gradually began to be enforced across the 14 cemeteries. By March, the cleanup and removal at the gravesites was nearly complete.


Reaction has varied to the enforcement. Some families complied quickly, while others spoke up against the rules.


"The argument usually is that 'we're taking care of our things, and you should let us be,'" Slyman said. "But the fact of the matter is, that some kinds of things, as precious as they may have been when they were installed there comes a time when people stop caring for them."


Bob Fells

Pushback from families complaining about decorating policies isn't unheard of, said Robert Fells, executive director and general counsel for the ICCFA (International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association). Many times, it can be traced to cemeteries not having policies in place or not enforcing policies that have long been on the books.


Rules and regulations that are considered reasonable will generally be enforced in courts of law, Fells said, adding, "but if those rules and regulations don't exist, there will be problems."


In addition, the rules need to be defensible. "A cemetery can certainly say a certain size marker will only be allowed, but if that marker is only available from the cemetery, it's going to be looked at by the court as self-serving and not stand the test," Fells noted.


So if a cemetery has policies, rules and regulations in place that are considered reasonable, there should be no problem with enforcement, right? Not so fast, Fells cautioned.


"I think the rules and regulations at many cemeteries are very old," Fells said. When was the last time someone on the cemetery board sat down and took a look at rules and asked, "Do these rules still serve us?" Fells asked.


A good case in point would be a lot owner who owns space in a human section and wants to bury a pet there, Fells said. If there is no rule or regulation specifically stating that a pet cannot be buried in a human section, the owner may feel he or she has the right to bury that pet.


It's imperative for cemeteries to review their rules and regulations every couple of years. "Let board members and staff get together and read the rules as though they've never seen them before," Fells said.


Among the questions that should be asked during the review:

  • Do these rules still make sense?
  • Do they do what they are intended to do?
  • From experience have there been situations that have come up where the rules have been silent and we wish they had spoken?

"By asking the questions, you'll get a sense of whether updates are necessary," Fells said. "If you don't have something specifically about pet and human remains being buried together, this would be the time to add it."


Of course, the best rules and regulations are only as good as their enforcement.


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Due diligence?

Nothing Personal, It's Just Good Business 


the author, Edward J. "Jake" Defort

In a local newspaper several years ago, I read about a scam targeting senior citizens - a variation of the old distract-and-loot concept. It seems these scammers, usually young women, would observe the homes of senior citizens to get a sense of the comings and goings at a particular house.


One of the women would then knock on the door and attempt to engage the home-owner in conversation and in the process try to lure him or her into a sitting area away from the door. An accomplice would then sneak in and loot the house of whatever valuables could be found in other rooms, usually on the second floor, while the kindly senior citizen would be chatting away with the unexpected visitor.


The team would then leave the house, and it would take the homeowner some time to discover that he or she had been robbed.


I've read versions of this story many times, and they always end sadly. I later found out that my next-door neighbor had been a target. She was a kind, older woman who lived alone, and the scammers knew it. They'd also observed that she had no regular visitors, which made her a prime target.


The good thing was that my neighbor read the local newspapers. As the stranger approached her and tried to gain entry to the house, my neighbor cut her off and told her to or she would call the police. The woman fled in a car parked down the block.


My neighbor was one of the fortunate ones. I have known several others who were either naïve, gullible or lonely - or all of the above - and were victims of this tag-team burglary scheme. I also am aware of one incident in which the victim's credit card was used to buy jeans and a new hairstyle. The stylist even knew who the girls were and police were contacted, but nothing was ever done because they were in a different state and the credit card company refused to press charges for such a minimal amount of money. They had their routine down.


But every now and then, I'll read a version of this scam taking place and will see even more articles detailing what to do and what not to do in this situation.


Lately, I've had another case of déjà vu with the events taking place at Galilee Memorial Park in Memphis, where the owner has been arrested and charged with burying bodies three to a grave - even on property not owned by the cemetery! A number of funeral homes are being sued as well because the plaintiffs say the funeral homes should have known that the cemetery's license had expired. It's hard not to recall similar stories such as Burr Oak or Menorah Gardens.


In the real world, there is no such thing as a scandal-free zone. And when it comes to reporting about the bad actors within funeral service, these stories take on a heightened sense of outrage among consumers. So when these stories hit, the consumer breaks out his or her broad brush and paints everyone in the profession with the same stroke.


But one aspect of this recurring story should cause everyone in funeral service to pause and recall one of funeral service's recurring themes - the importance of knowing with whom you are doing business. l due diligence is a term that always seems to get brought out of the box when a scandal like this breaks. But due diligence should never be put in a box.


It's nothing personal, it's just good business.


Editorial by Edward J. Defort, editor of NFDA's The Director magazine, reproduced in its entirety with permission.


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Laurel Hill woos visitors in February

with love stories 


How do you sell tickets to a cemetery tour in Philadelphia in the middle of winter? Laurel Hill Cemetery does it with a "love tour" in honor of Valentine's Day, topped off with some wine, hot chocolate and hors d'oeuvres.


Gwen Kaminski, director of development and programs for the historic cemetery, gives this particular tour, one of many at the cemetery, which through it still has some lots to sell is mainly in the business of maintaining the 78-acre National Historic Landmark.


Visitors are dressed for the weather as they tour Laurel Hill Cemetery in February to hear love stories. Tour guide Gwen Kaminski proised attendees a variety of stories: "Some love is eternal; some love ends; and some love ends badly."

The additional goals of interpreting the cemetery and welcoming the public to enjoy and learn about the cemetery and its residents dovetail nicely with running an active program of fund-raising tours that bring in needed revenue.


But whether your cemetery is nearing the end of its active life or has a lot of interment, entombment and inurnment spaces still to sell, a strong community outreach effort is important.


