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

Sustainability in Funeral Service:

Six Ways to Make a Real Difference

without Spending a Dime 


Greening the funeral industry by Jonas A. Zahn 

When it comes to running our businesses, many of us are hesitant to take real steps for positive change to conserve and protect our planet. Excuses include not knowing where to start and lacking funds to invest in expensive alternatives. The last few years of Greenwashing in every industry from Tobacco to Tylenol have proven a few things in both marketing strategies and consumer awareness. First, consumers are genuinely interested in doing the right thing. People don't just care about the environment in general, people want to know specifically how their choices in products and services affect the planet in clear and concise measurable terms including biodegradability, carbon footprint, local-sourcing, sustainability, and toxic pollutants. Second, businesses are learning that sustainability has a positive impact on profits. Conservation strategies will not only reduce costs; real and positive changes can generate goodwill in the community and build loyalty with customers. Here are six ways the funeral home can make a measurable impact without spending a dime. [Spoiler: Offering sustainable alternatives to your families with clever merchandising will add to your bottom line by saving families money on low margin products so they can spend more on higher margin services.] 

  1. Stop mowing the lawn. Seriously. If you own or work in a funeral home, lawn maintenance and landscaping is a priority with an annual budget to afford contracted services and/or staff to keep your place of business looking well-kept and beautiful. Talk to your landscaper about shifting those same budget dollars to zero-scape your entire outdoors with trees, mulch and perennials. Stop using nitrogen-based fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides that cause great harm to your local waterways and the environment. You can avoid a large investment by changing green lawn to mulch and perennials in small projects. There's no need to do it all at once - create a five-year plan and you'll spend the same dollars you're already spending. You'll k now you're done when you no longer need that lawnmower, and there are no more gas cans, pesticides or herbicides stored in the garage. Best part, your neighbors and families will pay you compliments daily on how great your place looks!
  2. Don't be Greenwashed yourself. You're a customer too. Whenever you make purchase decisions be mindful of Greenwashing. The FTC Green Guides say that marketers' claims must be accompanied with qualifications and disclosures that are clear and prominent. If you cannot immediately understand how or why a product or service is "better for the planet" then ask questions. Don't be misled by qualitative words including Natural, Organic, Biodegradable, and Eco-friendly that are not accompanied by further qualifications that substantiate the marketer's claims.
  3. Know your caskets and cemeteries. For families interested in alternatives to a conventional casketed cemetery burial, have information in-hand so that your families can make informed choices consistent with their values. Know the locations of 2-3 cemeteries that do not require concrete burial vaults or have designated areas for natural burials. Have literature in-hand for manufacturers of natural burial caskets and burial shrouds. (Don't be Greenwashed - see #2.)
  4. Memorize three cremation talking points. Land use, carbon footprint, and toxic pollution. Most people who choose cremation as an alternative to a burial have no idea that the land required to extract, refine, transport and store the few pounds of fossil fuel for a single cremation is far greater than a single cemetery plot. It is a matter of fact that the carbon footprint of a single cremation ranges between 350 and 600 lbs. of CO2e - that's the same footprint as burning 17 to 30 gallons of gasoline! The US EPA reports that cremation is the third-leading contributor of airborne mercury contamination in the US as well as a cocktail of additional harmful pollutants.
  5. Take your cleaners to the cleaners. Whether you have a cleaning service or perform cleaning duties with your own team, the cleaners in your funeral home almost certainly contain harmful chemicals. There are effective alternatives that will make your funeral home both safer and cleaner. Again, don't be Greenwashed. Look for commercial cleaning products that are biodegradable and free of phosphates, chlorine, ammonia, and petroleum distillates. For the ambitious, there is a wealth of resources online for mixing your own cleaners with inexpensive, easy-to-use, natural cleaners such as baking soda, lemon, borax, vinegar and citrus solvent.
  6. Start your own tree-planting initiative. Nobody can argue that planting a tree is a good thing. For as little as $1, the Arbor Day Foundation will plant a tree in memory in a National Forest. Talk to your city forester or parks and recreation department about making an annual contribution to plant a few trees in your community. Plant a few trees every year on your own properties and maintain them well. Trees add value to your property. Businesses like UPS are making real investments in tree-planting and are reaping the benefits in goodwill and customer loyalty. The UPS Foundation planted 1.3 million trees in 2013 and will plant a million more in 2014.

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

Article sourced from Funeral Home and Cemetery News for September 2014 with permission. 






For many years I have been on a one-woman crusade to change our designation from "industry" to "profession" (even standing up at national conventions and offering my unsolicited opinion) and it seems some headway may be being made, but there is still a long way to go. Note in this month's articles some writers refer to us as an "industry" while other choose "profession."


The following definitions are from the online Oxford Dictionary.


Industry: Economic activity concerned with the processing of raw materials and manufacture of goods in factories.


Profession: A paid occupation especially one that involves prolonged training or qualification: A quality or accomplishment that makes someone suitable for a particular job or activity.


Which do you prefer? Death-care industry or Death-care profession?


Debunking the Myths of Cemetery Relocation


Editor's forward: If you are a member of the death care profession, you probably hear questions all the time about what happens when a cemetery is full. I certainly do. For example I received an email last week through the WCCFA web site inquiring about that very thing in Washington state:


I heard something about Washington state cemetery law and I am wondering if it is true. I heard that it is legal to reuse a cemetery. That 100 years after the last burial about 8 feet of dirt can be put on top of the cemetery and the land can be used for burials again. Is this correct? If so what is the RCW that covers that topic?  I don't know if you can answer my question. If you cannot could you please direct me to someone who can?


I replied:

I would call that an "urban legend" but I've never heard it before, and I have been in this profession for over 35 years, including ten years working for the Washington State Cemetery Board, and serving on the board for another five years. In addition I have been the executive director for the Washington Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association for twenty-five years, and have worked for several cemeteries over the years.  I have participated in several formal reviews and revisions of the statutes, as well as the drafting of new ones. I have developed a complete index to all laws pertaining to cemeteries and funeral homes. All of which is to say no, this is not true. I haven't heard of this practice being used in any state in the U.S., actually.


