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January 2015



ICCFA Annual Convention & Expo

April 8-11, 2015 San Antonio, TX

Keynote Speakers
30+ Breakout
Burial programs

spurs vs. rockets

COVERAGE begins on page 91

Registration form: page 110

Hunsaker plans for

a cremation future
Dear Poul: Tough
cremation Q&As
What OSHAs focus
has been at cemeteries
and funeral homes
Figuring how to
best fit celebrants
into your firm
Planning an effective,
ongoing preneed
marketing program
Make your preneed
program irrestible
Importing risks
and rewards: What
you need to know
Essential elements
of Internet marketing
Municipal cemeterian
Cooke serves families
and taxpayers

J ANUARY 2 0 1 5 T a b l e o f c o n t e n t s
International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association :
Promoting consumer choices, prearrangement and open competition
Providing exceptional education, networking and legislative guidance and support
to progressive cemetery, funeral and cremation professionals worldwide
14 Cremation/legal issues

Christine Hunsakers Southern Cremations & Funerals at Cheatham Hill Memorial Park features a front porch that
invites visitors to sit and look out to the
new cremation garden. Story, page 38.
The ICCFA convention program begins
on page 91. Registration form, page 110.

10 Presidents letter
The association that
provides the best
by Fred Lappin, CCE
12 Washington report
A new Congress for the new year;
ICCFA PAC picks the raffle winners
by Robert M. Fells, Esq.
70 Supply Line
78 Update

78 Annette March-Grier
named one of CNNs
Top 10 Heroes of 2014

82 Kensico remembers
unidentified victims of hotel fire

84 Derek Flynn, grief therapy
85 New Members
1 12

Display of mourning attire
at New York Citys
Metropolitan Museum of Art

1 14 Ad Index
1 14 Classifieds

ICCFA Magazine

Dear Poul: Tough cremation questions and answers

In this installment of his Dear Poul column, ICCFA Cremation Counsel Poul Lemasters answers your questions about whether you can hold
remains until you get paid, whether some authorizing agents in a class
are better than others and what to do when you cant find anyone to sign
anything. by Poul Lemasters, Esq.

18 Management/safety

What OSHAs focus has been at cemeteries, funeral homes

Start off the year with a review of your safety programs and procedures.
One way to approach it is by zeroing in on what OSHA has been paying
special attention to lately in its oversight of funeral homes, cemeteries
and crematories. by Shannon Decamp

24 Celebrants/management

Figuring out how to best fit celebrants into your firm

Every family is different, and so is every funeral home or cemetery.
How you go about offering your families the option of celebrant services
depends on your organization, your staff and your community.
by Glenda Stansbury, CFSP, CC

28 PReneed sales success

Planning an effective, ongoing preneed marketing program

An active preneed direct marketing program is important for funeral
homes and cemeteries, but it needs to be well planned to fit your goals,
resources, budget and brand. by Dale Filhaber

32 PReneed sales success

How to make your preneed program irresistible to families

In order to sell, you have to have people to seepreferably in their
homes. A good way to prime the pump is to use direct mail, as long as
you follow up promptly with a phone call and set that all-important appointment. by Tom Holland

34 management/international business

Importing risks & rewards: What you need to know

More companies have been considering buying products abroad to cut
costs. But if importing is done without proper due diligence, anticipated
savings can disappear quickly. by Courtney Gould Miller, Esq.

36 pet services/marketing

Three essentials elements of your Internet marketing plan

The Internet makes it easy for potential clients to find your business
as well as the businesses run by your competitors. How can you make
sure your business stands out online? by Mark Feltz, DVM

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page 7


ICCFA news
87 Cremation certification programs

scheduled for 2015

87 Hurry: 2015 music license prices

increase February 1

88 Wide World of Sales

Conference, January 14-16,

Las Vegas, Nevada
Last chance to register to learn how
to provide Service that Sells

88 Wide World of Sales Conference

corporate partners

89 Applications for ICCFA University

scholarships due February 6

89 FedEx, UPS to begin dimensional

weight charges in early 2015

89 ICCFA Annual Meeting of Members

Thursday, April 9

90 Plan now to attend these special

events in San Antonio, yall

90 ICCFA Hall of Fame

Fred Miller to be inducted

ICCFA calendar
2015 Wide World of Sales Conference
January 14-16
Ballys & Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino,
Las Vegas, Nevada
Paul Goldstein and Wanda Sizemore
2015 Annual Convention & Exposition
April 8-11
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and
The Grand Hyatt San Antonio, Texas
Caressa Hughes and Daniel L. Villa
2015 ICCFA University
July 17-22
Fogelman Conference Center, University
of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee
Chancellor: Jeff Kidwiler, CCE

38 management/cremation

Hunsaker building her brand by serving cremation families

Can you have fun climbing the corporate ladder? Is it fun to risk
everything and strike out on your own, starting a new company based
on meeting the needs of cremation familiesat the cemetery as well as
at the funeral home? If youre Christine Hunsaker, the answerin both
casesis yes. interview of Christine Hunsaker by Susan Loving

54 management/cemeteries

Municipal cemeterian Cooke serves families & taxpayers

Preserving the past; preparing for the (cremation) future
Regardless of a whether a cemetery is under private or municipal ownership, management needs to respond to industry trends to keep it viable.
interview of Chris Cooke by Susan Loving

91 Continuing Education

Program for the ICCFA 2015 Convention & Exposition, April 8-11,

San Antonio Convention Center & Grand Hyatt Hotel, Texas
91 Expo hours: 11 hours to shop and learn from our supplier partners,
with free food & beverage service; hotel information
92 Special events:
NEW: Black Tie & Boots Closing Banquet & Awards Ceremony
NEW format: First-Timers Reception
NEW: Sports Night Out
NEW: Celebration of Remembrance
ICCFA Hall of Fame induction; ICCFA Annual Meeting of Members
State Association Leadership Luncheon
KIP Awards; PLPA Receptions & Awards Ceremony
ICCFA Educational Foundation Reception
ICCFA Prayer Breakfast; Government & Legal Panel
93 Keynote speakers Cindy Gallop, Tim Sanders and Steve Rizzo

94 Cremation Central Live!; Sales teamwork

96 Staying viable; Succession planning; Employee management

Women in leadership
98 Hospice; Funeral experience of the future; Finances
100 Tech-savvy marketing & service; Building a funeral business

102 Social media; Cemetery management: Genealogy, Endowment care,

Sustainability, Programming & Fundraising
104 Embalming; Ebola; Grief

106 Green Burial Council program

Jewish Funeral Directors of America program
108 Pet Loss Professionals Alliance College; Convention sponsors

110 Convention registration form

2015 Fall Management Conference

September 30-October 2
Loews Ventana Canyon, Tucson, Arizona
2016 Annual Convention & Exposition
April 13-16 Ernest N. Morial Convention
Center & Hilton New Orleans
Riverside, New Orleans, Louisiana

ICCFA Magazine
Web Expo directory of suppliers and
Association directory
Industry event calendar

Cremation Coaching Center


Links to news and feature stories from all

over the world
Blogs by ICCFA members
Like the ICCFA on Facebook & friend ICCFA Staff

Supernova AD
page 9

Presidents Letter
President Fred
Lappin, CCE

Fred Lappin, CCE, with some of the many first-time exhibitors at the ICCFA 2014 Convention &
Expo, Remembrance Frame (left) and Tree of Life Cremation Cross.

Lappin is president

and CEO of Sharon

Memorial Park, Sharon,
Massachusetts and
Knollwood Memorial Park,
Canton, Massachusetts.

n To apply for ICCFA


Download an application
at, or
Call 1.800.645.7700

Check us out on
Like us
and friend
ICCFA Staff.