A cemetery that has been in business for any length of time - not to mention those such as Laurel Hill that are well past their centennial - has a rich resource for possible programs.


"There are probably an infinite number of stories here at Laurel Hill, and probably any cemetery," Kaminski said. "We have 75,000 people buried here. Given all those careers and personal lives and affiliations and life experiences, the stories are unlimited, really, which is why each year we develop more and more programming with diverse themes."


Laurel Hill's tours are developed by different people, based on personal interests. The "love tour," (officially "Till Death Do Us Part: The Love Stories of Laurel Hill") was inspired by a particular interment record.


"Each of the 75,000 people buried here has a burial record that was created at the time that lists the date of their interment, usually their last-known residence and the funeral home. One record lists not just the woman's name but "heart of ..." and then her name, Mary Peterson. When we found that record, obviously the idea that all of her is nut buried here - just her heart - provoked a lot of curiosity.


"When we did the research, we learned that in February 1881, she and her husband and their two children were vacationing in Atlantic City. After dinner, her husband, Thomas, left the house and never returned. In June, his body and some personal effects washed up on the beach. His death remained a mystery. He took a walk and disappeared. Did he take his own life or meet with some kind of foul play? We don't know.


"We do know that Mary, who was in her mid-30s when this happened, eventually remarried. She died in 1912, but before she did, she expressed her wish to have her heart removed from her body post-mortem and placed here next to her first husband, who had died so many years before. And the rest of her is buried at a churchyard in Center City, Philadelphia."


Some people might find the story a bit morbid, Kaminski said, but when she first heard it, she thought it was "amazingly romantic."


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Green Burial Roundtable


With an increasing number of people becoming interested in environmentally-friendly lifestyles, it should come as no surprise that people are also interested in choosing greener burial options for themselves and their loved ones. Sara Brink, steward of Foxfield Preserve in Wilmot, Ohio; Brian Flowers, president of the Green Burial Council [and GM of Greenacres Memorial Park, Moles Family Funeral Home & Crematory and The Meadow Green Burial Ground, in Ferndale, Wash.]; and Jennifer Johnson, burial coordinator at Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve in Newfield, N.Y., weigh in on green and natural burial.


In your experience, how have expectations or demands for green burials changed over the years?


Brian Flowers

Brink: We have seen interest increasing each year as awareness of our services grows within our community. As our community becomes more informed, they are coming to us with clear expectations in line with our services.


Flowers: I don't think they've changed qualitatively, but quantitatively, it's definitely increased. The people that expect and make demands of green burial are usually very educated, very savvy, well-researched individuals who have done their homework and are approaching us with very specific desires and needs, and I've seen that grow. However, initially it was just the educated and savvy person approaching this, but I'm also seeing an increase in people who don't know as much about green burial but want more information. Occasionally I see people making at-need arrangements, which I never saw before.


Johnson: Our cemetery preserve opened in May 2006. Each year since then we have had an increased number of burials, as well as inquiries about natural burial and a good number of people planning ahead by prepurchasing burial sites. As awareness increases, and people choose this option, they seek out green cemeteries. Early on we buried more people from out of state than we currently do. That's because there weren't that many green cemeteries in 2006. Now there are quite a few more options for green burial across the states, and people can be buried closer to home.


For cemeteries wishing to "go green" what would you suggest they do?


Jennifer Johnson

Brink: A great place to start is with the Green Burial Council ( It is establishing standards for certification with the input of conservationists and practitioners. There are also a few established green cemeteries, like Foxfield, which are offering consultation services for those who are interested.


Flowers: Begin with a call to the Green Burial Council - we're there ready to help, guide and shepherd you through the process to whatever level you would like. Also make contacts with local folks, like biologists and restoration ecologists that can help out on the grounds as well.


Johnson: Most importantly, I would suggest that they contact their state division of cemeteries and find out what the rules and regulations are for starting a green cemetery. Then set aside a lot of time and some money to get things up and running. It took us several years. We were the first in the Northeast. New York state did not have any green/natural cemeteries, so the people at the state level worked with us and our vision to help us develop guidelines, rules, etc. Then roll up your sleeves and begin!


What about green burial do you find is most appealing or attractive to the customers you serve?



Brink: Many of our families have referred to the spirituality of a natural burial. The idea of truly returning to the earth and embracing the natural cycle of life gives them a sense of peace. I have had m

Sara Brink

any people tell me that "dust to dust" rings very truly for them at a natural interment. Our families also embrace the simplicity of a natural burial, finding it more suiting to their loved one. Uniquely with Foxfield Preserve, all the proceeds of their burial purchase support nature education and conservation efforts in our community. In this way, people are bringing about something positive in their loss, and this gives many a deep sense of comfort.



Flowers: Of course, the environmental benefits, and the fact that there is an option for their remains that is in harmony with the way these people lived their lives, but really that environmental benefit is secondary to them. First, they have to trust that the environmental benefit and the promise the cemetery is making is being upheld, and that's where the Green Burial council comes in. once they can trust that, they're free to engage in unique, meaning-making opportunities. These people are dealing with difficult e

motions and grief, and they sometimes want to do things like have a wake at home - a home vigil with someone laid out, unembalmed, using dry ice. Or when they can close the graves themselves, by hand, and plant native plants over the gravesite, knowing their loved one is going to nourish those plants - those are unique opportunities to find meaning out of death, and that has the most appeal or attraction to folks once they know and trust that the environmental benefits are going to be upheld.


