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


Or link here for a Member-Attendee registration packet

here for a Supplier registration packet

here for a Mortuary School Student registration packet

What to expect at the 4th Annual Washington State Death Care Professionals Convention


Our room block has been released and group rate no longer being offered. There may still be rooms available - call the Suncadia Resort TODAY at 866-904-6300 and mention WCCFA or WSFDA. 


  • A fantastic hotel and resort
  • Kick off the convention with our annual golf tournament: Shot-gun start at 9:00 a.m. Thursday August 21
  • Supplier-hosted cocktail hour followed by a stroll to the outdoor barbecue area for a terrific buffet dinner Thursday evening August 21
  • A VERY full day of guest speakers and presentations covering all-things Death Care (plus breakfast, lunch and dinner) on Friday August 22
  • Annual Awards Banquet and "Night of a Thousand Stars" Costume Party and dance Friday night: Dress as your favorite actor or movie/TV character!
  • A half-day of speakers and presentations (plus breakfast) on Saturday August 23
  • Earn up to NINE hours of continuing education painlessly.

We are VERY excited about our slate of speakers and topics this year. Speakers are coming to us from all over the United States, with sponsors including:



Attention WCCFA Supplier Members:

The new advertising year began

with Vol. III, issue IV of the Insider


Current advertisers: Your newsletter advertising agreements expired with the April issue of the Insider. Click here for renewal information. If we do not hear from you we will assume you wish to continue and you will be invoiced accordingly.


Prospective advertisers:

Join in the fun! Click here for advertising policy and costs.


ALSO upcoming is our annual Suppliers Issue of the Insider: an opportunity for ALL supplier members to submit an article or an ad that will run in our July/August issue FREE OF CHARGE whether you are an advertiser or not. For currently advertising Supplier members, it's your chance to run an extra ad at no charge. Information was recently mailed. Click here if you missed it!


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Why you're being replaced,

and what to do about it 

author Linda Haddon


It's not only baby boomers and younger people who are looking for more meaning and value in funeral service. Everywhere you look, it seems people are finding ways to do without a funeral director.


It's never easy to lose someone you love. When you work in funeral service, you should be prepared, but you really aren't.


Our adopted "mother" recently died. She was nearly 92 years old and,f rankly, she was ready to go. She fought a good fight against cancer, but was tired.


I was child No.6, adopted 20 years ago because we were close neighbors and her children all lived fara way. She was very dear to me. She and her husband moved to a senior planned community 17 years ago. Yes, it was early, but in the end, well planned.


Mom was active and involved in all aspects of their new home. Perhaps her  favorite role was chairing the retirement community's Memorial Committee. She would tell us quite often about the number of services they held, but until we directed her service, we truly did not understand the ramifications or the influence of their peers on funeral services.


Bypassing the professionals

It had upset me when "mom" and her husband insisted their prearrangement be for direct cremation, with no viewing and no service arranged by the funeral home.


There was, however, a service, arranged by the family. Her husband, a retired military officer, was very much in charge. My funeral director husband insisted on providing memorial folders, which were beautifully done, as well as a memorial tribute(DVD).


We arrived at the "home," the retirement community, with 250 memorial folders, easels and the video, and were greeted by the Memorial Committee members. A lovely lady, obviously in charge, quickly let us know they had everything under control.


There were five or six ladies there to handle greeting people and passing out folders, and half dozen or so gentlemen on hand to usher. We insisted on passing out folders, and it was very obvious we were in the way.


At precisely 2 p.m., the retirement home's chaplain welcomed the crowd and gave an invocation. Then the husband spoke, followed by the pastor from their church. I was asked to speak about her as a friend. We sang songs and her five (real) children gave the eulogy.


The program was I-1/2 hours long, followed by a huge Hawaiian-themed reception, as "mom" had been born on Maui.


The committee members took charge of everything. They arranged the flowers, manned the guest book, seated people and then ran the reception. We, the funeral professionals, were in the way!


Two to three services are held at this facility every week, and all are handled the same way-by the committee. The families arrange for direct cremation and price shop for that. The committee does the rest.


We were quite aware that many churches have memorial committees and the pastor often cuts the funeral home out of the process. Many are so brazen, they come to the arrangement conference with the family. "The church will handle that" is repeated over and over again.


As a celebrant, I have helped many families with celebrations when no funeral director was involved. The immediate disposition companies have provided me with many of those opportunities to help folks in our area. Hospitals, hospices and senior housing communities have become active and quite successful in their campaigns to "save the consumer money" by bypassing the funeral home's services. Believe me, things run much more smoothly when a funeral director is present, much more smoothly.

Sightlife 6-2013  

Why people are rejecting us

As funeral homes continue to see revenues decline, we must ask ourselves, "why?" Why is what we do not of value? Here are some things to think about, some possible factors:

  • When a service is going on, where are the funeral director and other staff members?
  •  Is your staff greeting, ushering and otherwise visibly giving consumers what they are paying for?
  • Are there options on your price list for alternatives such as celebrants, celebration of life services and receptions?
  • What's your mark up? Are you gouging the public with outrageous pricing?
  • Do you charge everyone the same price for the same services, or change your prices from one person to the next?
  • When customers enter your establishment, are they treated warmly, with respect and graciousness, or are they just case numbers?

Every single person on staff needs to understand customer service. Every single person on staff needs to understand what loss means to the families they are serving.


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Flower-arranging workshop

fills mausoleum with happy people 


People tend to think of cemetery facilities as places of sadness and grief. In an attempt to broaden people's perception of Valhalla Funeral Home and Memory Gardens, the staff wanted to create an event that was related to the business but was fun, enjoyable and not directly related to a death.