The association that provides the best

joined our company 13 years ago, and that was

also when I joined our profession. As I looked
into what would be the best resources for me to
learn about our profession and help our company,
I found the ICCFA. Perhaps the ICCFA Mission
Statement puts it best: Providing exceptional
education, networking and legislative guidance
and support to progressive cemetery, funeral and
cremation professionals world-wide.
Simply put, the ICCFA has the best educational
programs, events and membership services in our
profession. I suggest that if youre not a member
and not familiar with the ICCFA that you take a
moment and go to our website at
Click on the Membership That Matters video on
the home page and enjoy.
We are all aware of the challenges that face our
profession. People have become more transient
and families are making different end-of-life
choices. The question then becomes where do we
turn to look for that edge to help us best understand
the overall environment we operate in, and to get
information that will help us run our businesses
better? I believe you will find the answer to these
questions and much more at the ICCFA.

January 2015

ICCFA officers

Fred Lappin, CCE, president

Darin B. Drabing, president-elect

Jay D. Dodds, CFSP, vice president
Christine Toson Hentges, CCE,
vice president
Scott R. Sells, CCFE, vice president
Michael Uselton, CCFE, vice president
Gary M. Freytag, CCFE, treasurer
Daniel L. Villa, secretary
Robert M. Fells, Esq., executive director &
general counsel

Robert Treadway, director of

communications & member services; 1.800.645.7700, ext. 1224
Alecia Burke, marketing manager; 1.800.645.7700, ext. 1220

Magazine staff

Robert M. Fells, Esq., executive director &

publisher ; 1.800.645.7700, ext. 1212

Rick Platter, supplier relations manager; 1.800.645.7700, ext. 1213

Brenda Clough, office administrator

& association liaison; 1.800.645.7700,
ext. 1214

Susan Loving, managing editor


ICCFA Magazine

In addition to our member services and

educational programming, what further defines
the ICCFA and sets it apart is that we are the only
association open to all of the components of our
profession. This inclusion fosters a welcoming
environment of collaboration, and our members
are ready to share information and help their peers.
An equally important benefit of ICCFA mem
bership: The personal and business relationships
one can build. Whenever I need information,
assistance, perspective, etc., I only have to reach
out. There have been numerous people who have
been open, available and willing to share, teach
and mentor me along the way.
So, if youre a member of the ICCFA, review
the member benefits and make sure youre taking
advantage of all we have to offer. If youre not a
member, take some time to learn about what we
have to offer, and perhaps attend one of our events
to take advantage of opportunities to collaborate
and interact with individuals from across the
spectrum of our profession. I promise you that
joining the ICCFA will be a rewarding decision
and have a positive impact on you and your

Daniel Osorio, subscription coordinator

(habla espaol); 1.800.645.7700, ext. 1215
ICCFA Magazine (ISSN 1936-2099) is published by the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, 107 Carpenter
Drive, Suite 100, Sterling, VA 20164-4468;
703.391.8400; FAX 703.391.8416; Published 10 times per year,
with combined issues in March-April and
August-September. Periodicals postage paid

at Sterling, VA, and other offices. Copyright

2014 by the International Cemetery, Cremation
and Funeral Association. Subscription rates: In
the United States, $39.95; in Canada, $45.95;
overseas: $75.95. One subscription is included
in annual membership dues. POSTMASTER:
Send address changes to ICCFA Magazine,
107 Carpenter Drive, Suite 100, Sterling, VA
20164-4468. Individual written contributions,
commentary and advertisements appearing in
ICCFA Magazine do not necessarily reflect
either the opinion or the endorsement of the
International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral

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Providing tools
for success.

Unparalleled educational
and networking events
Free legal advice on human
resources, taxes, cremation
and fraud protection issues
Lobbying and government
watchdog services
publications and
informational resources
Discounts on products and
services you use every day
Model contracts and forms
Recognition through
awards and certification

Take advantage of the invaluable tools ICCFA provides its members.

Your first year of membership is only $245.
to build a solid foundation for your business today.

Washington Report
General Counsel
Robert M. Fells,
ext. 1212
direct line: 703.391.8401
Fells is ICCFA executive director and general
counsel, responsible for
maintaining and improving relationships with
federal and state government agencies, the
news media, consumer
organizations and related
trade associations.
More resources
Wireless. ICCFA
members, send us your
email address and well
send you our bi-weekly
electronic newsletter full
of breaking news.

A new Congress for the new year

here are many new faces in the 114th Congress

as it convenes on Capitol Hill on January 6. As
is well-known by now, the Republican Party
won the majority in the Senate and retains its majority
in the House Representatives.
The importance of being the majority party, that
is, having 51 percent or better of the votes, has both
practical and symbolic meaning for the public and
for businesses. Symbolically, the majority is deemed
responsible for tackling various issues and a failure to
take action on these can expose that party in power to
criticisms of being ineffective and incompetent.
Some election analysts believe that voters did
not vote for Republicans on November 4 as much
as they voted against Democrats to express their
dissatisfaction with that partys handling of issues over
the past two years.
The practical effect of being the majority party in
both houses is more substantial. The Republicans in
the House and Senate select the chairs for the dozens
of committees, and those chairs will set the legislative
agenda for each committee.
This means that proposed legislation not favored
by the majority party is likely to receive no action
and never come to a vote. Likewise, bills that are
supported by the majority party will be placed on
committee agendas for review and voting, and
eventually be brought to the floor for a vote by the full
House and Senate.
The ability to set the legislative priorities in each

house is in itself a huge advantage for the majority

Another practical consideration is whether the
majority party is only a technical majority, i.e., 51
percent of the vote, or if it has a working majority
with a larger share of the vote, i.e., 60 percent.
The two parties rarely vote for legislation strictly
along party lines. Not every congressional member in
the majority will vote in favor of a bill that its party
supports. Likewise, not everyone in the minority party
will vote against it.
So allowing for defections in both parties, a
mere 51 percent is sometimes referred to as a bare
majority that can rarely pass legislation without some
votes from the minority party. Some types of votes
require a 60 percent majority to pass, and that goal can
be difficult to achieve.
The numbers tell the tale: the new Senate has 53
Republicans and 44 Democrats. There are at least
three elections that still must be decided, so the Senate
numbers will increase for either or both parties.
The Senate Democrats had a net loss of eight
seats, which the Republicans gained. In the House of
Representatives, the Democrats gained three seats but
lost 15, for a net loss of 12 seats. House Republicans
lost three seats but gained 15 for a net gain of 12 seats.
The ICCFA Government and Legal Affairs
Committee is planning its annual Capitol Hill visits for
this spring. Further details will follow. 

ICCFA PAC picks the raffle winners

y November 4, Election Day, the ICCFA

Political Action Committee (PAC) had
donated over $20,000 to congressional
candidates. Our PAC seeks to support candidates
across the aisle in a bipartisan show of support, and
donations for the 2014 elections were divided almost
evenly between Democrats and Republicans.
ICCFA PAC Chairman Irwin W. Shipper, CCE,
has observed that the most important consideration
is whether an ICCFA member personally knows
the congressional member in question, the donation
being a tangible expression of support.
The following members of Congress are
recipients of ICCFA PAC donations:
Joe Barton (R-TX)

Joe Crowley (D-NY)

Charlie Dent (R-PA)
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
Patrick Murphy (D-FL)
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)

In addition, the PAC sponsors a raffle each

year to raise funds. This years raffle raised nearly
$14,000 and the winners are:
Keenan Knopke55-inch widescreen LCD
Dewy AkersApple iPad
Tim Hoff2015 ICCFA Annual Convention &
Expo VIP Package

ICCFA member benefit: The ICCFA Government and Legal Affairs Committee has developed a set of 28 model
guidelines for state laws and regulations, which have been approved by the ICCFA Board of Directors. The guidelines combine a sensitivity to consumer protection issues with the need for all industry members, whether for-profit or not-for-profit,
cemeteries, funeral homes, retail monument dealers or crematories, to conduct their operations according to sound business
principles. Go to and click on the GOVT/LEGAL tab for more information.