Johnson: It is refreshing! It's the natural setting that is so appealing. I've heard so often at graveside ceremonies when people reflect and tell stories about their loved ones, that the person who is being buried was

an avid outdoor person; a lover of nature. Some were hikers, bird watchers, hunters, farmers, dancers, musicians, singers, ecologists, professors, doctors, environmentalists; people from all walks of life. There are people from several different religions buried there as well as people who claim no particular religion but are spiritual. They had in common a love and respect for nature and the outdoors. Many of these people lived environmentally conscious lives, and for that reason they wanted to give back to the Earth at the time of their death. Green burial is the ultimate recycling one can participate in. and by doing so, those who choose it are part of a lasting legacy of stewardship of the land and saving natural habitat forever.


Where do you see the future of green burial and green cemeteries going?


Brink: I see the popularity of natural burial increasing in the future. The baby boomer generation is environmentally minded and has always been comfortable breaking with tradition. As they begin to make their arrangements, it stands to reason that they will lead a shift to more alternative burial methods. In fact, with more people becoming interested in the environmental impact of the choices they make, I believe this cultural shift will impact decisions relating to our burial arrangements for the foreseeable future.


Flowers: it is growing. I've seen it grow incredibly over the last six years, and what I see happening is more existing conventional cemeteries are opening up green burial sections, because they have the heritage and revenue to build on. They wait for interest to build. I also see more families requesting green burial from local funeral providers and cemeteries, so I see it being a consumer-driven growth.


Johnson: Green burial is the way to go. Its future is bright. It brings a new perspective on death and dying. Now we see so many green cemeteries, conservation cemeteries and hybrid green cemeteries popping up all across the United States. That's a sign that this is a growing movement, well on its way - after all it is the traditional way, and tradition carries on. Save a forest - plant yourself!


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Prehistoric grave-site could challenge our assumptions about the history of Bronze Age


By Maev Kennedy, The Guardian
Sunday, March 9, 2014 11:53 EDT

Some 4,000 years ago people carried a young woman's cremated bones - charred scraps of her shroud and the wood from her funeral pyre still clinging to them - carefully wrapped in a fur, along with her most valuable possessions packed into a basket, up to one of the highest and most exposed spots on Dartmoor, and buried them in a small stone box covered by a mound of peat.


The discovery of her remains is rewriting the history of the Bronze Age moor. The bundle contained a treasury of unique objects, including a tin bead and 34 tin studs which are the earliest evidence of metal-working in the south-west, textiles including a unique nettle fibre belt with a leather fringe, jewellery including amber from the Baltic and shale from Whitby, and wooden ear studs which are the earliest examples of wood turning ever found in Britain.


The site chosen for her grave was no accident. At 600 metres above sea level, White Horse hill is still so remote that getting there today is a 45-minute walk across heather and bog, after a half-hour drive up a military track from the nearest road. The closest known prehistoric habitation site is far down in the valley below, near the grave of the former poet laureate Ted Hughes.


Analysing and interpreting one of the most intriguing burials ever found in Britain is now occupying scientists across several continents. A BBC documentary, Mystery of the Moor, was first intended only for local broadcast, but as the scale of the find became clear, it will now be shown nationally on BBC2 on 9 March.

Scientists in Britain, Denmark and the Smithsonian in the US have been working on the fur. It is not dog, wolf, deer, horse or sheep, but may be a bear skin, from a species that became extinct in Britain at least 1,000 years ago.


"I am consumed with excitement about this find. I never expected to see anything like it in my lifetime," Jane Marchand, chief archaeologist at the Dartmoor National Park Authority said.

"The last Dartmoor burial with grave goods was back in the days of the Victorian gentleman antiquarians. This is the first scientifically excavated burial on the moor, and the most significant ever."

It has not yet been possible definitively to identify the sex of the fragmented charred bones, though they suggest a slight individual aged between 15 and 25 years.

"I shouldn't really say her - but given the nature of the objects, and the fact that there is no dagger or other weapon of any kind, such as we know were found in other burials from the period, I personally have no doubt that this was a young woman," Marchand said. "Any one of the artefacts would make the find remarkable. "


Although Dartmoor is speckled with prehistoric monuments, including standing stones, stone rows, and hundreds of circular hut sites, very few prehistoric burials of any kind have been found. What gives the White Horse hill international importance is the survival of so much organic material, which usually disintegrates without trace in the acid soil. Apart from the basket, this burial had the belt; the ear studs - identical to those on sale in many goth shops - made from spindle wood, a hard fine-grained wood often used for knitting needles, from trees which still grow on the lower slopes of Dartmoor; and the unique arm band, plaited from cowhair and originally studded with 34 tin beads which would have shone like silver. There were even charred scraps of textile which may be the remains of a shroud, and fragments of charcoal from the funeral pyre.


Although tin - essential for making bronze - from Cornwall and Devon became famous across the ancient world, there was no previous evidence of smelting from such an early date. The necklace, which included amber from the Baltic, had a large tin bead made from part of an ingot beaten flat and then rolled. Although research continues, the archaeologists are convinced it was made locally.

Polyguard 7-12  

The cist, a stone box, was first spotted more than a decade ago by a walker on Duchy of Cornwall land, when an end slab collapsed as the peat mound which had sheltered it for 4,000 years was gradually washed away. However, it was only excavated three years ago when archaeologists realised the site was eroding so fast any possible contents would inevitably soon be lost. It was only when they lifted the top slab that the scale of the discovery became apparent. The fur and the basket were a wet blackened sludgy mess, but through it they could see beads and other objects. "As we carefully lifted the bundle a bead fell out - and I knew immediately we had something extraordinary," Marchand said. "Previously we had eight beads from Dartmoor; now we have 200."


The contents were taken to the Wiltshire conservation laboratory, where the basket alone took a year's work to clean, freeze dry, and have its contents removed. The empty cist was reconstructed on the site. However, this winter's storms have done so much damage the archaeologists are now debating whether they will have to move the stones or leave them to inevitable disintegration.