As estimated 70 percent of the graves and crypts in the cemetery have flowers on them year-round. That led them to feel that the community would be interested in learning how to create inexpensive yet beautiful silk flower arrangements. The idea of a free flower arranging workshop was born.


The event was advertised in the local newspaper, by mail and through phone calls. Valhalla provided all materials and also provided a free brunch to participants.


A local florist was lined up as volunteer workshop leader, but ended up pulling out after booking some last-minute weddings. "Apparently May is not a good month to hold this type of event," said Gerald Miller, manager of community and family service, "because I could not find another florist in town available to replace him. So I asked him to give me a crash course in flower arranging so that I could conduct the workshop myself.


"I don't have an ounce of Martha Stewart in me, but I think I did a pretty good job of conducting the workshop, based on the beautiful arrangements the ladies (and men) made."

The florist suggested that, to save money, Valhalla purchase bunched silk arrangements containing a variety of flowers and colors and then cut them into individual stems. Miller and his team of counselors cut more than 100 bunches of flowers and greenery into stems, and then banded them together into bundles of about 15 stems each. The cost for all the materials, including the vase and florist foam, was about $12/person.


"If you decide to hold a workshop, don't underestimate the response you will get," Miller said. Valhalla originally expected about 25 to 30 participants and planned to hold the workshop in one of the visitation rooms. Due to the overwhelming response, the workshop was moved to the only space large enough for 90 people and the necessary chairs and tables, The Chapel of Love indoor chapel mausoleum.


"Honestly, at first, a few of the attendees were a bit uncomfortable being inside a mausoleum, laughing and eating brunch," Miller said, "but by the end of the workshop, everyone was having so much fun I think they forgot where they were.


"I got nothing but compliments from all in attendance on what a wonderful event it was, and questions about when we were going to do it again."


Valhalla plans to repeat the workshop this year, but later in the summer to avoid the peak of the wedding season.

From ICCFA Magazine May 2013. 


Wilbert Precast PNG


Roundtable: Advance Sales


It's a problem many cemeterians are forced to deal with on a daily basis - declining sales and rising cremation rates. Advance sales (the "preneed" of the cemetery industry) are more important than ever, but making that sale isn't as easy as it once was. It takes work - and a different way of thinking. To find out how to effectively navigate the advance sales roadway, we talked with David Shipper, a third-generation cemetery owner who has owned and managed funeral homes and cemeteries for more than 30 years; and C. John Linge, president of Cedar Memorial and Iowa Cremation in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.


In the past five to 10 years what has been the state of advance cemetery sales? Why do you think this is?


C. John Ling

Linge: Preneed interment rights sales are of paramount importance to our full service death-care operation. They are the cornerstone of all other services offered by our complementing businesses. The economy of the last 12 years has not been helpful. The relevance of cemeteries in our society is a critical issue for us. Years ago my grandfather sold cemetery property to newlyweds-today, those newlyweds do not have a need for their six-space lot hence they are looking to "divest". The mobility of our society, the growing un-churched, uneducated cremation customers, economic conditions, etc., have had an impact on preneed interment rights sales.


Shipper: The advent of the Do Not Call list, the significant reduction in the return of direct mail and newspaper advertising has made the creation and sustaining of preneed sales teams more difficult.


In previous years most of our sales were done in the home in the evening. Now, most of our sales are done in the office during the day.


These changes are important systemic changes and are making preneed more difficult.


David Shipper

On the other hand, 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.


With cremation rates continuing to rise, do advance sales need to be marketed differently?


Linge: The need for a permanent, perpetual place of memory for generations to come has never changed. As Dr. Hubert Eaton said, "The desire to remember and be remembered" exists in all of us. Cremation customers are no different-we all have a choice-they have chosen cremation. What is critical is recognizing their motivations and providing memorialization options that may complement their beliefs. Whether it is environmental, economical, simplicity, religious, tradition, etc.-the key is to have options to fulfill the cremation customer's needs. We market beauty, simplicity in preplanning, terms and personalization. It is all about what they want.


Shipper: One thing is for sure, we can't have a negative view toward cremation nor can we judge the cremation consumer as one who is driven by price. The cremation customer responds well to Internet advertising and online planning options. Organizations that treat the cremation consumer the same way as every other family will not be surprised to learn that they act like every other family.


How do you align sales and marketing when it comes to advance sales?


Linge: We are always selling. All of our associates know what their role is in WOWing our customers, visitors and fellow associates. A WOW experience is what we strive for because we know it will create promoters of our brands. An ecstatic customer is the most economical form of marketing. All of community activities (Christmas at Cedar Memorial, Easter Sunrise Service, Memorial Day, Hospice, ParentPolyguard 7-12s Living with Loss, Cam Embracing Memories) help define and differentiate us in marketplace. Direct mail, TV and radio help maintain our image and generate awareness-and when the need arises, hopefully they will call us.


Shipper: We've got to advertise things that people can understand. "We Care" isn't one of them. Neither is "We've been here 100 years." People want a good reason to use you. Stop trying to align consumers with what you offer, and offer what consumers what they want.


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It's been ten years since Dave Daly died  


Tips from the Top:

Ten tips for setting and reaching goals 


At the 2013 ICCFA Convention in Tampa, Fla. Pet Loss Professionals Alliance co-chairs Coleen Ellis, founder of the Two Hearts Pet Loss Center, Greenwood, Ind., and Bill Remkus, owner of Hinsdale Pet Cemetery and Crematory, Willowbrook, Ill., shared a number of tips for becoming professionals in their field. While their breakout session was geared toward pet loss professionals, their 10 tips for reaching new goals translate well to anyone looking to achieve something new or motivate his or her employees and co-workers.