ICCFA Magazine

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Wilbert AD
page 13

by Poul Lemasters, Esq.



ICCFA Magazine author spotlight

Lemasters is principal of Lemasters

Consulting, Cincinnati, Ohio.

He is an attorney and funeral director,

graduated from the Cincinnati College of
Mortuary Science in 1996 and from Northern Kentucky University, Chase College of
Law, in 2003. He is licensed as a funeral
director and embalmer in Ohio and West
Virginia and admitted to practice law in
Ohio and Kentucky.
ICCFA membership benefit
He is the ICCFAs special crema-

tion legal counsel. ICCFA members in

good standing may call him to discuss
cremation-related legal issues for up to 20
minutes at no charge to the member. The
association pays for this service via an
exclusive retainer.

Lemasters also provides, to ICCFA members in good standing, free GPL reviews to
check for Funeral Rule compliance.

Go to to the Cremation

Coaching Center, where you can post a
question for Lemasters to answer.

More from this author

Lemasters will be among the presenters

at the ICCFA 2015 Convention & Expo::
Cremation hotline calls: What people
are asking. Find out what consumers are
asking about cremation. See page 94.
Five legal issues affecting every pet
business, part of PLPA College.
See page 108.


ICCFA Magazine

In this installment of his Dear Poul column,

ICCFA Cremation Counsel Poul Lemasters
answers your questions about whether you can hold remains
until you get paid, whether some authorizing agents
in a class are better than others and what to do
when you cant find anyone to sign anything.

Dear Poul: Tough cremation

questions and answers

s a benefit to all ICCFA members,

I provide legal advice on
cremation-related issues. This is
a free service to all members. Lets face
it, in todays world where cremation is on
the rise, it seems families are becoming
more dysfunctional and, oh yes, lets not
forget about the people who want to sue at
the drop of a hat, its nice to have a little
support when you are faced with a problem.
Over the years, Ive gotten all sorts of
questions about cremation. It is amazing
how many people are faced with cremationrelated issues on an everyday basis. You
may think that after awhile, the questions
would all be ones Ive gotten before, but the
facts are always somewhat different.
While I cant address every issue
Ive ever been asked about, there are
some questions Ive gotten from several
peopleand Im sure many other people
have had similar questions cross their
In this second edition of my Dear
Poul column, as always, names have been
changed to protect the innocent and so that
I can make the questions a little more fun.
Dear Poul: We have a question regarding
cremation and getting paid. We have the
signatures of both of the children and also
have their signatures on the Statement of
Funeral Goods and Services. The problem
is, they were supposed to pay for the
cremation by the day of the cremation, but
they still havent paid. The urn alone was
over $500! Can I hold onto the cremated
remains until they pay at least some of
what they owe?
Rich but Broke in Pennsylvania

Dear Rich but Broke in Pennsylvania:

The short answer is, no, you cant hold
cremated remains for payment.
Compare this to a traditional case
where you get a death call, make the
removal, perhaps embalm and then the
family says, We want to go somewhere
else. At the point the family says that, you
must let them. If you do not release the
body, it is deemed holding a body hostage
for payment and you can face legal
repercussions, including regulatory fines
and punishment. The case with cremated
remains is no different.
Not only is holding a loved one in order
to demand payment deemed an illegal
act, it also adds to the growing problem
of abandoned or unclaimed cremated
remainsanother area of liability. A
cremation provider should encourage the
family to pick up cremated remains, not
hold the remains hostage.
So what can a provider do to collect
money owed?
While the law says you cannot hold a
bodyor propertyhostage for payment,
a provider does have the right to collect
money owed. This means that once you
hand over the cremated remains, you can
proceed via any standard collection claim.
Typically this means filing a claim against
the family in small claims court, getting
a judgment and then waiting for payment
under a judgment.
There are steps to take to help reduce
the chance of the issue getting to this point.
First, a provider can refuse to cremate
until payment is received. The difference
is that you are refusing to provide services
until you are paid, not refusing to release
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page 15


If you have not been paid for the cremation, you can refuse to provide merchandise
until paid. For example, if the family has selected but not paid for an urn, do not use the urn
until payment is received. This can only be done if you havent already put the remains
in that urn, though! You cant place the cremated remains in the urn, then find out
you arent getting paid and decide to remove the cremated remains from the urn.
property until you are paid. If the family
says, We cant pay, they can move the
deceased to another locationagain,
you cant hold the body until payment is
receivedbut at least you are not out the
cost of services for cremation.
Also, if you have not been paid for
the cremation, you can refuse to provide
merchandise until paid. For example, if the
family has selected but not paid for an urn,
do not use the urn until payment is received.
This can only be done if you havent
already put the remains in that urn, though!
You cant place the cremated remains in
the urn, then find out you arent getting
paid and then decide to remove the
cremated remains from the urn.
Overall, handling this issue comes
down to implementing better best practices
for collections at the time of arrangements.
If you have a problem at that time, solve
it before proceeding. Dont create another
problem by trying to keep the cremated
remains until payment is received.
Dear Poul: We have a case where there
are three children handling the cremation
arrangements for their mother. There are
no other children or siblings involved.
Unfortunately, the kids all disagree about
what to do, and we want to follow the
directions of just one child. The oldest
child is willing to take control, and that
child is also the executor of the estate.
Does this status raise him to a higher level
than the other two children so he can be in
control of disposition?
Special Kid in New York
Dear Special Kid in New York:
While this would be a nice option, the
answer is no.
Most states set forth a priority list of
authorizing agents. The list separates the
authorizing agents into classes such as:
1. Spouse; 2. Children; 3. Siblings. Farther
down, the list it may include more general
categories such as guardian at the time of
death, executor or even any person willing
to take financial responsibility.

ICCFA Magazine

Keep in mind that each of these classes

is independent of the others. This means
that you cant add them up and create a
super class that is higher than the others.
Imagine the scenario where someone
can show that he is one of the children, and
also was the guardian at the time of death
plus the executor of the estate. Surely this
would be a super high-ranking person who
trumps everyone.
You might even have a family where
somehow the members are more related
than usual. Maybe theres a daughter who is
also a niece. It might happen, but we dont
give credit for that craziness! The point is
that you look at each person by his or her
highest rank on the list, and nothing else.
Your question also brings up another
issue, which Ill call the eldest child
theory. While within the family, the eldest
child might have some additional clout,
you must remember that in your dealings
with families, children must be treated
(Personally, like many of you, I know
that in my family I am not treated equally,
having kept a running tally of Christmas
and birthday gifts received over the years,
but in the realm of disposition decisionmaking, all children are treated equally.)
Lastly, keep in mind that not all states
require all children, or all members of
a particular class, to authorize the final
disposition. Some states require a simple
majority, and some states allow just one
person in the class to approve disposition.
Nevertheless, it is best practice to try
to get all of the members of a class to sign
to protect you and your business. If there
is a dispute, a provider should require all
of them to sign for the authorization, or
perhaps require a court to decide.
If a provider moves forward with
cremation without all children (or siblings
or whatever the authorizing class is),
even if that cremation was authorized by
the aforementioned super-high-rankingeldest-child-who-is-also-the-executor, the
provider may be siding with one individual
in a dispute and therefore opening himself