The jewellery and other conserved artefacts will feature in an exhibition later this year at Plymouth city museum, but although work continues on her bones, it is unlikely to answer the mystery of who she was, how she died, and why at such a young age she merited a burial fit for a queen.


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The case for updating the FTC Funeral Rule

The National Funeral Directors Association continues to advocate for extending the Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Rule to cover all sellers of funeral merchandise and providers of funeral service.


Sourced from NFDA's magazine The Director for April 2014


In 1977, the staff of the Federal Trade Commission presented its final report to the commissioners supporting the need for a trade regulation rule regulating the funeral industry as it was defined back then. The staff stated that the justification for the rule was centered on three primary reasons: (1) to prohibit certain practices that deceive or unfairly exploit the purchasers' bereaved condition; (2) provide consumers with the information and choices necessary for an informed purchase decision; and (3) permit the operation of the competitive market.


In 1984, after several years of public comment and revisions, the FTC Funeral Rule took effect. However, due to restrictive language found in the definition section of the rule, it was interpreted as only applying to a business that sold both funeral goods and services, not those just selling one or the other. Since 1984, there have been several reviews of the rule by the FTC resulting in some minor changes to accommodate certain changes in the market. However, the FTC has not made the major change to include all sellers of funeral or final disposition goods or services under the rule.

  Milne 2013

Over the years, NFDA has argued to both the FTC and Congress that since 1984, the marketplace for funeral goods and services has changed drastically, but the Funeral Rule has not been revised or updated to address these significant changes. When the Funeral Rule was first promulgated, the funeral home was the primary source of funeral goods and services for the funeral consumer. However, since 1984, funeral consumers now have a much greater variety of funeral service or funeral merchandise sellers from which to choose, including cemeteries, crematories, Internet sellers and retail stores.


However, regulation of these entities remains a state function, and as a recent Government Accountability Office Report ("Death Services: State Regulation of the Deathcare Industry Varies and Officials Have Mixed Views on Need for Further Federal Involvement" [GAO-12-65 December 2011]) points out, these regulations vary from state to state, are haphazard at best and nonexistent at worst. The report also found that at least 25 percent of state regulators indicated that a uniform, standard federal regulation was needed for these non-funeral home entities.


Consequently, when consumers purchase funeral goods or services from a funeral home, they receive the full protection of the Funeral Rule. For example: Funeral homes must provide a family with a written General Price List, a Casket Price List and an Outer Burial Container Price List. They are required to accept merchandise, such as caskets, that a family purchases from a third-party seller and are prohibited from charging them a handling fee. Tying arrangements to merchandise sales is also prohibited by the Funeral Rule. When consumers purchase funeral goods or services from cemeteries, crematories, Internet sellers or retail stores, they receive none of these protections. This puts funeral consumers in a vulnerable position for the same reasons the FTC staff justified the need for a funeral rule back in 1977. In short, the same conditions exist today for for-profit cemeteries, crematories and other third-party sellers as existed in 1977 when the FTC staff recommended the need for a rule to regulate funeral homes.


It's a loophole that must be closed!


Moreover, given this changed marketplace, coupled with the current economy, funeral homes are at a competitive disadvantage since they are required to comply with a federal rule while their nontraditional competitors are unencumbered by any such rule.


NFDA members remain supportive of the FTC Funeral Rule in that it has dramatically improved business practices, made them more aware of the needs of consumers and prevented bad practices by a few funeral homes to influence the way all others do business. In that regard, NFDA strongly believes that by making some simple changes to the definitions of "funeral provider" and "funeral services," the current Funeral Rule can be easily revised and updated to level and upgrade the current competitive playing field; improve business practices for for-profit cemeteries, crematories and third-party sellers; and at the same time improve protections for consumers who purchase funeral merchandise or services from these entities.


With that in mind, we recommend that certain definitional changes be made to the Funeral Rule so that these provisions apply to all for-profit providers of funeral or final disposition merchandise or services that sell to the public.


With these relatively simple changes to the current FTC Funeral Rule, the rule would better reflect the current marketplace, create a more competitive environment and provide funeral service consumers with greater protection regardless of from whom they purchase funeral, burial or final disposition merchandise or services. It would also provide a minimum uniform standard for all for-profit funeral, burial and final disposition providers regardless of state law.


In that regard, NFDA is seeking to have legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to require the FTC to make these simple changes to the Funeral Rule, with certain exceptions. For political reasons, the bill will exempt all religious organizations from the definition of "funeral providers." No member of Congress will support regulating these entities. In addition, for legal reasons, the bill also will exempt state governments and their political subdivisions and those cemeteries that qualify as nonprofit under Section 501 (C) (13) of the Internal Revenue Code. The FTC has advised us that it has no jurisdiction over these entities. Finally, the bill will exempt cemeteries that do 25 or fewer burials a year since most of those are family cemeteries.


NFDA will advise members when the bill has been introduced and encourage all members to support this bill by going to Congress at a Clifk on the NFDA website ( and sending an email to their member of the House, urging him or her to co-sponsor and actively support its passage.


Author John H. Fitch Jr. is senior vice president of the NFDA Advocacy Division in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at or 202-547-0441. 


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ICCFA University: 7 Curricula, No Excuses 


or the past two years, as chancellor I have tongue-in-cheek provided the courtesy of tortured excuses for the convenience of the pessimistically dour. My point was to point out how irrational excuses sound when conjured up in a self-approving effort to justify remaining in mushroom mode rather than seizing and investing in an opportunity for higher education that can ultimately benefit a firm, its associates and its customers. Well, NO MORE EXCUSES TO NOT INVEST IN YOUR FUTURE! Led by outstanding deans and professors, here is what not to miss at the 2014 ICCFA University.