1. Be specific. Examine your business and figure out what you want to change, then narrow it down to one specific thing you can realistically change in a specific time period.


2. Write it down. Post it where you will see it multiple times a day. A customized screen saver is a great way to keep your goal in front of you.


3. Break down your goal into milestones. Mark a calendar with a completion date for each one. If your goal requires daily tracking, make a chart and hang it next to the calendar. Let your team know what each day looks like.


4. Get backup. Inform your entire team of the goal. There will be times you want to give up, and a good hard shove is just what you need. Have everyone at the office support the goal and each other.


5. Reward yourself. Whenever you or the team completes a step toward the goal, give a reward. Pizza, doesn't have to be big!


6. Mix achievement with affirmation. Positive affirmations can get you and your team psyched about the goal, and reassure everyone that they have what it takes. Remind yourself and your team that you are capable, strong, and most of all, you are willing to do whatever it takes to meet your goal.


7. Use every trick at your disposal. If that means starting earlier in the day for a sales call, then do it. If that means staying later in the day for sales calls, then do it. Challenge your team to do things that are uncomfortable for them-making sales calls, etc. after being uncomfortable for 30 days in doing a new task or skill, one won't be uncomfortable anymore!


8. There's no shame in asking for help. Take someone along for support on sales calls. Find someone whose skill level I s high in an area that you are uncomfortable with-have them train you!


9. Don't lose your momentum. Goal setting should be an ongoing process, leading to bigger and better things every year! After all, even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you're standing still.


10. Never give up. Don't give up if you miscalculate and set the bar a little too high. Readjust and keep going-you can do it. Be your own strongest supporter, and you will find your goals get set higher as your self-confidence takes off and you surpass even your own expectations!


Sourced from American Cemetery Magazine for May 2013 reproduced in its entirety with permission


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Ten common mistakes

when choosing cemetery software 


"Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes." - Oscar Wilde, 1892


Selecting a software system to handle cemetery data management tasks is a major decision for most cemeteries. Chances are, your cemetery is no different - you have limited resources and can't afford the time or money for a "do over" and need to get it right the first time.


The best way to ensure you'll get it right is to learn from others who have been down the same path before you. Here's a list of ten common mistakes others have made when selecting burial record software for their cemeteries and how you can avoid them.


1. Leaving the Decision to "The Experts"


Decades ago, when personal computers were a new innovation, end users rarely created or managed their own databases - programmers did. Is it any wonder why, back then, those who used the software every day weren't always happy with how it performed? While we're not advocating IT experts should not be involved in the decision to purchase your cemetery's new software, what we are saying is that the best way to ensure your cemetery management software won't meet your needs and expectations is to leave the decision solely or primarily to those who will not be using and relying on it every day to accomplish critical cemetery management tasks.


2. Wishful Budgeting


When it comes to purchasing a cemetery management software system, there's a lot of truth in that old English nursery rhyme: "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."


We're not implying the perfect software for you has to cost an arm and a leg, but as you start shopping around be realistic about what it will cost and how much you can afford-not just up-front, but also each year.


If your cemetery office is starting from scratch to computerize its operation, don't overlook the fact you will need computers and printers. Even if you already have such equipment, it may be necessary or time to upgrade in order to take advantage of the features your new software will provide. And don't forget there's usually an annual maintenance fee associated with most software to keep it up to date. Some vendors may even require you to re-purchase your software when a new version is released.


All of these costs should be considered and factored in - overlooking or skimping on any of them and expecting the success of computerizing of your cemetery's burial records will be unaffected, is just not realistic and is a case of "wishful budgeting" and nothing more.


3. Making Price the Top Priority


While you need to be mindful of what your organization can afford, buy the product that meets your top needs, maximizes your resources, and offers the best price. In other words, evaluate your options based on Return on Investment (ROI). For example, if one system more effectively enables you to have control over your cemetery's records, saves you more time and money by more efficiently automating laborious or repetitive tasks, and/or gives you the tools that enables you to expand your products/services (and the revenue from these sources, as well), then in the long run it's a better investment than a competitor's which may be cheaper, but delivers less bang and capability for your buck.


4. Prioritizing Features Above All Else


Your cemetery management software should meet your current needs and provide room for growth, but training and support, useable documentation, and keeping up with changing technologies and industry trends are also important services your software vendor should provide. The best features in the world are worth nothing if no one knows how to use them or if your questions are ignored or go unanswered. Ask others who are using the same software what their experience has been with any vendors you are considering and learn from their experience.


5. Buying More Than You Need


Plan for the future, but make sure you can use it now. While it's always good to have aspirations, buying software that offers all sorts of features you're not ready to use or maybe never will, isn't a good use of your cemetery's limited resources. A vendor that offers software which allows you to start with the basics, then add more features that can be seamlessly integrated with your database as your needs and budgets evolve is a better strategy than buying software with all the bells and whistles that you may never need or rarely use.


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Greening the funeral industry

Green Day: What are people

saying about sustainability in death care?


Author Jonas A. Zahn is the president and founder of Northwoods Casket Co., a manufacturer of environmentally friendly caskets made in Wisconsin. He has been involved in casket-making since building a casket for his grandfather in 2004 and now distributes sustainable caskets to funeral homes throughout the United States. Jonas has a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Jonas can be reached by email at Visit Northwoods Casket online at


We were invited to Green Day in Madison, WI last month to exhibit our sustainable and environmentally friendly caskets. The Isthmus Green Day is a one-day "sustainability celebration" and expo organized by the Isthmus newspaper. What would people think? Would people be interested in talking about death care at a sustainable living celebration? What types of questions would we be asked? We didn't know what to expect but made arrangements for a double booth to fit four different casket models and four staff members. To our surprise, our caskets were the talk of the show and for more than eight hours starting that Saturday, the four of us barely had a moment to catch our breath. An estimated 3,000 people attended the expo and we handed out more than 750 brochures. Here's what people are saying/asking about sustainability in death care.