I hope I've answered your question sufficiently. If not here is a link to the operative RCWs and WACs: Title 68 of the Revised Code of Washington: and Chapter 98 of the Washington Administrative Codes:

Also, you might wish to contact the regulatory board. Here is a link to their FAQ page:


Please let me know if I can be of further help, and kudos to you for doing your research!


The enquiring party replied:


Thank you so much for getting back to me. I had heard this from a source that I thought should know and later found he had heard it from someone else. I am so glad it is not true because I heard it in conjunction with Pierce County (Pauper) Cemetery, where my great, great uncle is buried. I had been doing research into the cemetery because I would like to tell the story of the people that are buried there since so little seems to be known. Again, thank you for getting back to me.  


* * * * *


So while I was looking for stories to share with you, faithful readers, I happened across this very germane article (following) and thought it might help you answer those questions and put the inquirers at ease. Enjoy!


ALSO: Remember back in the early 1980s when Highland Cemetery in Everett went bankrupt and its over-200 occupants had to be moved to Evergreen Cemetery? Link here for a blast from the past.

Debunking the myths of cemetery relocation

Cemetery relocations are occurring more frequently throughout the United States and abroad. Unlike a single disinterment within a cemetery, the relocation of multiple graves or the relocation of an entire cemetery requires forethought, preplanning, and a team of specialized and devoted members.


  A cemetery may be a typical memorial park with markers and monuments arranged on a formal landscape, a mausoleum, a columbarium, an area of fieldstones marking the location of interments, a rural family burial ground associated with a farmstead, a churchyard, an institutional burial site, a potter's field or even a forgotten graveyard hidden beneath a parking lot.


Why relocate a cemetery?

In some situations, a "win-win" can be achieved - providing the property required for a proposed project while ensuring that the remains of deceased individuals get the respect they deserve. In other cases, the overwhelming demands of expansion and improvement may require the acquisition and relocation of a cemetery.


Our perspective comes from the involvement with several cemetery relocations in the last decade. These included the Potter's Field Cemetery in Secaucus, N.J., with 4, 571 reinterments; Knights of Pythisas Greenwood Cemetery in Philadelphia, with 2,427 reinterments; and St. Johannes Cemetery, O'Hare International Airport, Chicago with 1,494 reinterments.


Cemetery relocation should never be conceived as a "project." It is not simply the act of excavating and moving a vault with a grounds crew, nor scientifically recording the archaeological excavations. It's about family, compassion and understanding while applying various skills, tools and procedures in the most dignified and careful manner.


Debunking the myths

One of the myths held by many cemeterians, funeral directors and families is the belief that there is "nothing left" to relocate. Human remains as well as items and objects that reflect the heritage and legacy of the deceased can survive decades - and all can be relocated. The smallest of all grave goods or personal effects have memories and value to the family. It may be a safety pin, a cane, a deteriorated broach, remains of a fedora, or a pair of a little girl's shoes or her favorite doll. In taking care and preserving history we are able to comfort the family with observations from the disinterment process.


A frequent misconception is that because the gravesite has not been visited or the plot cards are out of date or illegible, there is no next of kin. Over the decades family members may have lost their genealogical connection to the deceased, but relocation evokes a renewed sense of family and commitment. Next of kin can and should be determined and notified for each disinterment and relocation. Although state laws vary, the best outcome will always be to involve the family members/next of kin prior to commencing with the relocation.


Tracking down the next of kin, however, can be complicated. Not every family tree on the Internet is correct, and records are sometimes unavailable. But tracking down descendants can be rewarding as it gives you the opportunity to share with them details about their family's heritage.


Another common misconception is that the replacement cemetery will be prepared to receive various sized vaults and historic markers/monuments. Historic cemeteries did not operate in conformance with modern-day grave dimensions or cemetery rules and regulations. As such, the replacement cemetery staff, including the counselors and grounds crew, need to be debriefed on what they will need to handle.


An experienced team of cemetery relocation specialists can assist in the preplanning and reburial aspects of the relocation. The reinterments of metal and concrete vaults cannot be treated in the same manner as current industry standard vaults. In addition, cemeteries that were established prior to the 1920s will require the recasketing/revaulting of human remains. Therefore, the cemetery staff will need to consider and understand the replacement containers in order to inform both the grounds crew and family.


A typical cemetery may conduct dozens of interments per month, but a cemetery relocation may require handling dozens of reinterments in a single day. As with outer burial containers, historic markers/monuments may present challenges associated with their material type, shape, color, size and height. Historic grave markers and monuments form a visual legacy of those who have died and a bridge for communication with the living. They contain symbolism, epitaphs and other information that provide links to the family heritage. The replacement cemetery must develop a working plan as to the placement, type/depth of foundations, installation and ultimate maintenance of these irreplaceable memorials. The objective is to ensure that the markers/monuments are treated with the same respect and care as the remains of the deceased.


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Should the funeral profession

be thanking Bernie Madoff? 


The Madoff scandal resulted in the SEC cracking down on enforcement of the Investor's Act of 1940. This will mean more work for financial advisors, but should make consumers feel safer about investments, including preneed purchases.


One of the biggest financial scams in history was conducted by Bernie Madoff, who was arrested in 2008 for securities fraud. Madoff was an investment advisor who conducted a long-term Ponzi scheme and stole over $10 billion from investors. What is a Ponzi scheme?


While the Madoff case does not have a direct tie to the funeral services industry, global changes to financial advisor compliance regulations have been implemented due to lessons learned from the Madoff case. Those changes should help avoid some future financial scandals, including the ones that sometimes occur in our profession.


People often ask me, "Why did this (latest preneed fund scandal) happen in our industry?" Well, it's not just our industry, as Madoff demonstrated. Greed is a universal problem, and so are the financial scandals it generates.