or herself up to claims filed by other

family members.
Bottom line, this is what I tell
providers: If there is a debate, then we
wait to cremate.
Dear Poul: Please help! I have a family
with one child as the only next of kin.
We talked to him one time and he said he
wanted nothing to do with his father and
that we should just do what we want.
But now we cant get back in touch with
him, so we have no one to sign anything.
What do we do?
All Alone in Alabama
Dear All Alone in Alabama:
Yes, I agreethis is a very tough issue,
and due to space limitations, I cant answer
your question here, so good luck!
Just kidding, but that one-line response
probably sums up how most providers feel
about this issue. Unfortunately, you cant
just ignore the problem and hope it will go
Your options are limited, and unfor
tunately they also can be time-consuming
and expensive. But by using the process
Im going to outline, my hope is that you
can get a good resolution without actually
having to go through all the steps.
Below is a very brief outline or sample
guide as to how you handle this issue.
1. Document when you talked to the
son and what was said. Make sure your
operation gets in the habit of obtaining as
much information as possible during that
first moment of communication, especially
good contact information, including cell
phone numbers, emails and even a physical
2. Know your state law. Some
states have contingencies for refusal
to participate, including time-frames
where after 24 or 48 hours, any person
who has been notified but refuses to take
action loses his or her right to control the
disposition. Other states require the court
to be involved.
3. Find anyone else who must help
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(other individuals on the authorizing list)
or anyone else who might help (friends or
even neighbors). A great way to locate other
people is to contact someone at the place
of death and see if they have any other
contacts information for people who knew
the deceased.
4. Write a letter. The letter should be
your strongly worded request for the
familythe one son, in the case of this
letter-writerto step up and provide the
needed authorization so you can proceed.
Keep in mind that this letter should
include several items. First, the letter should
clearly state (again, using the case of the
one son as an example) that the child is
being contacted because, under state law, he
is listed as the authorizing agent and must
participate in some manner.
Second, explain that his participation
can be to sign the cremation authorization
form OR it can be to sign away his right
of disposition so someone else can handle
the arrangements. At this point you, the
provider, simply want him all in or all out.
Third, you must explain that if he fails
to do either, you may have to go to court so
that the court can force the issue. Make him
aware that if you are forced to go to court,
he will have to either participate or sign
away his rightsthe same options you are
already giving himand additional costs
will be involved, for which he might be
responsible once the court rules.
And last but not least, include a time
frame or deadline in your letter, maybe
allowing a week for him to respond.
5. Wait. This is the worst part, but is
crucial. Give the letter recipient(s) time to
respond and also follow up with a phone
6. Decide how to proceed. At this
point, we hope your letter has resulted in
a signature so that you can proceed. If you
still have no signature, you are left with
the option of going to court or of doing
something other than cremation.
Some areas of the country provide
options through a county coroner or a
paupers grave or an indigent funeral, or
perhaps provide for an immediate burial
instead of a cremation.
The situations where the family will
not participate are difficult and, sad to say,
becoming more common.
Use your resources and the provisions
set forth in your local law to help you deal
with them.
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January 2015


by Shannon DeCamp
ICCFA Magazine
author spotlight
DeCamp is client

services manager
for TechneTrain Inc.,
Milford, Ohio.

She researches OSHA safety regula-

tions and initiatives in order to help businesses stay in compliance and develops
products to help businesses conduct
safety training.

TechneTrain has a full line of training

programs and reference materials to help
you keep your cemetery, funeral home
or crematory in compliance with OSHA
Regulations. These products are available from the ICCFA at discounted prices.
Contact the ICCFA for more information at


Start off the year with a review of your safety programs and
procedures. One way to approach it is by zeroing in on what
OSHA has been paying special attention to lately
in its oversight of funeral homes, cemeteries and crematories.

What OSHAs focus has been

at cemeteries, funeral homes

ach year OSHA publishes citation

statistics for the previous year. Take
advantage of this information to
look at what OSHA has been focusing on
in your industry, and to evaluate your own
safety programs.


Listed below are last years five most

frequent citations for lawn and garden
services (the cemetery).
1. Personal protective equipment
2. Aerial devices
3. Hazard communication
4. General Duty clause
5. Electrical safety
Note that while there were only a few
citations for OSHAs excavations/trenching
standard in your industry, this continues to
be a major focus area for OSHA. Over $5
million in citations for violations of this
regulation were issued across all industries
last year.
PPE (personal protective equipment)
PPE violations topped the list for OSHA
citations this past year. Each employer must
determine what protective equipment is
necessary for each employee and each task.
OSHA found that employers either were
not providing necessary equipment for
the job hazards, not providing employees
with the proper training or not ensuring
that employees were wearing the required
Last year, the most frequent PPE
citations were:
1. General requirements. This
includes proper selection and provision
of equipment, adequate written program,
adequate training and proper use and care
of PPE.
2. Eye and face protection. Cemetery
workers likely need eye and face protection


ICCFA Magazine

from flying particles or dust when using

lawn care equipment, and chemicals such
as pesticides, growth inhibitors, algae or
other cleaners. Full-face shields also may
be needed to protect your face from these
3. Head protection. A protective helmet
is required for any employees who could hit
their heads or have something fall on them.
Working in a grave and trimming trees are
examples of where protective helmets are
Employers must provide the correct hard
hat for each employee depending on the
needs of the job. Some helmets only reduce
the force of a blow to the top of the head,
while others reduce the force of a blow
from both the sides and top.
In some cases, protective helmets that
are designed to reduce electrical shock
hazard may be required.
4. Respiratory protection. Respirators
may be needed for protection from airborne
pesticides, growth inhibitors, fertilizers
or other lawn applications; grit and dust;
or exposure that occurs when dry-cutting
masonry or stone that contains silica.
Exposure must be determined for each
chemical, and each respirators protection
level must be adequate for the exposure
level. Before using a respirator, a physician
must determine that it is safe for the
employee to use one and he/she must be
trained on its use and care.
Your respirator program must be in
Aerial devices
The vehicle-mounted elevating and
rotating work platforms standard covers
safety issues for aerial devices such as
basket or bucket trucks and devices with
extendable ladders.
Violations in this category include using
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A protective helmet is required for any employees who could hit their heads
or have something fall on them. Working in a grave and trimming trees
are examples of where protective helmets are needed.
equipment that is improperly modified,
insufficient training for operators, lack
of fall protection and failure to chock
wheels. Be sure that your employees
have the proper training and follow safety
Hazard communication
Every year, hazard communication is
high on the list, and this past year was
no exception. If you use even a single
hazardous chemical, you need a Right-toKnow program.
In 2012, OSHA updated the Hazard
Communication Standard by adopting the
Global Harmonization System (GHS) of
classification and labeling of chemicals.
GHS is an internationally agreed upon
system that replaces the various classifica
tion and labeling standards used in different
countries. Under the GHS, there is a single,
consistent way of communicating hazards
and how to use a product safely no matter
where it is produced in the world.
The revised standard includes important
changes to classification of chemicals,
MSDS format (now called Safety Data
Sheets, or SDS), and labels for chemicals.
Be sure that you have Safety Data Sheets
for all chemicals, safe handling and storage
procedures for each chemical, PPE, quickdrench showers and eye-wash stations (as
required), and a comprehensive training
program for employees.
Your Hazard Communication Program
must be in writing.
The deadline for employee training
on new label elements and SDS format
was December 1, 2013. The deadline
for full compliance with the new Hazard
Communication Standard is June 1, 2016.
General Duty Clause
The OSHA General Duty Clause is the
catch-all standard to cover areas for
which there is no specific regulation. It
states that the employer must provide an
environment free from recognized hazards
that are causing or are likely to cause death
or serious physical harm to employees.
Hazards must be identified before
employees are exposed, preventative
precautions must be taken and employees

ICCFA Magazine

must be trained on these hazards and how to

work safely.
Examples of these types of violations
include equipment rollover (mowing
on hill, exposure to crushing/drowning
from mower tip-over, lack of rollover
protection); falling (ladder, trimming
tree from backhoe bucket); mowing with
inadequate protection or training (lack
of rollover protection or not wearing a
seatbelt); amputation hazards posed by
equipment; struck-by hazards such as
exposure to traffic without appropriate
warning signs, signals or barricades; heat
or cold weather exposure; and exposure
to overhead hazards, such as underneath a
tree that is being trimmed.
Electrical safety
Electrical hazards were another frequently
cited area. An average of one worker dies
from electrocution on the job every day.
Even low voltage or low current can cause
serious harm or death.
Electrical safety issues in cemeteries
include proper grounding, extension cord
safety, guarding, lockout/tagout issues and
wiring design and protection. Those at
primary risk are employees who use electric
powered tools for maintenance or lawn
care, and anyone responsible for handling
electrical issues.
Employers were frequently cited for
insufficient employee training.