Chancellor Ernie Heffner

7 Proven Curricula

  • 21st Century Services
  • Cremation Services
  • Embalming, Restorative Art & Other Care
  • Funeral Home Management
  • Land Management & Grounds Operations
  • Leadership, Management & Administration
  • J. Asher Neel College of Sales & Marketing


What are the demographics of who attends? The lack of a general demographic is striking! Attendees are of all ages and from all ages you will find people new to the profession, in second careers, seasoned managers and company owners, and people focused in particular operational areas be that cemetery, funeral home or crematory operations. From grounds maintenance to accounting to embalming to HR to preneed sales, there simply is no general demographic by job description or by age, and that is in part the no-place-else-like-it dynamic that makes the ICCFA University so special. One thing attendees do have in common is a sincere passion about the value of their life's work and the profession itself.


So which curriculum would you like to enroll in this year? Read all the curriculum detail at


WARNING! Please don't wait to register because there is NO sniveling or whining later if you don't get the curriculum you want. Really, based on history, you will want to register sooner rather than later. Class sizes are limited and 2013 was again a record-breaker for attendance. So if you have a specific college you wish to take this year, don't wait for a special engraved invitation to register. It's not on the way. Be proactive, go to the ICCFA website and get registered for the curriculum you want and deserve at


Thanks to the seven dedicated deans and all the professors, 2013 was again a remarkably record-breaking year for ICCFA University. That is because throughout the year, the deans and professors continually fine tune their curricula. They truly are the best of the best and they are there for you!


Just how record breaking was 2013? Well, in addition to again being showered with a gratifying outpouring of written accolades from attendees and a record total attendance, the University also realized a record total freshman attendance. In fact, over 57% of students were freshmen, both a record total and a record percentage! This speaks volumes about the quality of education, with the credit going to the outstanding deans and professors.


Don't take the chancellor's word for it? Watch video testimonials from past attendees at or, better yet, talk with someone who has attended ICCFA University. Here are a few examples of written comments from attendees:


"I have attended countless state, regional, national and international conventions and meetings related to our profession over my 30+ year career. This is, hands down and without hesitation, the best professional development experience I have ever had! Thank you sincerely for making it available." - Joseph Walker, Blue Hill Cemetery, Braintree, Massachusetts


"The University should be mandatory for everyone in our profession. No other event facilitates the sharing of ideas and cross pollination of cremation, cemetery and funeral home knowledge. The learning experience is invaluable to young professionals and seasoned professionals alike." - Richard Winter, Letum, Inc., Harrisburg, Pennsylvania


"The best experience I have had in the industry in over 20 years of attending TFDA, NFDA and every other event. Awesome!" - Rich Gardner, Brenham Memorial Chapel, Brenham, Texas


Scholarships are available: To see if you might qualify, check out the ICCFA website at Please note that 2014 scholarships have already been awarded.


There you have it. NO MORE EXCUSES TO NOT INVEST IN YOUR FUTURE. The 2014 ICCFA University is this year's ultimate educational opportunity in our profession. Everyone involved in the University is proud to continue this one-of-a-king venue by which thousands have already enriched themselves, their firms and ultimately their customers through superior, relevant, contemporary service.


Don't miss orientation at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, July 18, at the ICCFA University at the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee.


Please email me if you would like curriculum referrals or wish to speak with any of the deans. We all look forward to seeing you and/or your associates in Memphis in July.


Ernie Heffner, CFuE

ICCFA University Chancellor

President, Heffner Funeral Chapel & Crematory

York, Pennsylvania *


And from the editor of this newsletter: I started attending ICCFAU in 2001 and graduated in 2005. I learned a lot and made friends I still look forward to seeing every year at the ICCFA Convention. Since I graduated several new colleges have been added and I would dearly love to go back. Maybe I'll apply for the 2015 scholarship...hmmm. Don't let me beat you to it! - Judy K. Faaberg, ICCFAU Graduate


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New WCCFA Member/Director Liaison List 


As mentioned earlier, 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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LaurelHill Laurel Hill continued  


Since coming to Laurel Hill, Kaminski has tried to both increase the number of tours and make them more diverse. Coming up with tour ideas doesn't simply involve figuring out who are the most famous people buried at your cemetery and creating a tour around their achievements.


"Tours that used to go on at Laurel Hill once a month were usually about military figures or industrialists, usually wealthy, WASP-y men. One of the things we've tried to do over the years is to tell the stories of people who weren't notable specifically because of their careers or their wealth. Sometimes it's the little-known stories and the human-interest stories that are more interesting.


"And stories about people just being people. Maybe someone was one of those rich and accomplished people but in his personal life he had strong beliefs and worked with charities that matched them, or maybe he had a great love life - or a scandalous love life, which people might find more interesting."


During the past few years, Laurel Hill has gone from one tour per month to about 75 public programs each year. That's a lot of work, a lot of research - and a lot of volunteer time.


"The research for our tours is largely done by the volunteer guide who is leading that program. It's really a labor of love and passion and interest in a particular subject. The research is time-consuming, and you want it to be as thorough as possible. It takes months and in some cases years to research the material and then map out a tour and an accompanying route.


"A lot of our guides are authors and professors, researchers in their own right. It's what they do for a living, and it's what they have signed on to do for Laurel Hill to benefit the cemetery. Part of the process of becoming a guide at the cemetery is knowing where to find information, whether it's in our archives, at the local library or in another city's archives."


If a cemetery doesn't already have some sort of "friends" group, cemetery officials could approach their local historical society, or college, to find people who would be interested in learning something interesting about the cemetery and sharing what they've learned. But establishing a friends group is a good start.


"The Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery, which was founded in 1978, is the group which administers the tours. They support the guides, and administer an annual training program for prospective guides. Learning not only how to give a tour of the cemetery but also how to develop content for a tour is the foundation of that course."