Let's talk about cremation. It isn't often I find myself in a setting where people are openly and genuinely interested in talking about the merits of cremation from an environmental conservation point of view. After my third conversation, I kept tally marks on a card in my pocket. By the end of the day just5 more than 20 individuals or couples had thanked me for speaking with them affirmed they would be changing their plans from cremation to some type of green or natural burial. Three key topics emerged in our conversations when comparing cremation and burial in order of interest: carbon impact, toxicity and pollution, and land use.


On carbon impact, some people were not at all surprised after considering for a moment the carbon impact of a cremation, a fossil-fueled fire reaching 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit for 2-3 hours and ranges from 300 to 600 lbs. of CO2. Compared to the carbon footprint of a conventional steel casket at roughly 2,000 lbs of CO2, cremation is a better choice. However, compared to a sustainable "green" casket at 50 to 150 lbs of CO2, the environmentally friendly casket is clearly a better choice. While carbon impact was of significance to most of our audience, some were most moved by thoughts of toxic pollution. Depending on the study you trust, cremation accounts for 10 to 30 percent of global mercury contamination of our environment. People who care about pollution very quickly agreed to reconsider a natural burial. A select few individuals were primarily considering land use in their funeral plans based on previous awareness of new conservation cemeteries opening up on the area including Natural Path Sanctuary in Verona, WI.


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OM Ad 6-2013





Public, private, non profit and religious cemetery owners and operators throughout North America have been drawing upon LEES+Associates' site specific cemetery planning, design and business case analysis expertise for nearly 20 years. whether your project is rural, remote or located in a large city-center, we will apply our more than 100 years of collective experience to fulfill your project objectives. We invite you to visit to assure yourself that we are:



  • Led by Principal Erik Lees who has researched burial, alternative interment, cremated remains interment and cemetery management and legislation in Sweden, Denmark, Holland, the UK, Africa and France over the last 16 years; spoken on trends in cemetery design across North America, Europe and Africa and published articles on his findings in cemetery trade journals
  • An award-winning team of 17 professionals comprised of Registered Landscape Architects, a Registered Planner, a CMA and an MBA
  • Directly experienced in every aspect of cemetery planning, operations, management and design


  • Developers of a financial planning instrument: Cemetery Business Case Analysis Tool (CBAT,
    Erik Lees
  • Designers of Canada's first green burial park within a public cemetery
  • Co-developers of the iCem smartphone APP for cemetery managers, field staff and families

From concept through to construction, we will gladly provide recent references in any one of our expert practice areas: Cemetery Master Plans, Site Design and Planning, Land Needs Assessments, Feasibility Studies, Business Plans, Operational and Management Reviews, Facilities Assessment, Mapping, Perpetual Fund Analysis, Investment and Risk Analysis.


Feel free to contact Erik at 855.895.3826 or to discuss your needs.


Let us help you excel!



 USPS announces new shipping standards for cremated remains


In an effort to expedite the shipping process for cremated remains the Postal Service has adopted new domestic shipping standards.


Human (or animal) cremated remains being shipped with the U.S. must use Priority Mail Express service only. International shipping standards remain the same as they have been.


Click here for the publication "How to Package and Ship Cremated Remains." 


Protecting your families and business

A contracted company's mistake

could be your financial burden:

Limit liability with an ACORD certificate 


Author Jim Starks, CFuE, CCrE is president of J. Starks Consulting in Lutz, Fla., and a nationally-recognized trainer on funeral home and crematory risk management. He used his experience in both funeral home and crematory operations and risk management, combined with his involvement with funeral homes of all sizes and geographies, to become an authority at controlling risk and loss in the death care industry, providing lectures and presentations to private firms, as well as regional, state and national associations. He also conducts private audits and risk assessments to independent funeral homes and crematories in the US and Canada, often identifying ways to save or generate thousands of dollars of profit. Contact Jim at 813-765-9844 or


Another layer of risk and liability is exposed each time a funeral home or cemetery contracts with a third-party provider. But using other companies or independent contractors for services including lawn care, removals, embalming, escorts, opening graves, cremations, maintenance, remodeling and construction is a common and often necessary practice.


This practice becomes and issue of liability when a contractor does something wrong and someone gets hurt, whether physically or mentally. In today's society, the wrongdoing could result in a lawsuit. And a lawsuit could not only cost your firm money but tarnish its image in the press-all due to another company's misjudgment.


This is why every funeral home or cemetery that contracts out services should take precautions. For example, does the company have insurance? What are the limits of their insurance> if they do not have insurance or their coverage is very low, your firm could be responsible for covering the damages. Milne 2013


To decrease your firm's exposure, request to be added as an additional insured on the contracted company's insurance policy and have their carrier/agent issue an ACORD certificate from the insurance company. As an additional insured, your firm should be covered by the contracted company's insurance should the contracted company do anything wrong. This action should also function as a defense and cover a judgment awarded against your firm due to the contracted company's negligence.


Notably, a designation as an additional insured affects subrogation between two insurance companies. In fact, a designation as an additional insured further protects your firm by preventing your insurance premiums from rising due to another company's mistake when a judgment is issued against you.


The ACORD certificate is the primary way to verify that you have been added to their insurance. But it also demonstrates that the outside company does in fact have insurance coverage and is not operating without insurance. An ACORD certificate will list the limits of their insurance coverage as well.