Funeral homes and crematories

Funeral service and crematories are

classified as a separate industry by OSHA,
and have a different set of citation data. The
top five most frequent citations last year
1. Formaldehyde
2. Bloodborne pathogens
3. Hazard communication
4. Respiratory protection
5. Flammable liquids
The fact that formaldehyde is the subject of
its own federal regulation emphasizes the
need to protect employees from exposure.
The Formaldehyde Standard 29 CFR
1910.1048 was updated in 2012 to conform

to the Global Harmonization System of

classification and labeling of chemicals
(commonly known as the GHS). These
changes involve signage, labeling, wording
of warnings and communication of hazards.
The Formaldehyde Standard applies in
addition to the provisions of the Hazard
Communication Standard discussed above.
A Formaldehyde Protection Program must
include the following:
Engineering controls. Engineering
controls must eliminate or reduce employee
exposures as much as possible. Examples
include enclosure and ventilation.
Monitoring of exposure limits. Air
monitoring is required unless it can be
documented that the operation cannot result
in concentrations above the Action Level or
Short Term Exposure Limit (STEL) under
all expected conditions.
Personal protective equipment. When
engineering and work practice controls
cannot maintain exposure at acceptable
levels, employees must use the proper PPE.
This may include impervious clothing,
gloves, aprons and chemical splash
goggles. Showers and eye-wash stations
must be provided if splashing is likely.
Respirators are also required where airborne
concentrations exceed allowable limits. See
below for more information on respiratory
Training. In addition to the training
requirements for hazard communication,
personnel working with formaldehyde
must receive annual chemical-specific
information and training on their job
Employees must understand the hazards
of formaldehyde and the control measures
at your facility. Information also must be
provided about signs or symptoms related
to health effects of formaldehyde, and how
to properly report them to the employer.
Proper formaldehyde storage.
Formaldehyde products must be stored in
accordance with requirements listed on the
SDS. All mixtures or solutions composed of
greater than 0.1 percent formaldehyde and
material capable of releasing formaldehyde
into the air at concentrations reaching or
exceeding 0.1 ppm must be labeled.
For all materials capable of releasing
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January 2015



All employees with occupational exposure must participate

in a bloodborne pathogen training program. This training must take place during work hours
and must be appropriate to the education level and language of each employee.
formaldehyde at levels above 0.5 ppm
during normal use, the label must contain
the words potential cancer hazard.
Proper formaldehyde waste disposal.
Formaldehyde waste must be stored in
a labeled hazardous waste container for
proper disposal, or made available for
recycling, if practical.
Bloodborne pathogens
Bloodborne pathogens was the second most
frequently cited standard last year. The
key elements of a Bloodborne Pathogens
Program include:
Exposure determination. Assess the
risks of exposure to bloodborne pathogens
(generally in the form of potential contact
with body fluids) that employees may
encounter at their work place. List the tasks
and location where this contact can occur
(e.g. cleaning out the refrigerated storage
Engineering and work practice
controls. Engineering and work practice
controls must be used to eliminate or
minimize employee exposure. Some
examples of engineering controls include
needle handling and disposal procedures,
labels and signs, hand washing facilities and
housekeeping procedures.
Written exposure control plan.
Policies for protecting employees against
exposure to bloodborne pathogens must
be in writing. The Exposure Control Plan
must be accessible to employees. It must
be reviewed and updated at least annually,
or whenever new or modified tasks and
procedures affect occupational exposure.
Labels and signs. Labels and signs must
caution employees where exposure risks
exist. Appropriate warning labels must be
affixed to containers of regulated waste;
refrigerators and freezers that contain blood
or other potentially infectious material;
and other containers that are used to store,
transport or ship blood or other potentially
infectious materials. This does not include
public spaces such as crypts or viewing
Personal protective equipment. When
engineering controls do not completely
eliminate hazards, personal protective
equipment must be used. The appropriate

ICCFA Magazine

PPE must be provided to shield employees

from exposure risks. PPE could include
gloves, gowns, shoe covers, laboratory
coats, face shields or masks and/or eye
It is the employers responsibility to
provide and maintain such equipment at no
cost to the employee.
Employee information and training.
All employees with occupational exposure
must participate in a bloodborne pathogens
training program. This training must take
place during work hours and must be appro
priate to the education level and language of
each employee.
The person conducting the training must
be knowledgeable in the subject matter as
it relates to the workplace, and be able to
answer employee questions.
Vaccinations. Hepatitis B vaccinations
must be provided at no cost to all employ
ees who will potentially be exposed as a
part of their jobs.
These vaccinations must be performed
by or under the supervision of a licensed
physician or another licensed health care
professional according to the recommen
dations of the U.S. Public Health Service
that are current at the time that these
evaluations and procedures take place.
Post-exposure evaluation and followup. Following a report of an exposure
incident, the employer must immediately
make available a confidential medical
evaluation and follow-up, at no cost to the
The employer must ensure that all
laboratory tests are conducted by an
accredited laboratory at no cost to the
employee. The employer must obtain and
provide the employee with a copy of the
evaluating health care professional's written
opinion within 15 days of the completion of
the evaluation.
Recordkeeping. Maintain records of
employee training, as well as of injuries and
accidents that are related to any bloodborne
pathogen exposure in the workplace.
Hazard communication
For funeral homes as well as cemeteries,
another frequently cited violation last year
was hazard communication, e.g., having an

inadequate Right-to-Know program.

See the hazard communication section
under cemeteries for information
regarding this important issue.
Respiratory protection
Funeral home personnel may need
respirators to protect themselves from
formaldehyde or other chemical exposures.
Exposure must be determined for each
chemical, and each respirators protection
level must be adequate for the exposure
Before using a respirator, a physician
must determine that it is safe for the
employee to use one and he/she must be
trained on its use and care. Your respirator
program must be in writing.
Flammable liquids
In 2012, OSHA updated the Hazard
Communication Standard by adopting the
Global Harmonization System (GHS) of
classification and labeling of chemicals.
The Flammable Liquids Standard also
was updated to incorporate these changes.
Flammable liquids are now classified
differently and labels have changed.
Flammable liquids often used in funeral
homes include formaldehyde, cleaning
products, alcohols and aerosols such as
spray paint and WD-40. Even hand gels
may be flammable. Additionally gasoline
for vehicles, mowers and other equipment
used for grounds maintenance and propane
are flammable.
You may have other flammable liquids
used or stored at your facility. Be sure that
you have a program that includes safe use
and storage of these liquids.
Sources of ignition are common in
funeral homes, including open flames
or candles, hot surfaces such as a retort,
radiator, hot lawn care equipment or radiant
Your safety program also must include
control of ignition sources, a fire plan
that identifies the equipment to prevent
and detect fires and the means for fire
control should an incident occur. The
employer must also provide appropriate fire
extinguishers in each location where a fire
hazard exists.
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by Glenda Stansbury, CC, CFSP

ICCFA Magazine
author spotlight


Every family is different, and so is every funeral home

or cemetery. How you go about offering your families
the option of celebrant services depends on
your organization, your staff and your community.

Stansbury is vice

president of marketing for

In-Sight Books, Oklahoma
City, Oklahoma.