Doing the research for any tour involves not only looking into the public record (death certificates, marriage certificates, lawsuits, divorce proceedings, newspaper stories), but also reading epitaphs and looking through the cemetery's records.


"We have parameters about what we do and don't make public. We always are respectful, first and foremost; there is information contained within some of the records that we just wouldn't release to the public.


"But the whole mission of the cemetery since its founding in 1836 has been to make it a place for the living. We've continued that mission with the self-assurance that anyone who is interred at Laurel Hill chose this as their final resting place because they accepted that mission. They realized that our founders were inviting the public in to picnic, to explore the cemetery, to read monuments and to learn about the people buried here.


"So in a certain sense we embrace the notion that those who rest here knew that they would be in the public eye. They knew that their stories would be told and re-told, because that's been the cemetery's mission for the last 177 years.


The love stories

So what does Kaminski talk about on the "Till Death Do Us Part" tour? People who were married for decades?


"We might have some of those, but we have fun stories, and tragic stories, too. Love stories run the gamut; not all of them end happily.


"There's one couple that definitely had a long and happy marriage, even though his family didn't accept her too readily. She came from nothing - was a poor immigrant; he came from a well-to-do Philadelphia family. But they fell in love and by all accounts were very much in love and had a wonderful life."


But that's not the end of the story.

The final resting place of Harry Kalas, a sportscaster who was the play-by-play announcer for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1971 until his death in 2009, memorializes not only family bonds but also the mutual love affair between Kalas and Philadelphia. His body lay in repose at Citizens Bank Park behind home plate so that fans could pay their respects before his interment at Laurel Hill. The monument, which is shaped like a home plate, is topped by a granite microphone. The sod came from the ball park

and the seats from Veterans Stadium.


"His last wish before he died was that his wife make a will leaving all the money to charity. well, she could leave some to her brother and other family members, but they didn't have any children, so he wanted most of the money to go to charity. 


"Thirty-five years later, she died. And for some reason, she never did make that will. So there was this massive fortune at stake, and over the next 20 years, 26,000 people from all over the world came forward claiming to be relatives. The court finally ruled there were two legitimate cousins, each of whom received a paltry sum. The rest of the money was eaten up by the state and lawyers' fees.


"There were rumors that her will was buried in the casket with her, so Laurel Hill Cemetery had to post armed guards on 24/7 watch at her gravesite because of the threat of grave robbers. A court order eventually ordered her coffin dug up and opened; no will was found. 


"Some of the love stories included in the tour aren't traditional love stories as far as a man, a woman and a relationship, because there are different types of love in the world that deserve recognition on Valentine's Day. For instance, I talk about a story about the love for a pet.

People gather around the monument known as Mother and Twins, carved by noted sculptor Henry Dmochowski Saunders for his wife, Helena Schaff, and their stillborn babies (who were not actually twins). Helena died from complications after the second stillbirth.



"Even though we don't have pet burials here, there is one gentleman who chose to

memorialize his cat on his own stone with the cat's name and a porcelain picture. That's actually common in cemeteries everywhere - people want to make sure that their pet's name is remembered, as well.


"One of our most famous monuments is called Mother and Twins, which is on a bluff overlooking the Schuykill River. She's sitting on a tree stump, cradling two infants in her arms. It's a representation of the sculptor's wife and two children (who weren't twins).


"Helena Schaff was a German immigrant and very accomplished pianist. She delivered a daughter in 1855 who was stillborn, and the delivery was very, very hard on her. By 1857 she was giving birth again. This child, too, was stillborn, and a half hour after the delivery, Helena herself died from complications.


Kaminski with images illustrating Henrietta and Walter Garrett's story. He was a multimillionaire, she came from a working class family, but they fell in love and had a happy marriage.

"The monument is very beautiful and very touching, and he carved an inscription that reads, 'Passersby, if you lost everything you love the most in the world - your homeland, parents, friends, wife, and children - shed a tear of sympathy for my darl

ing Helena.' The other side reads, 'We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; in feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count the time by heart throbs. He most lives who thinks the most, feels the noblest, and acts the best.'


"He installed that at Laurel Hill and then returned to his homeland of Poland and was killed shortly thereafter while fighting against the Russian occupation. It's a tragic but loving story, and if you see the monument and read the inscriptions, it's very moving."


Epitaphs, monumental sculptures, mausoleum architecture, flora and fauna - any and all can be the basis for a tour. "Sometimes it's not the stories but the physical artifacts themselves that capture someone's interest."



Kaminski stands by the memorial for William James Mullen, a manufacturer, philanthropist, medical pioneer and prison reformer. The door on the monument represents the door to Philadelphia's Moyamensing Prison, notorious for locking up people without trial. Mullen worked to free thousands of people. The figure sitting outside the door represents a freed prisoner.

Programs as fund-raisers


Laurel Hill sells tickets to most of its tours. The non-profit cemetery ran out of land substantial enough to sustain operations and upkeep well over 100 years ago, Kaminski sa

id. Being unable to rely on inventory sales is good incentive for development of an active community outreach program.


"We simply don't have the space available to survive on; we're not an extremely active cemetery. We do have burials each year, but our mission now is to preserve the cemetery through public access and programming."


The friends group's mission is to preserve, promote and interpret Laurel Hill. "The main way we interpret the cemetery is through this educational programming, and by inviting people in to see the many things a cemetery can be in addition to a cemetery - a public park, a garden and arboretum, a recreational spot where people can run or bike or walk their dog."


Even though, unlike its sister cemetery, West Laurel Hill (which also has a long list of community outreach programs), Laurel Hill is not hoping for lot sales, sales have resulted from these programs that draw the public into the cemetery.