Even so, we are always more shocked when it occurs in our profession, because we look at these funds as coming with a moral obligation attached. People are handing over preneed money based on a solemn promise that their final wishes will be carried out. Because of this, more than in any other profession, the promise we make to our clients is sacred.


One of the jobs of a funeral director or cemeterians is to put people at ease when they come in to make and pay for their arrangements ahead of time. Families have to trust the funeral home or cemetery to manage the funds they are handing over in advance of the services being rendered. This trust is a big deal, and whenever a story about mismanaged funeral funds appears, it makes the rounds on the Internet and strikes fear into our customer base.


In addition, it's understandable for people to be apprehensive about paying for services they won't personally be able to ensure get delivered.


Given the importance of the trusts involved in our role as preneed providers, it is an unconscionable offense to misappropriate these types of funds. People who would never even consider betraying that trust view doing anything to put preneed funds at risk as unfathomable.


Unfortunately, greed knows no moral boundaries. If you are going to cross the line to steal in the first place, it's not likely that you are going to be too discriminating about whom you are stealing from. Why should we think, "Who would steal someone's funeral money?"


Making funds more secure

The question comes up time and again: How do we prevent problems when it comes to preneed investment in this industry? We have seen it with insurance and we have seen it with trusts, in spite of state laws attempting to prevent such things from happening.


On one end of the spectrum, you have relaxed state laws that allow investments according to the "prudent investment rule." On the other hand, you have states that have tightened regulations to the point where investments are so restricted that the returns do not even cover inflation. In both cases, we've seen financial mismanagement occur.


Milne 2013 So what additional steps can we take? There have been many articles written about the need for funeral directors and cemeterians to do due diligence in selecting a fund management firm. Systems of checks and balances, and a process that supports accountability for the financial institution, are a couple of suggestions that have been highlighted in recent articles. And in the wake of the Madoff investigation and the financial crisis, changes are happening in the broader financial services industry that also will help.


The Madoff scandal was so big, so blatant, and so close to being uncovered early on. As a result, there have been a number of changes that our industry will benefit from.


One such change is the SEC's approach to enforcing the regulations and procedures outlined in the Investor's Act of 1940. For those in the financial service industry, this act has long set the guidelines and standards for financial advisors' conduct and recordkeeping.


However, in uncovering the layers of the Madoff scandal, the SEC has taken many steps to overhaul the measures it takes to monitor compliance for firms under its purview. Having managed to these guidelines myself, I can say with some confidence that something on the scale of what happened with Madoff could not happen again, given the SEC's new approach to more thorough and stringent disclosure, documentation and review.


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To Whom It May Concern,


Hello, I am contacting you on behalf of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), National Cemetery Administration (NCA).  NCA recently acquired the ability to send electronic updates regarding important memorial benefits for Veterans through GovDelivery, an electronic e-mail distribution system.


Either you self-selected to receive updates from NCA, or you were chosen to receive this e-mail based on your position, and the potential for you to obtain memorial benefits and coordinate the inurnment or burial of deceased Veterans. We hope you will be able to help us honor our Nation's Veterans by using the information in these updates to ensure deceased Veterans are treated with the utmost dignity, respect and compassion, and obtain the benefits they earned through service to our Nation.


  There are a wide variety of VA memorial benefits available for Veterans, their loved ones and those taking care of their final arrangements. It is our goal to ensure you and your customers are aware of these benefits and understand how to obtain them in the future. Whether it is determining a Veteran's eligibility for burial in a VA national cemetery, scheduling of a burial or inurnment in a VA national cemetery, or ordering a grave marker for use in a private cemetery, we are here to help.


Please look for our future e-mails on memorial benefits available for Veterans. Also, please encourage your colleagues to sign-up for future e-mail updates and information regarding VA memorial benefits through GovDelivery at



Michael Nacincik
Chief, Communications & Outreach Support Division  

National Cemetery Administration

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs     

Wilbert Precast PNG

What you must do EVERY DAY

to succeed at preneed sales 


By David Shipper and Gary O'Sullivan, CCFE


Being a successful preneed salesperson isn't a matter of luck. It takes developing the right habits and doing the right things consistently - day in and day out.


Years ago, Gary O'Sullivan created a simple but powerful activity awareness concept called 4-3-2-1 to help describe the kind of everyday activity required for consistent sales success. The 4-3-2-1 concept is a goal-oriented activity system that tells you that every day, you should make:


  • Four new prospects,
  • Three appointments,
  • Two presentations and
  • One sale.

We know that if all counselors were working hard to get this amount of activity every day, they would be very successful.


What is so important about this concept is that it sets up the expectation that every single day is a valuable one, and the opportunities presented by that day shouldn't be missed. It also tells us that these activities will get results if done properly.


We have to prospect every day, and we should expect certain results. The 4-3-2-1 concept provides a top-of-mind way to keep you on track and make sure you expect to make new contacts, new appointments, new presentations and new sales every single day.


Selling is an every day business, meaning that there are specific things you must do every day. We often remind counselors that one of the worst things you can say or think is something like, "It's only Tuesday; I have the rest of the week."


These one-time thoughts form habits that will forge seemingly inconsequential individual links until they connect and become an unbreakable chain, holding you back from sales success.


A wonderful concept we learned many, many years ago comes from Albert E.N. Gray, who once said, "The secret of success of every person who has ever been successful lies in the fact that the person formed a habit of doing the things that others don't like to do."


What is it that unsuccessful people - the failures - refuse to do? What's the habit of success that needs to be acquired? The habit of prospecting daily.


In order to be successful in this profession you must prospect every day. It's critical to your success to take responsibility for always having people to see. If you don't have people to see, nothing else matters.


Why do successful people like to do the things that failures don't like to do? Actually, it's not that successful people like doing these things more, it's simply that they like failing less. Every day you don't prospect, the next day you will settle for a lesser degree of performance.