To ensure your actions at limiting liability and risk continue, it is imperative to keep a file of the ACORD certificates and review them each year to make sure the copy is current. Most ACORD certificates are issued for one year, which is the term of the insurance policy.


From Funeral Home & Cemetery News for June 2013

premier 2013-2014 for web



Wilbert Precast


Clients of ours will tell you that the name means quality, excellent service, innovative ideas and a unique sense of understanding the needs of our customers in the cemetery industry. These virtues have always been the philosophy of our company and are the driving force behind our management team.


We are now entering our 105st anniversary year in the business. The company is family owned and is now being run by the fourth generation of the Houk family.


The following is a list of services our Construction & Design Division can provide to help cemeteries improve their properties:



Wilbert Precast also is the supplier of the "Wilbert" brand burial vaults and cremation products in the Inland Empire, which covers the areas of E. Washington, Northern Idaho and Western Montana.


I would like to extend an invitation to all members of the association who are contemplating cemetery improvements to contact Dan Terhaar at 1-800-888-4573 and let me explain how Wilbert Precast can help you with any upcoming projects.




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Polyguard 7-12


Losing a parent in childhood

may increase early death risk


50 percent more likely to die young

2.6% of the population loses parent early


Los Angeles - People who experienced the death of a parent in childhood appear to be more likely to die prematurely themselves, new research shows.


A study that tracked more than 7 million people for up to 42 years found that people who lost a parent before they turned 18 were 50 percent more likely to die during the course of the study than people who made it to adulthood with both parents still alive. The link was seen for both boys and girls who lost either mothers or fathers. It was also seen for people who lost a parent when they were only six months old, when they were on the verge of becoming adults, and for all ages in between.


"Parental death in childhood was associated with a long-lasting increased mortality risk from both external causes and diseases, regardless of age and sex of the child and the deceased parent," researchers reported Tuesday [July 22] in the journal PLOS Medicine.


Previous studies have found that adults are more likely to die prematurely after the death of a son, daughter or spouse. But few studies have examined how kids fare after the death of a parent, a tragedy experienced by about three-four percent of children in high-income countries, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.


So researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland examined data on millions of people born in Denmark, Sweden and Finland between 1968 and 2008. National health records made it possible to identify those who had lost a parent during childhood and then follow them as the years passed. Some study subjects were tracked up through early middle age.


The researchers identified 805 children who died on the same day as their parents, or who died within 30 days of their parents due to related causes. In most of those cases, the deaths were due to a single event, usually an accident or a crime, so they were excluded from the study.


Among the remaining 7.3 million people, 189,094 (or 2.6 percent) lost a parent during childhood the researchers found. In addition, 39,683 of the people in the study died. Compared with the people who didn't lose a parent, those who did were 50 percent more likely to be among those who died young. More specifically, those whose parents died of natural causes were 33 percent more likely to die prematurely and those whose parents died for other reasons were 84 percent more likely to die young. 


By Karen Kaplan, LA Times; sourced from Seattle Times July 23 with permission



Mystery surrounds three skulls

found in Goodwill donation bin 


"We get a lot of unusual donations"

Officials seek public's help in Bellevue case



Three human skulls turned up last month among the donations to a Goodwill store in Bellevue.


Employees at the store, located at 14515 NE 20th St., found the skulls in a donation bin. Two were wrapped in boxes and one was wrapped in a striped scarf. Once workers realized the skulls were human, they reported the find to the King County Medical Examiner's Office.


"We get a lot of unusual donations," Goodwill spokeswoman Katherine Boury said. "We get people's ashes in the urn. We get people's gold teeth. And on a more positive note, last year we had someone bring in a Louis Vuitton trunk, but this is the first human skull I can remember."


Two of the skulls were the type used for medical or educational purposes, and both were from adults, said Kathy Taylor, a forensic anthropologist with the Medical Examiner's Office. They had been bleached and the parts wired together.


"They looked like what you think of when you think about a skull in your biology class," Taylor said.


The third skull is more than 100 years old and came from a Native American child younger than 10 years old, according to Taylor.


"The bone is very old, very dark and very fragile," Taylor said. "There were also cultural indications that matched Native American practices."


State law dictates that the Native American skull be returned to its tribe of origin, but more information is needed to identify the correct tribe.


"Native remains are found from time to time," Taylor said. "But usually they are found when banks by the water or forests erode. In those cases we have provenance, or a place where we know they were originally buried to return them to. But when one turns up in Goodwill, we don't have that direction to give us an idea of where to go."


The Medical Examiner's Office is seeking help from the public to track down the person who donated the skulls to Goodwill so the person can provide details, without penalty, about the Native-American skull.


Taylor said she hopes this case will remind the public that if human remains are discovered, people should call the Medical Examiner's Office, whether they find them in a public place or inherit them from a relative.


"It's just the safe thing to do. Like in 2011 we had a group find a fragment of a skull on the beach and take it home, and it turned out that skull was part of a homicide case," Taylor said.


The Medical Examiner's Office also notes that there is a level of respect that should be shown in these cases.


"A skull, even a medical skull, is still human remains and needs to be treated with respect," Taylor said. "So you shouldn't throw them in the trash, you shouldn't take them home and collect them, and you definitely shouldn't give them to Goodwill."



By Erin Heffernan, Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle Times July 10, 2014


Erin Heffernan can be reached at or 206-464-3249.




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lindaYou're being replaced continued


The fact is, that death is the only thing going on in that family's world; they don't care about anything else. Your problems with staff schedules, lunch breaks, vacations and other administrative concerns don't matter to the families you serve. They are grieving and they need to be cared for;  funeral directors need to do their jobs-they need to direct.