"Sales have come out of it; we do still have some spaces available. As the cemetery continues to evolve, we may even look into ways we can create more spaces, cremation space

Philadelphian John Clifford Pemberton served in the United States Army for years, much of the time in the South, and married a Virginian, Martha Thompson. He resigned from the Army to fight for the South during the Civil War, but when he surrendered Vicksburg to Maj. Gen. Ulysses Grant, some questioned his loyalty to the Southern cause. The families of some Union soldiers protested his interment at Laurel Hill.

s. For so long we had so few burials, but with our public activities increasing so much, there's renewed interest in Laurel Hill, and our sales have been impacted. Property sales will never be our primary operation, but they're becoming more important."


The audience for the cemetery's programs includes existing lot owners and their families, the cemetery's neighbors and the general public. Tourists are drawn by Laurel Hill's inclusion on the list of city sites worth visiting, "right next to art museums and arboretums."


Laurel Hill's marketing budget "is very small," Kaminski said. "We do whatever we can do that's free, including our website and social media." And when you develop interesting, innovative programs, you get free advertising through news coverage. "We've been fortunate enough to earn a lot of press and publicity."


The grave for Leonard Moorhead Thomas, son of a Philadelphia banker, whose portrait is shown next to one of his wife, the talented and glamorous Blanche Oelrichs, a poet, playwright and actress once described as the most beautiful woman in America. They had two children before she divorced him and married actor John Barrymore.

Tours usually are not postponed because of the weather, Kaminski said, pointing out that the 2013 love tour took place the day after a snowstorm. "Our policy ever since the friends started giving tours 35 years ago has always been unless conditions are dangerous, the tour will go on. We're an outdoor site, so 99 percent of our programming is outdoors. If we were to cancel at every threat of a little shower or cold weather, we wouldn't be doing as much as we're doing."


The number of people who come out for a tour might vary from 20, if the weather is inclement, to 70, but "a really good n umber, a comfortable number," is 30 to 35, Kaminski said. If you have too many people, it gets difficult to keep them moving from one stop to the next, she said.


Kaminski points to the mausoleum of Eleanor Widener, who sailed on the Titanic with her husband, George Widener, and a son. They saw her safely onto a lifeboat and then went down with the ship.

At Laurel Hill, the tour guides (including paid staff members such as Kaminski) volunteer their time for these programs, and sometimes also provide refreshments as Kaminski did for her tour so that all of the ticket revenue goes to the cemetery. In other cases, the cemetery covers the cost of food and drink offered.


Money is rarely spent on advertising. So all in all, the cemetery's expenses for these programs where we take out paid ads, usually in the fall for our Halloween events."


Tours that attract a few dozen people are not the types of events where a cemetery would seek sponsors, Kaminski pointed out. You would only seek sponsors for an event meant to draw a large crowd to the cemetery. "If you're offering free admission but there are expenses to putting on the event, that's when you get sponsors. Not if you're charging a ticket price and drawing a small crowd."


Marie Antoinette Ringgold Naglee and her husband, Henry Morris Naglee, who had a colorful love life. One of the women with whom he was involved published his love letters as "The Love Life of Brigadier General Henry M. Nagee." In addition, his nanny sued him, claiming he proposed to her and seduced her.


Not all tours conclude the way the love stories tour does, with a nice reception. "We try to make a lot of the programs held around the holidays more festive. Instead of just sending everyone home at the end of the tour, we invite them inside the gatehouse to have some wine and cheese. We do that for special programs."


In terms of personnel, all that's required for a tour drawing 30 people would be a staff person to deal with the check-in process, selling tickets onsite (tickets are also sold via the website).


"If you have a larger group, say 60 to 70 people, you'd want at least one or two volunteers in addition to the guide just to keep the crowd together as you walk through the cemetery. You want to make sure there's a person at the rear of the crowd so that when people get distracted, you get them moving along."


If a tour ends with a reception, the person who handled check-in, and the additional volunteers if a larger group is involved, can set up the refreshments. "In the case of my program, it takes three or four people" on the day of the tour.


Final words

"Laurel Hill is a bit more risk-taking in the type of programming that we offer because we're not an extremely active cemetery, and our mission is a bit different from that of a contemporary cemetery. West Laurel Hill might take a different approach because it is a more active cemetery and its primary goal is sales. So I think programs can be approached with different end objectives in mind.


"But I think we all have to remember that we are a resting place, and at the end of the day it's our primary obligation to honor those who rest here and to make sure that the story we're telling the public is true. No embellishments, no opinions. Programs should always be approached first and foremost with the idea of serving the people who rest here and the ones they left behind."  


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sales Do's and Don'ts of Sales




Focus on activity. If you want sales to be consistent, then you must be consistent: consistent in performing the right activities and achieving the needed outcomes. This means rather than focusing on volume, you focus on the activities - daily - that are required to help you achieve the volume. These activities, such as daily prospecting, appointment setting and making the needed number of advance sales presentations, will help you reach your goals.



David Shipper


Always have material - a brochure, a newsletter, informational guide and other resources - that you can give families. "Families are interested in more about selection of a burial option, pricing and availabi

lity," Daly says. "A simple newsletter can promote special events and burial options

available, as well as cost savings."




It's a good way to promote sales, Daly says. Consider sending a condolence card after a burial and host annual memorial services, he adds. "If you remember their deceased loved one, they will remember you."




In sales, chances are you're going to hear "no" more times than you'll hear "yes."


"The reason people do not prospect consistently is because there is so much negativity," O'Sullivan points out. "People get tired of hearing 'no.'" What is important to understand, he says, is that people aren't saying "no" to you, the individual. "You can't take it personally or you won't last," O'Sullivan says. It's not easy, but you need to put rejection in its place and move on. "Realize, the greater the challenge, the greater the reward."