Success is more easily accomplished if you have a very clear objective every day, and that is what the 4-3-2-1 concept gives you. Every day you must obtain four new prospects, set three new appointments, make two new presentations, and make one sale. This is a habit that will create your success.


4. A prospect is the birthplace of the sale. Without prospects, you have no one to tell your preneed story to. That's why the 4-3-2-1 system, like all systems, has a starting point, which is getting four new prospects every day.


First of all, we need to distinguish the differences between a lead, a prospect and a referral. This is how we define those terms:


A lead is simply a name to contact. Leads come in many forms, including referrals from friends, lists of names, mall booths, senior fairs, funeral follow-ups, direct inquiries and advertising-related activities such as newspaper inserts and direct mail.


A prospect is a lead you have talked to to determine that he or she does not own what you are selling and is willing to set an appointment with you now or in the near future.


A referral is a lead, not a prospect. Referrals are a great lead source, but they move from being leads to prospects only after you talk to them and determine that they qualify as prospects.


3. Every day, you must set three new appointments to make presentations. This will ensure that setting three new appointments a day becomes a habit.


2. What constitutes a presentation? First of all, a presentation takes place only when the decision-maker or decision-makers, such as a husband and wife, are present.


You must make your entire preneed presentation. This means you explain product and service options, provide pricing information and explain financing options. Finally, you ask for the sale - and you ask for referrals. Anything short of this does not constitute a presentation.


1. Your goal every day should be to make one sale. It can be done. If you feel like making one sale a day is too big a goal, think about it like this: If your goal is not going to be making one sale a day, what is the next lower number to shoot for? Zero.


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Ten tips for motivating yourself:

what the experts do


Bub Urichuck loves what he does - inspiring, educating and empowering business leaders, entrepreneurs, salespeople and other professionals to significantly increase their performance, return on time invested and bottom line. The founder of Bob Urichuck Management Inc., Urichuck is a speaker, trainer and author of several books, including "How to Motivate Your Team in 30 Days." He offers these 10 self-motivation tips.


Wake up with an attitude of appreciation.

Why? Because you woke up! Asked, "How are you today?" your answer should be "fantastic, excellent or great." G.R.E.A.T. stands for Getting Really Excited About Today. You are excited because you woke up. Today could be your last day. Why not make it the greatest day of your life?


Realize self-motivation is just the beginning.

Once you have done something special for yourself, recognize and reward yourself with juice, coffee or breakfast. It's a small treat, but any behavior that is recognized and rewarded gets repeated. Self-motivation needs recognition. Only you can provide it.


Understand that only you can motivate yourself.

Self-motivation can come from external influences or, better yet, self-motivation can be internal and everlasting. Live your life from the inside out - not the outside in - and embrace undeviating self-motivation.


Live the life of your dreams.

Do you really want to live somebody else's dream, a combination of your dream and theirs, or leave life to chance? You are the decision maker, and by using self-motivation you will make that decision work.


Matthews 7-1-13 Take control of your life.

You can't control the weather, the traffic or what other people say. But there are things in life you can control. Learning to control your thoughts, your ego, your reactions and, most importantly, your attitude is all part of self-motivation. Knowing you have gained control of your outlook and approach to daily life will boost your self-motivation.


Get to know yourself.

Question your self-motivation. What are your values? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Is self-motivation realized by focusing on your strengths? What motivates you? What demotivates you? What are your ineffective habits? What effective habits can replace them? Dig deep and answer these questions honestly as they relate to self-motivation.


Set aside quiet time for yourself every day.

Set a time to reflect on self-motivation. I once took a day off work and gave myself 24 hours to write down everything I wanted to be, to do and to have. I decided that nothing was impossible, and there were no barriers. I imagined how my life would be affected if everything I wrote on that paper came true. And if I didn't write it all down in 24 hours nothing in my life would change - I would be closing the door on self-motivation. Thirty years later I have accomplished most of those same dreams and goals.


Review your dreams often.

Make it a daily habit. Dreams are the foundation to self-motivation and must be written, planned, visualized and put into action. Prioritize your dreams and determine the price you are willing to pay to make your dreams a reality. The price could be effort, time, education, etc. if this form of self-motivation does not appeal to you, revisit your priorities.


Create a plan for success.

Keep each action point simple so it can be accomplished. Large tasks usually get shelved so minimize them. When your action plan is ready to be carried out, sign your name to it. Your signature should be the strongest commitment to yourself.


Take action.

Self-motivation is the actual doing. Thinking leads to procrastination. So stop thinking - just do it! The worst outcome is failure. You have to fail often to succeed once. Give yourself permission to have learning opportunities, which usually happen by doing and failing.


Sourced with permission from American Cemetery Magazine for 9/2014


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Controversy goes on as

bankrupt Highland cemetery moves bodies


The Herald, Sunday, September 5, 1982


Mukilteo - As the graves are opened and the bodies are moved out of the bankrupt Highland Memorial Cemetery, bitterness, anger and criticism are dogging the grim task.


Some bodies still have not been identified, and they may never be. Family members, who are not allowed to set foot on the cemetery property, worry that caskets and burial vaults are being damaged. Some people still wish they could have somehow rescued the long-neglected cemetery.


More than 80 of the 215 bodies buried at Highland Memorial have been moved to new graves at Evergreen Cemetery in Everett. It will be November or December before the job is done.


"I wouldn't want to have anything to do with it," said one representative of the cemetery business. "It's a terrible job for anyone."


From the Spokane Spokesman-Review July 1, 1982

Evergreen's owners, Walter and Ruth Precht, have been the target of criticism for their handling of the exhumation, which was ordered in June by federal bankruptcy judge Kenneth Treadwell.


Treadwell's order came after the 10-acre cemetery was abandoned and left in ruins by its owner, George Samuels. Samuels has been sued by the state for allegedly embezzling about $260,000 that was supposed to be set aside in two trust accounts required by law.


The Prechts will assume ownership of the land once it is cleared. They have not publicly revealed their plans for it, but there has been speculation it will be developed for industrial use.