After 30 years in this business, I do understand why so many consumers have chosen to do things themselves. Half the time, when a service is going on, the funeral home staff is in the kitchen drinking coffee. I have often wondered what they would do if someone collapsed during the service.


Many, many times I have been told, "No, we don't usher; people know where they want to sit."


Knowing the wholesale costs for many things, I shudder when I see merchandise marked up 300 or 400 percent. No other business does that.


Worst of all are the cases I've seen of funeral directors playing "let's make a deal" in a small town. Give me a break! People talk, and if one person pays $2,000 for cremation and another pays $1,495 at the same establishment for the same thing, your reputation will suffer.


If you write a check for thousands of dollars and you can't see with your own eyes what the funeral home has done to earn that money, why would you do it again?


What to do to show value

Think about what consumers actually see vs. what is done behind the scenes. If they don't know what you do because they don't see it, that's a problem. Funeral directors have to take any and all opportunities to be "up front" and noticed.


Act as the master of ceremonies for the service; introduce the pastor/celebrant/ speakers. Call attention to the family-byname. It might be the only time their names are mentioned during the service.


Do the extras and seat people. If someone comes into your own home, don't you offer that person a seat?


Use a celebrant, a good one, and don't be afraid to offer the option of a celebration of life service.


As a celebrant, I find that the biggest obstacle to being able to serve families is the funeral director. So many have go-to "religious-light" pastors they rely on when families don't have a minister. Also, the idea of celebrants charging a fee rather than accepting an honorarium seems to bother them.


And, of course, funeral directors do not like change. But how long will funeral homes that don't change stay in business? People are planning services themselves (or with the help of memorial committees)because they do not want what they have seen funeral homes supply in the past.


I hear it over and over: People want a service that celebrates their loved one's life, that is about the person who has died -they do not want a sermon.


That does not mean these people aren't religious or want to keep all religious elements out of the service. The services I lead as a celebrant usually include prayer and scripture and, almost always," Amazing Grace."


What families want is the life story told and tribute and honor paid to their loved ones. Don't we all want that? Celebrants are trained to do exactly that, and they make the funeral home look good, so use them. 


Article sourced from ICCFA Magazine May 2013 with permission 


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roundtableRound table: Advance Sales 


What are the biggest mistakes that are made when it comes to advance sales?


Linge: For management, inferior or absent systems of lead management, as well as unclear, indeterminate expectations of sales professionals. For sales professionals, lack of follow through, poor listening skills and poor attitude.


Shipper: If a cemetery put up a sign at the entrance that said, "free graves today only," most cemetery operators would agree that there would not be a traffic jam to get in. This means that most people don't understand the value of preneed products and services. Therefore, to go out and try to sell them without establishing the reasons that people need them is the biggest mistake that people make.


It's difficult to explain the value of preneed in a few moments. That's why we have to use related premiums such as the Personal Planning Organizer or a Free Living Will Kit. These valuable premiums lead us to a discussion of some end-of-life issues which, in turn, allow us to make the segue to discuss cemetery and funeral arrangements.


If we started out with the discussion, hardly anyone, except those who have had a recent death, would be willing to discuss it.


So the direct answer to what are the biggest mistakes in advance planning sales is that:

  • People try to sell the products and services themselves instead of what they do for our clients. Buying preneed 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 or a concrete box.
  •  The second biggest mistake is that people don't realize that selling is hard work and requires a plan and dedication to fulfilling that plan. People tend to start and stop sales programs, which are a big reason they often fail. 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.

What strategies can cemeteries implement to increase their advance sales?


Linge: First and foremost is the creation of a "place" people desire to be a part of. This is achieved through impeccable grounds maintenance, vitality via community activities, emotional and experience-based marketing, etc. It is best to provide a multitude of interment rights options. For example, we created the Urn Crypt-a preinstalled garden that offers companion urn crypts with a high degree of personalization. The urn crypt is much like our lawn crypt for casketed remains.


Shipper: Advance sales strategies haven't changed much in the sense that they still depend on getting more of our people to tell our story to more people who do not own and are willing to listen. We can't tell our story in an elevator speech. That's why we still need people to knowledgeably speak to potential clients and explain the benefits of preneed. Any strategy that leads to having more of your people speaking to more potential clients is a winning strategy.


Article by Patti Martin Bartsche sourced from American Cemetery magazine for May 2013 with permission 


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Matthews 7-1-13



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Since 1953, MILNE CONSTRUCTION CO. has proudly served the cemetery industry. Assisting cemeteries through all stages of growth and development, Milne provides a range of services including Construction, Architectural Design, Master-Planning, Sales and Marketing Guidance, Virtual-Reality Videos, Inventory Control, and Life's Memories Glass Memorials. 2014 continues this legacy, with new and exciting projects of all shapes and sizes.


Recently completed, Myrtle Hill Mausoleum in Rome, Georgia, stands on a hillside overlooking the downtown area and confluence of three rivers. The city's desire for a classical-themed garden mausoleum inspired this Milne design-build project. In staying with the character of the downtown area, this garden mausoleum showcases fluted ionic columns, red-brick cladding, ornamental iron-work, decorative roof detailing, and a small band-stand. Both claddings used on the building, the "silver cloud" granite veneer and red-brick, are locally mined. 