In previous years, most sales were done in the home in the evening, points out David Shipper, president and CEO of the Midwest Memorial Group and co-creator with O'Sullivan of The System, a preneed selling program. Now, most of the sales are done in the office during the day. At the same time, Shipper adds, "the Internet is opening up all kinds of new communication opportunities, and the better we become at understanding these opportunities the more we can thrive in the years ahead."




People try to sell the products and services themselves instead of what they do for clients, Shipper says. Buying preneed/advance sales helps the family emotionally and financially. "Concentrating on these issues helps avoid the difficulty of trying to sell a 3-foot-by-9-foot piece of dirt and grass," he notes.




"We care" isn't one of them, Shipper says. Neither is "We've been here for 100 years." According to Shipper, "People want a good reason to use you. Stop trying to align consumers with what you offer, and offer consumers what they want.




People tend to start and stop sales programs, which is a big reason they often fail, Shipper insists. "As Gary O'Sullivan often says, running a sales organization is like driving down the highway at 70 miles an hour - take your foot off the gas and you will immediately slow down."


Article by Patti Martin Barsche sourced from American Cemetery Magazine February 2014.


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rulesClean Sweep continued


For at least a quarter of a century, an outside contractor maintained the municipally owned Austin Memorial Park and Evergreen cemeteries in Austin, Texas. But when the city took over maintenance responsibilities in April 2013, it determined that it needed to enforce the rules that had long been in place but overlooked by the outside contractor.


"We wanted to enforce the rules in an effort to address complaints about conditions and maintenance issues," explained Austin city manager Gilbert Hernandez.


In the fall, after what the city characterized as an extensive cemetery-stakeholder community engagement effort, it was publicized that Austin Parks and Recreation Department cemetery staff would begin issuing notices to cemetery plot owners for gravesites not in compliance with the city's cemetery rules and regulations beginning Nov. 1, 2013.


"It was a direct response to cemetery stakeholder input asking for improvement of the conditions and maintenance of the city's cemeteries," Hernandez said. The rules, he added, had n ot been updated since 1978, and with the city taking over the maintenance, it was the perfect time for a review.


Among the items determined to be out of compliance were benches, adornments, grave borders, trellis and rock gardens. "We posted signs in the cemeteries, on the city's cemetery Web page and notices were distributed to stakeholders," Hernandez said. A gravesite out of compliance would be identified with a tag that described the specific type of violation and provided a 30-day notice to remove or to dispose of items in violation, Hernandez explained, adding that after 30 days cemetery staff would remove the items in violation.


But before the enforcement could even begin, though, angry family members appealed to the city council in October to continue to allow ornamentation within the boundaries of a burial plot. The council agreed, barring enforcement of the regulations until there could be additional meetings with stakeholders.


Austin councilwoman Kathie Tovo said grave decoration was a matter of great concern and thought it would be better to have a discussion about the policy before the city began enforcing it.


"I do not want to see us as a city move forward with the enforcement of requiring the removal of personal objects, at least not without having a conversation about where we might set that policy in a way that allows people to honor their deceased loved ones in a way that is meaningful to them and still provide the kind of safeties and protections that we all expect in visiting our public facilities," Tovo said.


After a number of public meetings, Hernandez is expected to go back to the city council later with his recommendations.


"I think it is important to find some common ground, to develop consistent and enforceable rules that do not negatively impact our ability to maintain the cemeteries," he said. "We want to do what is in the best interest of everyone."


Consistently enforcing the rules and keeping the lines of communication open is paramount, Fells said. "It's not enough to just post the rules on the cemetery door," he said. "You have to reach out to people in a variety of ways."


Among those ways, Fells said, is to make a purchaser aware of the rules and regulations at the time of the sale. "It can be as easy as giving them a copy of the rules and putting a line in the contract right above where they sign that they received a copy of the rules," Fells said. "That way, they can never come back and say they didn't know (about breaking a rule), because you have documentation."


Another way to keep families and the public informed is putting cemetery rules and regulations online, something that has worked for Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.


What is allowed - and what is not - is clearly spelled out on the cemetery's website. Flower pick-up dates are listed, as is the time period Christmas wreaths and grave blankets are permitted. Among the items not permitted are commemorative items, balloons, pinwheels, glass items, votive or vigil lights, candles, statues, shepherd's hooks and stuffed animals.


The policy also states that "the cemetery director reserves the right to remove and destroy without notice, anything left on graves that violates the intent of these regulations, offends the sensibilities of the public, or the dignity of this cemetery, is an eyesore, or threat to the safety of the public or cemetery personnel."


"We put our policies out to the public so they understand the sanctity and dignity of the cemetery, and to ensure that all gravesites are in compliance with the policy," explained assistant director Aubrey David. "Putting the policy, as well as any updates, on the website allows us to keep our families and the public informed. We've been very open and accessible, and I think families appreciate that."


Sourced from American Cemetery Magazine for April 2014. 


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Assorted Useful Links


Washington State Funeral and Cemetery Board


WSFDA: Washington State Funeral Directors Association


 ICCFA: International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association


CANA: Cremation Association of North America


NFDA: National Funeral Directors Association


CAO: Cemetery Association of Oregon


 OFDA: Oregon Funeral Directors Association


MBNA: Monument Builders of North America


PNMBA: Pacific Northwest Monument Builders Association 




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Branding 28


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In This Issue
Dave Ittner is Fairmount's New Senior VP
Do's and Don'ts of Advance Sales
Tiny Gowns Become "Such a Huge Gift"
Kelso Funeral Home on Probation After Body Switch
Clean Sweep: Cemetery Rules & Regs
Due Dilegence? Nothing Personal!
Laurel Hill Woos Visitors with Love Stories
Green Burial Roundtable
Prehistoric Grave Site from Bronze Age
NFDA Makes the Case for Updating the FTC Funeral Rule
ICCFA University
Liaison List Updated
Bulletin Board