"We are doing this [the exhumation] as a community service, and we are trying to b as careful and as professional as possible," said Ruth Precht.


"It has been a terribly sensitive issue to us, and we are trying to keep a low profile to protect those who may be hurt by the gruesomeness and trauma of it all."


The Prechts were praised last week for their work by Paul Elvig, administrative assistant to the Washington State Cemetery Board.


"It is being done as professionally as possible," Elvig said after he inspected the exhumation. "Moving 200 bodies is no easy task, but I came away feeling very good about the job they're doing."


Treadwell's ruling states that the cemetery, which straddles the Everett and Mukilteo city lines, are off limits to the public - even to relatives of the dead - while the bodies are being moved.


The Prechts and employees of Karl Romaneschi, who is doing the exhuming, have enforced the unpopular order.


The previous owner allowed an unknown number of bodies to be buried without gravestones or markers, according to Ruth Precht. Another cemetery owner, Norma Chapman, said family members ought to be allowed onto the cemetery property to help identify their loves ones' bodies.


Polyguard 7-12 Chapman, who owns two cemeteries in Bothell and in the Snohomish area and manages two others, believes as many as 50 bodies have been buried in unmarked spots. Many of them will not be identified correctly when placed at Evergreen, she said.


"I hope I am not alone in caring for these families and the injustices they have already suffered," she said. She believes family members have a legal right to have sealed vaults and caskets opened so they can identify their relatives' bodies.


Any "mix-ups," she said, will result in lawsuits.


Precht said she doesn't know how many graves were never marked, but she said an attempt was being made to distinguish them by number and rebury them at Evergreen in the same order as they were at Highland. This would aid families who remember exact burial sites.


Elvig said there is little that can be done about some bodies, since burial records, in many cases, have been destroyed.


"It would not be practical to have the coroner come out and try to have each and every body and its dental records examined," Elvig said.


"I would recommend that if someone feels it's critical to have a body identified to apply to have it done at Evergreen, after the bodies have been moved," he said. "I don't think the job can be done in an expeditious manner with people coming in and out (of the cemetery) all the time."


Chapman complained about vaults and caskets breaking while being raised by a backhoe, and said the moving should be done by hand. Elvig said "hand-moving would "hardly be expeditious."


He said some damage should be expected because vaults and caskets can become "flimsy" after being underground for a few years.


Some area residents still are upset that Treadwell rebuffed their proposal to operate the cemetery on a non-profit basis.


"We had a good plan," said Phyllis Siler of Mukilteo, whose father was buried at Highland and whose mother, sister and brother-in-law all owned plots. "They didn't give us a chance."


Others, like Bill Watkins, feel the state Legislature should take a closer look at the cemetery business to insure that cemetery exhumations will not be recurring events.


"This sort of thing can happen again," said Watkins, whose father-in-law and wife's uncle were buried at Highland. Their bodies were reburied at another cemetery immediately after the judge's ruling.


Watkins, who lives directly east of the cemetery, has invited television crews to his property on numerous occasions to film the digging and moving. Much of the filming is done from his patio, and cameramen are able to get close shots without violating the trespassing orders.


"I want to keep this issue before the public," he said. "We can't ever let this happen again."


Elvig doesn't appreciate the TV crews. "It should not be turned into a circus," he said.


Thanks to Elvig for sharing his collection of newspaper clippings. In future issues of The Insider we will blast you back to the destruction of the Comet Lodge Cemetery on Beacon Hill, Seattle.



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Pain and Suffering 


By Todd Van Beck


Van Beck

the author

Todd W. Van Beck

I have spent the most part of my career being interested in how people cope with the loss of the loving relationship.


Most of my study has been confined to the psychological approach to human loss but as of recent I h have been interested in examining what religious thinking has to say about not death but pain and suffering which are seemingly constant companions with us throughout our lives. I venture to say that probably most people know what their own particular religious thinking has to say about death and life after death. Those topics alone fill volumes of big books in thousands of big books in thousands of libraries across the globe, and so much information exists concerning what religions have to say about death that it makes the study of such approaches almost impossible. However this is not the case with pain and suffering. Most religions are direct and concise when it comes to interpreting pain and suffering, and n OT just physical pain and suffering, but emotional, spiritual, and internal pain and suffering.


We have all felt it and have been kicked by the pain and suffering which is a part of each of our respective journey in life. If the truth be told pain and suffering, particularly the ones that come out of the blue have a weight of awesome size. I have heard it referred to as an emotional tidal wave which sweeps one under time and again. But the plain fact is that suffering is an inextricable part of life and no one can escape its grasp.


There are many variables as to the causes and consequences of pain and suffering. Certainly the loss of a loving relationship whether it be a literal or figurative death must top the list. Regardless the list of painful life experiences is endless. It is even true that some people receive more of their share of suffering as compared to others. Life at times may even appear to be picking on us while leaving others alone.


A self-limiting factor to pain may exist, but in the end pain cannot be measured or avoided and it certainly cannot be honestly compared. People can get close to feeling another person's feelings but in the end pain and suffering is first and foremost an alone experience.


As St. Sebastian once said, "When you're stuck with seventeen arrows already the eighteenth one doesn't hurt much." Pain and suffering therefore cannot be added up in a ledger, it is special, it is unique and it is incomparable.


Despite our generation's endless stream of books, tapes, videos, seminars, workshops, lectures, preaching and guides on "The Joy of..." or "How to Be...", sadness, suffering, pain, grief and loss are inevitable realities of the human experience. Despite all the "pop" psychology and endless talk show therapies on how not to feel guilty, or how not to be angry or grieve, one way or another suffering and pain will still fund each one of us.


In fact they are always beside us, journeying through life with us, the pain of physical injury, loneliness, failure, isolations, fear, fractured relationships or just the pain of taking a long look into the future where surely certain other pains and sufferings which we cannot possibly predict lie in silent wait. This is not a negative thought in the least - it is simply life reality.