Myrtle Hill Mausoleum - Myrtle Hill Cemetery, Rome GA

Around the other side of the world, Milne has broken ground on their first mausoleum building in Mongolia. Also a design-build project, this garden mausoleum is composed of two crypt cores with a decorative cupola spanning between. The cupola feature and traditional roof design, relate to the new entry gateway and funeral home, thereby bringing unity to the cemetery's design theme. Lastly, the mausoleum identifies with the community through the use of the symbolic eternal-flame and walking-pattern artwork. These details representing unending strength and continuation after death finish off the unique character of the mausoleum.


Community Garden Mausoleum - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Down in Hollywood, across from the Douglas Fairbanks monument, a pyramid begins to take shape. This Milne design-build job may be a little late for Mr. Nicholas Cage and other pyramid shoppers, nonetheless it is set to make its mark among family mausolea. The mausoleum hosts an impressive 17 casket spaces, and potential 26 niches to be clad in marble, glass and bronze. The exterior will be distinct, featuring two-toned granite cladding, a trimmed-out oculus window, custom granite entryway, and lighted skylight. At night, the skylight will glow like a beacon as the Hollywood pyramid stands watch among the film industry's greats.


Hollywood Pyramid Mausoleum

Hollywood Forever Cemetery - Los Angeles, Cal.











Regardless of the project type or size, the Milne Team is motivated to succeed and dedicated to providing the best possible service through sensitive design, attention to detail and the client's needs, and superior craftsmanship. MILNE CONSTRUCTION's poured-in-place concrete mausoleum and columbarium structures are destined to abide and gracefully endure as tomorrow's heritage.  

For more information, please call 1-800-547-4909 or visit


Milne Construction Co.

President: David O. Dahl

Email:   Phone: 1-800-547-4909 



In Memoriam: John R. "Rod" Sewell, Sr.


John R. Sewell, Sr.

John R. "Rod" Sewell Sr., 82, of Stanwood, went to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

He was born on June 17th, 1932 in Mount Vernon, WA to Clarence and Gladys Sewell. He graduated from Mount Vernon Union High School in June of 1950 and joined the Air Force in May 1952.

Rod's first job was at Kern Funeral Home in Mount Vernon. He soon found that his sympathy, love and compassion for the bereaved families were his passion and job goal.

He later attended the California College of Mortuary Science where he earned his Washington State Funeral Directors License and his Embalmers License in 1965.

He met and married Catherine Neisinger while apprenticing in Monroe, WA in 1953 and were married for over 60 years.

They had two boys, John (Carolyn) and Jim (Jan). From John and Carolyn, he had a granddaughter, Kirsten, whom he had so many hours of fun and making jokes with, and great grandson, Cameron. Rod also gained two more loveable Granddaughters, Jessica and Amanda, when Jim and Jan married, and later three more great grandchildren Jayden, Maxwell and Spencer. He really counted himself blessed.

He was a member of Camano Chapel and loved them dearly. Later he attended Cedarhome Baptist Church where he really felt at home.

He participated in a number of organizations and was active in all of them, which includes the Stanwood Fire Department and the Stanwood Dispatch and Ambulance, for many years.

For 35 years, Rod worked at Gilbertson Funeral Home in Stanwood, with Jerry and Norma Gilbertson, John Mjoen and David Brandt and had a wonderful relationship with all of them.

At the family's request there will be no formal funeral service; a private family service has been requested.

In lieu of flowers please make contributions to the Cedarhome Baptist Church Building Fund, 29000 68th Ave., Stanwood, WA 98292.

Arrangements under the direction of Gilbertson Funeral Home, Stanwood 

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 pontemTen common mistakes


6. It's Not Necessary for Your Software to Play Well with Others


Cemetery software is a specialized application and the programming that runs it is often proprietary, but beware of software that won't allow the free and open exchange of data with other programs as you'll be locked into having to ask (and pay) your vendor to write customized programs for you to accomplish what you may consider basic and customary tasks.


Also be sure to explore how each vendor handles the question of data conversion (i.e., converting and transferring your current cemetery records, whether they be manual or digitized, into your new software). There is almost always a charge for this and the cost varies widely as does the willingness to trouble-shoot and guide you through this critical step in getting your system up and running.


7. Trust But Verify


Glowing testimonials on a vendor's website or in their promotional materials are all well and good, but consider them a starting, not an end point. Ask potential vendors for a client list but also take time to do your own "reconnaissance" by checking with your peers about their experience - especially when it comes to customer service and support after the sale.


Whether or not the software is a "mature" product is also a good indicator of its trust-worthiness and reliability. Software solutions that have been in the marketplace for a while not only have stood the test of time, chances are, customer feedback has been a driving force in the software's feature development - always a valuable and desirable trait.


8. Thinking Your Database Will Install Itself


Though seven out of the eight points covered thus far have dealt with what to think about before purchasing new data record management software for your cemetery, buying the software is actually the easiest part.


Data conversion has many components, from mapping fields, determining codes, setting up reports and cleaning up your existing database to testing converted data. Once that's done, your software will need to be configured including defining and setting up system parameters, establishing security protocols, developing in-house user guidelines and protocols specific to your office or situation, and on and on.


The bottom line is though a good vendor will guide you through the process and suggest the most expedient or effective way to convert your data and get your software up and running, someone from your organization needs to be designated to oversee the project and take an active role. There's no other way to put it -- your database is the lifeblood of your record-keeping system. Without client oversight and involvement, "garbage in, garbage out" will be the inevitable result.


9. Thinking It's Not Necessary to Learn How to Use the Software


Once your new cemetery software has been installed, what good will it be unless you know how to use it? Don't make the assumption that training isn't necessary, and beware of vendors which pay little attention to this important detail. Even the most "turn-key" applications require some knowledge of how the software is organized in order to get it to work for you, not against you.