She is a licensed funeral director and em-

balmer and trains funeral directors, cemeterians and others as Certified Celebrants who
meet with families to talk about their loved
ones and plan personalized funeral services.

She is adjunct faculty with the funeral

service department at the University of

Central Oklahoma, where she teaches
courses in funeral service communication
and the psychology of grief and oversees
practicum students.

She and her father, Doug Manning, a

former Baptist minister who became a noted

author of books about grief, developed
the Certified Celebrant program and have
recently added a new component, to train
celebrant trainers.

How to become a celebrant

Attend ICCFA Universitys College of 21st Century Services, led by Dean Glenda Stansbury.
ICCFAU 2015 will be held July 17-22 at the University of Memphis Fogelman Executive Center,
Memphis, Tennessee.

Contact Stansbury (

or go to, the In-Sight
Books website, for information about celebrant
training sessions scheduled around the country.


How to become a celebrant trainer

Contact Stansbury (

for information on the new training program for
Certified Celebrants who would like to learn how
to train new celebrants.

More from this author

Stansbury will moderate a panel discus-

sion, Before and beyond the funeral:

Creating a continuum of care from hospice
to funeral service, at the ICCFA 2015
Convention in San Antonio. See page 98.


ICCFA Magazine

Figuring out how to best fit

celebrants into your firm

very year, we travel all over North

America to conduct celebrant
trainings. By the end of the year, we
are a little weary, but mostly so grateful and
energized by the people we get to meet and
the good work happening all over the world.
We have conducted almost 150 trainings
and seen almost 2,500 celebrants since we
began that fateful October in 1999. The
beginning years were a little scary, and the
trainings were not always well attended. But
each year we have seen more interest, more
urgency, more attention to our headlines:
People need funerals that fit them
Funeral service needs to stop trying to
make round pegs fit square holes
We cannot afford to ignore customers
who are asking for something
personalized and specialized
Enough, already!
So, who are InSight Institute Certified
Celebrants? Where do they come from?
How do they work? What possessed them to
want to take this journey down a road where
many people dont understand what they do.
(Cocktail party chatter: You say youre a
celibate? Oh, thats interesting. Um, no,

What does a celebrant do?

For those of you who are picking up your

first copy ever of this esteemed journal and
havent seen the multitude of articles that
have been written about celebrants, Ill
explain. No, its too much. Ill sum up. (OK,
so I love The Princess Bride.)
Celebrants are specially trained
individuals who perform funeral services/
ceremonies/memorials for:
a. Families who do not go to church
b. Families who do not have an officiant
for a service

c. Families who do not want a traditional

d. Families who do not want any type of
e. All of the above
If you answered e, you got an A on that
pop quiz. The answer is all of the above.
Celebrants are specifically trained to conduct
a family meeting, hear the family members
needs and stories and design a funeral service
that honors the life of the deceased with the
ceremonies and elements that are meaningful
to that family.
We are dedicated and driven to provide a
service that gives each family a personalized
experience and a healthy first step on their
grief journey.
Do they want readings from scripture
and Amazing Grace? Fine. Do they want
readings from Kahlil Gibran and Freebird?
Thats fine, too. Our mantra is to meet the
needs of the family. Every family. Every time.
Do Certified Celebrants take the place
of a minister for those families who are
connected to a church and comfortable with
their traditions of faith? Absolutely not. Can
celebrants provide a meaningful experience
for families leery of the Ghosts of Funerals
Past during which the attendees were
preached into heaven, or Funeral Sermon
#3, insert name here, same song, 45th verse?
Absolutely. Can celebrants replace your Rev.
Rolodex Rent-a-Minister? Yes, please!

Who are celebrants?

Within that total of 2,500 individuals who

have come on the adventure with us, there
exists a wide variety of interests, talents,
callings, professions and abilities.
Priests, nuns, deacons, vicars, rabbis,
chaplains, clergy, funeral directors,
embalmers, preneed salespeople, part-timers,
cemeterians, teachers, social workers, writers,
actors, students, bereavement coordinators,
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January 2015



A heart for serving people, a willingness to be the voice for a life story,
a talent for ceremonial writing and the bravery to do public speaking
are the mandatory elements for becoming a celebrant. Everything else is a learned skill.
nurses, doctorsthe list is pretty endless of
the people who have come to training.
A heart for serving people, a willingness
to be the voice for a life story, a talent for
ceremonial writing and the bravery to do
public speaking are the mandatory elements
for becoming a celebrant. Everything else is a
learned skill.

How do celebrants work?

There are as many variations of celebrant

work as there are celebrants. But, generally
they divide into two categorieson staff and
independent. So lets discuss the options for
making use of a Certified Celebrant.

On staff

Almost 60 percent of our Certified Celebrants

are affiliated with a firm in some capacity.
Thats really great news, because it means
that a funeral home or cemetery saw the need
and the void and was willing to spend the
money to have one or more trained celebrants
working at their location.
Some owners have trained every
professional on their staff. Heffner Funeral
Homes, Krause Funeral Homes, Gwen
Mooney Funeral Home and Spring Grove
Cemetery are just a few of the firms that
determined that every person working with a
familyat first call, arrangements, preneed
or cemeteryshould be knowledgeable and
able to articulate the value of the funeral
and the options of using the services of a
Almost every firm, whether it has just one
or 20 trained celebrants, has an identified
main celebrant. What firms have found is
that it is difficult for a staff person with fulltime responsibilities to also have the time to
serve as a celebrant.
We estimate that it takes eight to 10 hours
to put together one service, which is hard to
do while meeting with three other families
at-need or directing services.
So these firms have rearranged or
redefined staff positions so that one or more
persons can dedicate the time needed to work
with families in the role of celebrant.
Some firms have created a full-time
celebrant position out of a staff position (such
as Jonathan Matthews at Memphis Funeral
Home), or named a celebrant coordinator

ICCFA Magazine

(such as Cathy Nichols at Busch Funeral

Home) who conducts services but also
assigns and oversees services by other staff or
independent celebrants.
Some firms start out with the directors
conducting celebrant services and then find
their use of celebrants grows to where they
need a full-time celebrant on staff.
We have some very successful celebrants
at cemeteries who are able to offer services
to families who walk in with the urn in their
hand a year after the cremation, wanting to
have a ceremony. They meet with the family
and put together a meaningful experience for
something as simple as a niche placement or
the blessing of a bench.
Touching families with ceremony every
time we see them is the only way for our
profession to stay relevant and needed.
There are some obvious benefits to having
celebrants on staff. The message to the family
is that you have professionals right there who
will take care of them every step of the way.
We dont have to call anyone else.
There is an emphasis from the owner/
manager to the preneed and at-need arrangers
to ensure that they are offering celebrant
services every time a family needs one.
There is a culture change within the firm
when directors see satisfied and happy
families walking away from a service, telling
their friends and family that this is the only
place they should come for a service.
The second happy result is that more
funeral directors are acting as master of
ceremonies for their services, regardless of
the officiant.
During training, one of the things we get
on a soap box about is the need for funeral
directors to get up in front of the room, be
seen, be in charge, be directors. Welcome
everyone, get the familys name in the room
and tell the audience what is going on. Earn
that professional fee. Quit standing at the
back of the room or out in the parking lot
with the motorcycle cops.
We hear from many funeral professionals
that when they go home, they may or may
not act as a celebrant, but have definitely
embraced the master of ceremonies role. That
makes us smile. Our agenda for improving
funeral service is working. (Insert evil laugh

There are some challenges to having

celebrants on staff. As mentioned above,
the time factor can be daunting when asking
someone with a full-time job to take on the
added work of handling celebrant services.
For management, it can be tricky deciding
when a celebrant position should be added:
Will we have more services because we
have someone available full time? Will we
have a full-time position that isnt busy all the
time? How do we pay our celebrant? Should
her or she be expected to fill other roles when
not conducting services?
All of these are questions that have been
asked and answered by firms dedicated to
the concept that every family should have a
service that fits.
I would love to give every owner or
manager a template as to the best way to
set this up but, just like our services, every
situation is unique and needs a solution that
works for that firm, for that staff, for that
What is not the correct answer is: We
dont need celebrants. Everyone in my city
goes to church. Uh wrong, Skippy.