People of different cultures, religions, spiritualities and theological thought have wrestled with an understanding of why there is pain and suffering and their explanations and thinking have come out very different from each other which makes for a very interesting subject.


Let us begin with Buddha. For the Buddhist suffering is caused by human desire, plain and simple. As the Buddhist sage wrote: "So many things a person may be bound to so many thorns of sorrow and pain are planted in the heart." For the Buddhist one does not suffer for the loss of a love, friends, heirlooms, youth or death unless what was lost was important enough to desire it back. Easy enough for some.


The Hindu sees God as many faceted. God is one and at the same time Vishnu and Creator, Krishna the sustainer, and Siva the destroyer. In Hindu thought destruction and creation go hand-in-hand. The growth of new plants in the soil is dependent upon the destruction of old plants - it is the life and death cycle. Destruction and creation go together, and suffering is an inevitable part of this union, even if it means the destruction of cities in Europe during the Second World War by bombing raids.


continue reading here


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Confessions of a Funeral Director:

Let's talk about Brittany Maynard  


Brittany Maynard

If you don't follow the blog "Confessions of a Funeral Director," you should. Its author, a young funeral director named Caleb Wilde, writes thoughtful, often humorous, observations about life and death from the funeral director's perspective.


His most recent post (as of this newsletter's publication) was about the death-with-dignity of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman who, facing inoperable brain cancer, chose to end her life on Nov. 1 in Oregon.


The overall purpose of Caleb's blog is "Helping Humanity Befriend Mortality." In his post about Ms. Maynard's death he seeks to open discussion about how we plan to face our own mortality. It is a compassionate and non-exploitive look at both Ms. Maynard's decision, and how you ought to approach your own. I strongly advise you read the post here, and while you are there sign up to receive Caleb's posts, won't you? 


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myths Myths

Another misconception is that the replacement cemetery rules and regulations will be adhered to throughout the relocation process. It is imperative that the overall scope of the relocation be fully understood prior to its commencement so that specific aspects and questions can be addressed early and not result in animosity. Do the regulations allow for the reburial of second and third rights within a grave, or the placement of two or more markers/monuments on the same grave space? How will the pricing and contractual obligations be applied to the process? No one wants to cause undue stress to the family, so you need to ask questions first - not later.

Archaeologists inspecting a grave shaft

Another myth is that all burials are contained within the boundaries of the cemetery fence line. Cemetery fence lines shift, migrate and change over time. Just because there is a fence line does not mean that the burials are all contained within the area. In addition, not all cemeteries are obvious. Some have had above ground features altered, including the removal of headstones. Others have been backfilled and reused for other purposes. As such, encroachment to a cemetery boundary should always be handled with due diligence. Specialists familiar with surveying, archaeology, history, land-use and compliance should be contacted if utility work, transportation improvements or other construction comes in close proximity to the active cemetery boundaries. Moreover, the displacement or lack of lot pins and section markers in active cemeteries can lead to confusion and errors. Many active cemeteries have "older" sections within their parks for which plot cards and burial ledgers may be less than accurate. It is imperative that these locational markers be maintained in situ.


A general misconception is that the replacement cemetery's involvement is completed once the remains of the deceased are reburied and the markers/monuments reinstalled. Cemetery relocations have the ability to foster new relations with the next of kin and family members that can ultimately result in increased revenue for the cemetery. The replacement cemetery may establish memorial gardens dedicated to the relocation, reunite family members through marketing and preneed sales within the same section; and/or institute an annual remembrance/celebration day. In all a cemetery relocation serves in perpetuity as a reminder of those associated with the relocation, preserves their connection with the past and provides a legacy for future generations.


Cemetery relocations require a commitment and an experienced team to ensure that the stakeholders, deceased, and the families' needs are balanced. We hope to be at the forefront of a new approach to cemetery relocation that provides stakeholders with a feasible and prudent approach to acquisition and families with rekindled relationships to their heritage.


Authors Melody Carvajal and Susan Grzbowski detailed the puzzle pieces of cemetery relocation and illustrated the importance of carefully interlocking the pieces to reveal the overall image in their presentation, RIP: Relocation in Pieces, at the April 2014 ICCFA Convention. 


article sourced with permission from American Cemetery Magazine for March 2014


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The 4-3-2-1 system is a group of interdependent elements forming a complex whole. In this case, the whole - the goal - is the sale.


If there is a problem with sales, sales are not the problem. The problem is never the problem - the problem is always to the left:


The sales process starts on the far left, with getting prospects, and ends on the far right, with the sale. Prospects equal appointments equal presentations equal sales.


For the vast majority of the year, individual sales volume is a very controllable event. The problem is that many salespeople don't take personal responsibility for controlling their success.


There's an old cliché in the sales profession: If your sales are off today, it's because your prospecting was off two weeks ago. When you don't prospect today, it doesn't affect you tomorrow; it's next week that suffers.


So, look out for these warning signs in your thinking about prospecting:

  • "Something will happen."
  • "I'm getting ready to get ready."
  • "I will definitely do it tomorrow."
  • "Prospecting is not a scheduled event."

In many competitions, the judges will hold up scorecards at the end of a performance. A perfect score is 10. With your four prospects, plus three appointments, plus two presentations, plus one sale, you will score your perfect 10.


David Shipper & Gary O'Sullivan, CCFE


Gary O'Sullivan ( is president of Gary O'Sullivan Co., Winter Garden, Florida, a consulting firm specializing in the cemetery and funeral profession. A nationally recognized speaker, trainer and author, he started his preneed sales career at the age of 18. His experience ranges from selling door-to-door for family-owned businesses to being a senior vice president for a publicly traded company.


His book, "Sales Never Get Better People Do," is available in English and Spanish. His DVDs include "The Power to Sell Preneed" and "12 Principles Every Manager Must know."


He is a dean and speaker for ICCFA University and this year was a recipient of the ICCFA Educational Foundation's inaugural Lasting Impact Award.