At the very least, most vendors will provide a User's Manual for your software. Some provide online and/or "inline" help (via small help screens embedded in the software itself). Others include on-site training with key staff or volunteers after your software is installed or in the form of online training or tutorials.


The best vendors will not only provide most or all of the above, but also unlimited customer service and support as a part of your annual support agreement, where additional help is only a phone call or an email away.


10. Looking at Demos Before You're Ready


Viewing a vendor's demonstration of their cemetery management software is a good way to see what the product has to offer, but it's a waste of time unless you know what you're looking for!


To guide you through the process of identifying the software features which are the most the most valuable and important to you, Pontem Software has created a special Cemetery Management Software Decision-Making Workbook.


To receive a complimentary copy of this invaluable evaluation tool, simply call Pontem Software toll-free at 888.742.2378 or email:

 greenGreen continued


Let's talk about caskets. We had four caskets illustrating a range of materials, pricing, and finishes. To our surprise, the simple, rectangular and boxy "Simple Pine Box" stole the show! Our experience with Green Day attendees is consistent with our funeral home partners. While living people choose a simple pine box for themselves, they will not choose the same simple pine box for a loved one who did not previously express their wishes for a simple casket. There was some curious interest in our Orthodox caskets that contain no metal nails, screws, or hinges, but most attendees had no issue being buried with a handful of fasteners and some metal hinges. We learned that toxicity and our choices in wood finishes were very important for this audience. Caskets with finishes free of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) were preferred over those with even low VOCs. As for interiors, our audience expressed interest in biodegradable natural fiber interiors. People genuinely recognized that while they could easily imagine selecting a very simple interior for themselves, many recalled a recent funeral experience where they would have had difficulty making the same decision for a loved one.


Let's talk about funeral homes. There was no confusion whatsoever when people asked about pricing. We explained prices were set my funeral homes and that we distributed our caskets through funeral homes exclusively. It was not a leap to recognize us as a casket manufacturer and not a casket retailer, unlike the Toyota exhibit 15 feet from ours. We offered ballpark price ranges that funeral homes might charge and that satisfied their questions when comparing the different models. We shared contact information and literature for our funeral home partners in the Madison area. We also found it encouraging the number of people who had already made or were making their funeral arrangements in advance. It seems clear to me that for individuals, who care about the environment, they do not want to leave their funeral choices up to their survivors, advance planning was a priority. Several individuals commented how they wished their funeral director had more information on sustainability, environmental impact, and toxicity of their choices including cremation, embalming, concrete vaults, and casket options.


Overall, I would say our participation in Green Day was a success and full of pleasant surprises. People are genuinely interested in talking about sustainability in death care at an event like this. I would encourage other vendors in the death care industry to seize the opportunity to participate in local "sustainable living" events. People were more interested than even I would have expected before attending Isthmus Green Day. 


from Funeral & Cemetery News June 2013 


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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 

Associated Catholic Cemeteries

Archdiocese of Seattle


Employment Opportunity - Family Service Team Leader Position 


A rare opening in our Family Service department is your opportunity to step up to what our team calls "the best job ever." Your past success in sales and familiarity with the Catholic Church will give you an advantage in earning the six figure income you have grown accustomed to. If you want the strongest compensation and benefit package in the industry, call me.


Our market has a growing population, a diverse mix of multi-cultural communities and a strong connection with their Catholic Cemeteries. Holyrood Catholic Cemetery in Shoreline, WA is looking for a sales manager with 5 years' experience in presenting and closing, recruiting, training, and motivating Family Service Directors. Your team works day times, Monday through Saturday in the cemetery office. There is no traveling.


If you are a sales professional with a written proven track record who can energize a sales team to be positive minded, understands that sales follow service, can simultaneously size people up and set them at ease, think like an entrepreneur and follow directions at the same time, I want to talk to you. Show me your successful methodology for gaining referrals. This is a referral business. If you always wanted to give back to the Church, this is your time. Sundays and all evenings are your time. You must be willing to work the rest of the time to make your team successful.


If you are motivated by money, if you are motivated by serving others at the most difficult time of their lives, send your resume to All resumes will be handled with strict confidentiality. Associated Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Seattle is a drug-free work place.


Funeral Director/Embalmer wanted 


Evergreen Memorial Gardens Cemetery, Funeral Chapel and Crematory in Vancouver, WA is a well-established leader in our profession for over 60 years. We are in need of a caring, experienced individual with strong communication skills and works well in a team setting. This person will interact directly with families during their time of need and will be responsible for creating and maintaining a premier level of family satisfaction. Must be licensed as both a Funeral Director and Embalmer in Washington State. Two (2) years experience is preferred. The successful candidate will start work immediately.


  • Full-time career opportunity
  • Competitive Compensation Package
  • Excellent benefits
  • Profit Sharing Plan


For immediate consideration please e-mail your resume to Daniel Serres: or call 360-892-6060



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 425-345-6186

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

For information about membership, advertising or editorial policy,

contact Judy Faaberg, Executive Director.




Branding 28


In This Issue
What to expect at the convention
Five surprising stats about social media and older adults
Flower-arranging workshop fill mausoleum with happy people
Roundtable: Advance Sales
Ten years since Dave Daly died
Tips from the top: Ten tips for setting and reaching goals
Ten common mistakes when choosing cemetery software
Cemeteries & the City
Green Day: What are people saying about sustainability in death care
USPS announces new shipping standards
Protecting your families and business: A contracted company's mistake could be your financial burden
News from Wilbert Precast
Losing a parent in childhood may increase early death risk
Mystery surrounds skulls
News from Milne Construction
In memoriam: John R. "Rod" Sewell, Sr.
Liaison List Updated
Bulletin Board