Independent contractors

So, the remaining 40 percent of our InSight

Institute Certified Celebrants are what we
call independent contractors. They are not
affiliated with any one firm and are willing to
serve families at any location.
Im one of them. Out of the 26 firms in the
metro Oklahoma City area, Ive conducted
services for at least 75 percent of them,
having been either referred by the director or
chosen by the family.
It goes something like this the first time a
celebrant works at a funeral home:
Funeral director: That was an amazing
service. The family loved it and it was
just great. Everyone is talking about how
meaningful it was.
Celebrant: Thank you so much and thank
you for the opportunity to serve one of your
families. Could I leave my card with you so
you could refer other families who need a
celebrant for their service?
Funeral director: Uhhh, well, weve got
a retired minister we send families to if they
dont go to church.
Celebrant: I understand, but I would be
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happy to be another option for those families
who dont want a minister. Youve seen how
people respond to a unique and personalized
service. Wouldnt you want that for your
families who want something besides the
traditional service?
Funeral director: OK, sure
The life of an independent contractor can
be a tad unpredictable. Its a little like being a
teenage girl sitting by the phone waiting for
the invitation to prom. Someone else has to
make the first move.
We are dependent upon and beholden
to the funeral directors and arrangers at
the firms. If they believe in celebrants and
articulate the option to a family, we get the
call. If they dont, we sit at home.
Out of the 20 firms where I have been
privileged to conduct services, only one
(one!) refers families to me, or to my sister
who is also a celebrant, on a regular basis.
It all comes down to funeral directors as
the gatekeepers. If they dont say the words,
then the phone doesnt ring. The directors
at this firm are all sold on the concept of
celebrants and refer every family they can.

And, as we tell our celebrants during

training, the goals of an independent are twofold: meet the needs of the family, and make
that referring funeral home look very good
for having brought in a celebrant. We want
them to be comfortable bringing us back to
work with their families again and again and
Many independents have created
wonderful relationships with one or more
firms and can count on referrals each week
and stay as busy as they can handle. We have
others who went home from training pumped
up and excited, only to be deflated when
they couldnt convince the funeral homes in
their area that this was a viable and important
option to offer their families.
Of course, with more information and
education about celebrants, that tide does
seem to be changing, and more independents
are finding homes with organizations who see
the need for such a service.
And, because of some of the challenges
that we identified for the staff celebrant,
some firms are seeing the benefits of having
someone not attached to staff responsibilities

to come in and provide services. The smart

owners are the ones who snatch up an
independent and make them their full-time
The benefits of being an independent is
that you do not have to juggle funeral home
duties with your celebrant work. You can set
your schedule and availability and can set
your fee. The downside is pretty obvious
dont quit your day job until you know for
sure that the work is going to be steady.
So, that is the world of the Certified
Celebrant, from both sides of the road.
However its handled, staff or independent,
full-time or occasional, it all comes down to
this: Each person who walked into a training
room to spend three days with us came with
a purpose, to serve families and to make a
difference in peoples lives, one family at a
If you have questions about how
celebrants can work at your firm, location,
cemetery, do not hesitate to contact me, and
well figure out what is the best road for you.
The right question is, I need a celebrant.
How do I make it work at my location? r

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January 2015


Dale Filhaber
ICCFA Magazine author spotlight
Filhaber is president of

Dataman Group Direct,

Boca Raton, Florida.
Filhaber has served as
a member of the Florida
Direct Marketing Association Board of Directors
for the past 26 years, and
is a past president of the
Florida Direct Marketing Association.

In addition to being published in local

press and DM industry trade journals, she

is a frequent lecturer on direct marketing, having spoken to the national Direct
Marketing Association as well as several
Florida chapters, The Public Relations
Society of America, the Small Business
Administration, the Water Quality Association and local colleges.

She is the author of several blogs,

including Ask DataDale and Pure Water

Profits. She publishes articles in many
industry periodicals, with recent contributions in Water Technology and Southern
Funeral Directors Magazine.

Filhaber has received many industry

awards, including the Golden Mouse

Award for Direct Marketing from Women
in Ecommerce, an Up & Comers Award in
Entrepreneurship from Price Waterhouse
and the South Florida Business Journal
and a Direct Marketing Association Golden

Dataman Group Direct, founded in 1981,

provides results-driven direct mail and
telemarketing lists to hundreds of clients
across the country.

Editors note

Preneed Sales Success, an ICCFA Magazine column by various authors, focuses on

building success in sales, particularly the
preneed sale of cemetery, cremation and
funeral products and services. Submission
inquiries are welcome. For details, contact
ICCFA Magazine Managing Editor Susan


ICCFA Magazine


An active preneed direct marketing program is important

for funeral homes and cemeteries, but it needs to be well planned
to fit your goals, resources, budget and brand.

Planning an effective, ongoing

preneed marketing program

cant tell you how many times Ive been

to a funeral or a visitation and heard
horror stories about the panic and stress
involved in locating the right funeral home,
selecting a casket or preparing for the service.
What continues to amaze me is how
people who take such good care of maintain
ing their homes, watching over their invest
ments and planning the details of their annual
vacationsdown to where they will be eating
dinner in 10 monthshavent taken the time
to plan their final arrangements.
For many of these families, its not the
cost; its not even procrastination; its just that
they havent been contacted in a compelling
way about planning their final arrangements.
So, how do funeral homes and cemeteries
reach these households? And, whats the
message they should send when they do?
My parents and my husbands parents all
had preneed plans. When they passed away
(thankfully, at very hearty ages), all we
had to do was go in and sign. Everything
was already done. We grieved, but we
were not in a panic. We knew the casket
had been selected, the service planned, the
processional (with escort) arranged and the
cemetery plots paid for. All I had to do was
order food for the shiva.
For me, buying a preneed plan was an
easy decision. I wanted a solid plan for
myself and my husband because I had
experienced first-hand how stress-free the
process was for survivors and I felt it was our
duty to help our children as our parents had
helped us.
I am not alone in my experience. There
are many children whose parents had preneed
plans. They are great prospective clients for
any cemetery or funeral home and, along with
several other important market segments,
represent a key group that can be reached by
direct mail to generate leads.
Every funeral home and cemetery needs
to have an active preneed direct marketing

The key market segments

Individuals whose parents had
preneed plans
Households with presence of an
older adult
Age 65+/Age 70+
Affluent households
program in place. Direct marketing, when
done correctly, will generate leads for the
sales staff, day-in, day-out.