David Shipper ( is a third-generation funeral home and cemetery owner. He is president of companies that own and operate 42 cemetery and funeral locations in Indiana, Michigan and New York.


He is an ICCFA past president and a former board member. He formerly served as vice president and director of corporate development with The Loewen Group International Inc.


This article is excerpted from one course in the online preneed training university created by David Shipper and Gary O'Sullivan, CCFE. The online university, designed to train sales counselors and managers, is based on "The System: The Only Complete Preneed Selling Method," also by Shipper and O'Sullivan. Content includes courses such as "Prospecting: Deed or certificate delivery," "Service Marketing: Office inquiries," "Creating a meaningful memorial" and "Daily goal planner."


sourced from ICCFA Magazine for Nov. 2014 with permission.


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Where the SEC is cracking down

These are just a few of the things that financial firms registered with the SEC have always had to go through, but that now are being more thoroughly examined:


  • Process review. The SEC will follow the money path of transactions to ensure there are no loopholes in the operations that would allow people improper access to the funds. There is an annual "best practices" review that includes the evaluation of the process and the documentation of specific transactions.
  •  Fee review. Checks and balances with regard to fees charged also are scrutinized. Financial firms have to double-check their fee calculations on their client statements to make sure the calculations are correct and that they are charging clients the right amounts. This evaluation has to be done at least quarterly, and proof of the random sampling process check must be well documented.
  • Investment scrutiny. Not only are investments tracked and verified, they also are examined to ensure that similar investments can't be bought that could benefit the client more. In other words, if there are similar investments available, the financial management firm has an obligation to ensure the ones they have selected offer greater benefit to their customers. This process avoids firms "doing business with their buddies" rather than making decisions about what is right for the customer.
  • Review and sign-off. Trades are thoroughly documented and reviewed. When trades are made in the fund, comparative pricing must be evaluated to make sure the client is getting the best price and the trade is signed-off on by at least one, but usually several other individuals. This gives more exposure to each trade and makes it very difficult for anyone to make trades without the knowledge of key members of the firm.
  • Financial manager personal review. The managers of financial management firms are required to document any and all of their personal holdings and transactions to ensure no monies are changing hands illegally and/or to ensure the market is not being artificially influenced by such transactions.
  • Disclosures and "promises." Firms cannot make even vague claims about the security of any investment. Written testimonials are not allowed, because even though they might be considered honest marketing, they only represent one side. The SEC wants to make sure no investor is misled and goes to extreme lengths to make sure written communications and even advertisements make no claims as to the security of future performance of such funds.
  •  Disaster recovery. Every firm is required to have a fully detailed and tested disaster recovery process that allows it to operate if a disaster should occur. While scandals are usually not the result of not having a proper disaster recovery process, this is a great example of the lengths to which the SEC is going to scrutinize the operations and abilities of the companies under their purview.

premier 2013-2014 for web  

All in all, while it is a lot of work and documentation for a financial service firm registered with the SEC to comply with the requirements listed in the Investment Advisor's Act of 1940, it ultimately benefits the consumer.


Increased governmental oversight is no replacement for doing your own due diligence in selecting and reviewing your financial advisors and following your financial statements closely to make sure the numbers balance. However, it is good to know that while the new SEC scrutiny certainly won't prevent scandals entirely, it should serve as a welcome new preventative [sic] measure.


Article by Todd Mannix sourced from the ICCFA Magazine, Nov. 2014 with permission.


Author Todd Mannix is in funeral and cemetery trust administration and is the vice president of sales and marketing for Cooperative Funeral Fund.


Cooperative Funeral Fund Inc. (CCF) specializes in the management of preneed and perpetual care fund accounts. CFF has provided a program for the death care industry to facilitate the creation, investment, tax compliance and payout of funeral trusts since 1989. 


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ToddPain and suffering

For the Orthodox Christian, Jew and Muslim suffering on earth originated in Adam and Eve and their inquisitive disobedience to God. Because of this disobedience the world is full of plunder and error. People just do bad and stupid things all the time and do them to others. The earth is raped of natural resources by greed and selfishness, weapons of mass destruction are built not for peace but to eradicate each other, homes and gigantic dams and major cities are built knowingly right over earthquake faults. From the is particular religious perspective it is might difficult to deny or to be made brutally aware of the fact that much of our pain and suffering on earth is of our own making and continued perpetuation.


As one wise thinker once said, "Religion is the last subject the intellectual tackles." Well said, for the religious beliefs briefly described here offer a vast array of different thoughts and notions concerning the causal agents of pain and suffering, and some of them just might make people uncomfortable, but let us press ahead regardless. So just as one should not ignore the lessons and teaching passed on by these religions or theologies, so perhaps one should not expect any single religion or theology to satisfy the quest in finding out the answer to the causes of pain and suffering.


If, as the Buddhist says, suffering is caused by desire, then the answer is abundantly clear as the Buddha taught: Stop desiring. This seems to be sensible. Stop wanting the new car and you will probably be content with the old one. However if one carries this religious thinking of non-desiring to its logical end one arrives at a state of total disinterest and indifference to living life and living it with others. This thinking means giving up the joy of human relationships, giving up falling in love, the bliss of love and the caring for another human being. The Buddhist says that the more intense the desire the greater the pain and suffering at the absence - which is indeed a true risk in life, but is it wise to abolish the risk of anguish by forbidding the heights of happiness and joy?



The Hindu says to simply stop fighting and accept suffering and pain. Destruction and creation go hand-in-hand. However in taking this religious thinking to its logical end means that we would be really wise to destroy as much as possible to fulfill the betterment of creation. If short-term misfortunes for some contribute to the long-term general good for the world, as the Hindu say, then the more misfortunes there are, the better everything will be. For example: the Hindu would say that the saturation bombing of Rotterdam, Holland and the death of one hundred thousand Dutch people is a good thing if out of the ruins a beautiful new city grows. However I personally would like to ask this question: is this suffering too high a price to pay for new creation?


The ancient Jew, whose exclusive covenant with God said that as long as they followed Yahweh aright He would take care of them. History however has clearly written a story of the Jews. It is a story which tells of a people who in their repeated defeats and exiles have faced the reality of pain and suffering over and over again for centuries upon centuries.


The ancient Christian religious teaching that the righteous shall prosper and avoid suffering seems also to possess several limitations. The first limitation is simply that the experience of life itself refutes the notion of righteousness. You cannot go four chapters in the Old Testament before this idea is refuted.



Then in the book of Job, God makes Job suffer unjustly. Job's friends all come to sit and talk with him, but they would rather find out his secret sins than give up their belief that anyone who loves God could be both suffering and innocent at the same time, which is the main point of the Book of Job.


We may be responsible for and at times we may participate in bringing about some of our own suffering. However, it seems that neither we as individuals, not as members of the human family are guilty of all of our own pain all the time. There are numerous examples of people who must carry the yoke of the suffering artificially, not in martyrdom, but in guilt. It seems to be a safe truth that we will all be weak, in pain, and suffering at some stage of our lives, through no fault of our own. 


So after all this, what can one conclude about pain and suffering? Suffering is a complicated, arbitrary, indiscriminate and inextricable and yes a capricious part of life. It is a nuisance that possesses wisdom. Suffering and pain tears away the boundaries that are created by really any religious thinking - not one of them have the entire truth concerning this subject - but they all possess glimmers of divine truth. Suffering and pain goes where it likes and it does exactly what it wants, when it wants. Our only option is finding the way to navigate through these rough and stormy waters. Frequently the deepest lessons of life are taught only through the most painful encounters. Often getting what you want leaves one static and frozen in


repeated pleasures from the past. Getting what you do not want, what one may even fight for, can teach more about pleasure and good than time ever could.


Frederick Nietzsche once said: "That, which does not kill me, makes me strong." Todd W. Van Beck says not always, Freddy, but sometimes.


Pain and suffering also requires a type of respect for the good that it may do. C.S. Lewis wrote: "Pain provides an opportunity for personal heroism, and the opportunity is seized by millions with surprising frequency."


These final remarks I fear will be anticlimactic. Suffering remains among us and in us. Solutions to get through it are there but they must be searched out. In the end people go on day by day and for the post part I believe they make the best of life as they can.


The famous British philosopher William H.H. Snodgrass offers us a short poem called "After Experience" that I believe expresses a faith, offers hope, and gives us resilience in the experience of pain and suffering.


Never fear suffering. The heaviness...

You may return it to the earth's own weight.

The mountains are heavy, heavy the seas.

And you, why you could not sustain even the trees

Your childhood planted, long since grown to be great.

Never fear suffering - it will pass

In time you will be as great as the trees.


Suffering "IS." It is everywhere, and successful living is tackling this eternal "IS."


Todd W. Van Beck is one of the funeral profession's most prolific authors and presenters. From simple staff development at the smallest funeral home to clergy seminars to keynote addresses at the largest of gatherings, Mr. Van Beck tailors each presentation to suit any occasion.


Todd W. Van Beck has written over 200 articles and 65 books and manuals covering every possible topic of interest to funeral directors, cemeterians and clergy. His extensive training and experience spans over 35 years at every level of the funeral and cemetery professions and the church. For more information or to contact Mr. Van Beck visit


Sourced from Funeral Home and Cemetery News, Sept. 2014 with permission 


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Precht said she doesn't know how many graves were never marked, but she said an attempt was being made to distinguish them by number and rebury them at Evergreen in the same order as they were at Highland. This would aid families who remember exact burial sites.


Elvig said there is little that can be done about some bodies, since burial records, in many cases, have been destroyed.


"It would not be practical to have the coroner come out and try to have each and every body and its dental records examined," Elvig said.


"I would recommend that if someone feels it's critical to have a body identified to apply to have it done at Evergreen, after the bodies have been moved," he said. "I don't think the job can be done in an expeditious manner with people coming in and out (of the cemetery) all the time."


Chapman complained about vaults and caskets breaking while being raised by a backhoe, and said the moving should be done by hand. Elvig said "hand-moving would "hardly be expeditious."


He said some damage should be expected because vaults and caskets can become "flimsy" after being underground for a few years.


Some area residents still are upset that Treadwell rebuffed their proposal to operate the cemetery on a non-profit basis.


"We had a good plan," said Phyllis Siler of Mukilteo, whose father was buried at Highland and whose mother, sister and brother-in-law all owned plots. "They didn't give us a chance."


Others, like Bill Watkins, feel the state Legislature should take a closer look at the cemetery business to insure that cemetery exhumations will not be recurring events.


"This sort of thing can happen again," said Watkins, whose father-in-law and wife's uncle were buried at Highland. Their bodies were reburied at another cemetery immediately after the judge's ruling.


Watkins, who lives directly east of the cemetery, has invited television crews to his property on numerous occasions to film the digging and moving. Much of the filming is done from his patio, and cameramen are able to get close shots without violating the trespassing orders.


"I want to keep this issue before the public," he said. "We can't ever let this happen again."


Elvig doesn't appreciate the TV crews. "It should not be turned into a circus," he said.


Thanks to Elvig for sharing his collection of newspaper clippings. In future issues of The Insider we will blast you back to the destruction of the Comet Lodge Cemetery on Beacon Hill, Seattle.


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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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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.

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The Northwest's only association serving the full spectrum of the death care profession. 

In This Issue
Sustainability in funeral service: six ways to make a real difference
Debunking the myths of cemetery relocation
Should we be thanking Bernie Madoff?
New VA Cemetery benefits bulletin
What you must do EVERY DAY to succeed at preneed sales
Ten tips for motivating yourself
Controversy at Highland Cemetery
Pain and Suffering
Confessions of a funeral director: Let's talk about Brittany Maynard
Bulletin Board: Hiring Fair Nov. 15