Setting the stage

Funeral professionals need to remember

that direct marketing is not an event. It
is a carefully planned, well-thought-out
program that takes into consideration the
organizations goals, budget, resources and
brand. Marketing preneed needs to be a
conscious, consistent program to engage the
right market segments on an ongoing basis.
Lets face it, most people dont simply
get their first direct mail letter from a funeral
home and jump up and respond.
They need to see the name/logo several
times; they need to see the name across
several mediums; they need to become
familiar with the brand. They need to feel that
your institution is sharing an appropriate and
compelling message.
One of the golden rules of direct market
ing is to match the creative product and the
offer to the prospect segment. The funeral
home or cemetery that consistently markets
a relevant message to the right prospects will
be the one they think of when the time is

Individuals whose parents

had preneed plans

Your database is a gold mine. It can be a

tremendous source of preneed prospects.
Every funeral home and cemetery needs
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Merendino AD
page 29


In the world of direct marketing, it is far better to market more frequently to the most responsive
group than spread the dollars around to reach a broader market. For funeral homes and cemeteries
that can afford it, reaching out to the entire age 65+ group is great for education and branding.
For those with a smaller budget, fine-tuning the mailing list to the age 70+ segment with a more
refined message will generate a better ROI than mailing to the larger, more popular age 65+ group.
to be up-to-date with current addresses,
phone numbers and contact information.
Review your intake forms with an eye to
preneed marketing. Make sure you get as
much information as you can about family
members, since they are likely to purchase
preneed if they had a good experience.
If you have information sitting in file
folders rather than in a multi-use database
format (and I cant tell you how many
funeral homes and cemeteries are not as
up-to-speed as they should be in terms of
having a current, working database), get
an intern, a student or a family member
to manually go through the files and start
compiling the data electronically. This is
as vital for everyday operations as it is for
Funeral homes can have their existing
databases updated to make them current
and meaningful. Todays NCOA (National
Change Of address) processes are more
efficient than ever and can correct addresses
that were changed up to 48 months ago. You
also can append telephone numbers and other
information to your in-house list to help you
with your marketing efforts.
A note about telephone numbers: Append
services can provide both scrubbed and
unscrubbed telephone numbers to your
customer list. Its important to work with your
legal team to determine which groups you
can legally call, based on the guidelines set
forth by the Telemarketing Sales Rule. The
guidelines have to do with how recent the
information is, type of contact and how the
information was collected.

Households with
presence of an older adult

This is defined as a household that includes

an adult 19+ years older than the head-ofhousehold. For marketing preneed plans,
we would be specifying households with a
primary decision-maker who is between ages
51 and 65 and with an older adult present in
the household. That would make the older
adult in the household between 70 and 84
years old.
These multi-generational households are

ICCFA Magazine

a unique market segment. Messaging for

this group is family matters. Key words
include variations of we are responsible
for each other. If you are marketing to this
group, make sure you offer resources on how
to speak with a parent about money and final
By the way, this is an element that many
commercial databases offer, but not all list
companies define this category the same way.
Some companies simply take households
with an individual age 65+ in the household.
While the age 65+ segment is a key
market group in preneed marketing, it is
not the same thing as selecting households
with presence of an older adult who is 19+
years older than the PDM (primary decisionmaker). Make sure you ask how its defined
in the database youre considering if you plan
to market to this group.


They have life and health insurance, wills and

trusts, retirement plans and well-thought-out
exit strategies. They think ahead and want
to button up every loose end for a stress-free
retirement and a smooth transfer of dollars
and resources to the next generation.
While a true planner intends to plan for
everything, many of them have not yet done
the preplanning for their final arrangements.
In most cases, its because they were never
asked the right way.
You can target your efforts toward
individuals who have a disposition to plan by
selecting households where life insurance,
trusts, wills and estate plans or retirement
plans are present.
Messaging for this group is educational
and rational. The preneed value proposition
here is planning to protect loved ones. Key
words should include the phrase peace of

Age 65+/Age 70+

Every company who sells preneed marketing

materials says the key prospect group is age
65+. It is. But there is a huge difference in the
mindset of the 65-70 group and the age 70+

People age 65 have just gone through

a huge transition, applying for and
adjusting to Medicare, making decisions
about retirement, re-examining their
needs and lifestyles. This age segment is
uncomfortable dealing with mortality, and
studies show that they think of themselves
as younger than their actual years. They
dont understand the real benefits of
advance funeral planning and funding and
are in denial that this could happen to them.
The messaging for this group is
educational. Visuals need to portray vibrant
people making smart choices. Marketing
to this group is an investment. You are
cultivating a relationship with this group.
Its important to reach out to this
segment several times a year with a variety
of pieces that help brand the funeral home
or cemetery as the areas pre-eminent
preneed experts. Marketing pieces should
include personalized letters, institutional
newsletters and seminar invitations, as well
as holiday greetings.
A study by Homesteaders Life Co.
indicates the average age of the preneed
plan buyer is 73. For funeral homes and
cemeteries with smaller budgets, I suggest
narrowing the prospect age range and
marketing to individuals who are age 70+.
The age 70+ group is generally more
comfortable in the retirement stage of their
lives and have a handle on their finances in
terms of their ability to fund their preneed
plan. This group also has seen many of their
friends and colleagues struggle with end-oflife decisions and planning.
They have learned first-hand the benefits
a preneed plan can offer survivors in terms of
saving them from the burden of dealing with
finances, preventing disagreements, locating
important documentsin short, defusing
many of the stressors that can interfere with
the family being able to grieve in peace.
While the education message for the
age 65+ group still applies, the message for
this group should skew more toward the
economics of preplanning. Marketers also
need to add an emotional tone for the age
70+ group. Visuals should be calmer, more
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peaceful. Key words should include phrases
such as peace of mind for you and your
In the world of direct marketing, it is far
better to market more frequently to the most
responsive group than spread the dollars
around to reach a broader market. For funeral
homes and cemeteries that can afford it,
reaching out to the entire age 65+ group is
great for education and branding.
For those with a smaller budget, finetuning the mailing list to the age 70+ segment
with a more refined message will generate a
better ROI than mailing to the larger, more
popular age 65+ group.

Affluent households

In addition to all the other elements, we

are looking for households that can fund a
preneed plan. We only want to spend our
marketing dollars to reach households with
above-average incomes and the capacity to
either pay for a preneed plan or qualify for
Prospect lists can target households by
household income, net worth, disposable
dollars, income-producing assets or credit

score in addition to age, home ownership and

Funeral professionals who target highly
affluent households need to make sure the
material they are sending matches the target.
Material should be dignified. This group
appreciates and will take notice of superior
paper stock and envelopes addressed in a
script font and with hand-canceled stamps.
Your marketing collateral needs to reflect the
quality and dignity people want from their
end-of-life service.
Many funeral homes and cemeteries buy
newsletters from industry vendors. Most
of them are very good. For best response,
just make sure the content is relevant, the
newsletter is branded with your logo and
correct information and is personalized. Do
not cut corners with this group. If they think
your marketing materials are cheap, then they
will think your services will be cut-rate.

Last words

Its important to recognize that response is a

factor of many variables, including the list,
the actual mail piece, the offer and the timing
of the mailing. Everything needs to match.

Copy needs to be relevant to the market

segment. Photos need to reflect the right tone.
While everyone will eventually be faced
with having to make a decision about the
inevitable, the goal of all this marketing is to
make people think of your organization when
the time comes.
Its no secret that the most successful
funeral homes and cemeteries use direct
mail to generate leads. Many of them have
had programs in place for years that they
have tested, tweaked and improved as they
continue to increase their response rates.
Every list and version needs to be coded for
backend analysis. Every mailing needs to be
viewed as an opportunity to learn.
One last caveat: The same care that goes
into the creation of the actual marketing
campaign needs to go into the details of the
response plan. Management needs to take
an honest look at how people perceive their
Your funeral home or cemetery can spend
thousands of dollars on a fabulous direct
marketing campaign, but if no one answers
the phone promptly and pleasantly when it
rings, it was all for naught.

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January 2015


by Tom Holland


In order to sell, you have to have people to see

preferably in their homes. A good way to prime the pump
is to use direct mail, as long as you follow up promptly
with a phone call and set that all-important appointment.

ICCFA Magazine
author spotlight
Holland is in his 34th
year in the insurance
industry. He is vice
president sales/marketing for Assurant Solutions/Assurant Life of
Canada, Atlanta, Georgia, responsible for
sales development and implementation of
marketing and training programs througout Canada.

He has his CPC (Certified Pre-Planning

Consultant) designation through the
National Foundation Funeral Service and
National Funeral Directors Association
and is a member of the NFDA development board.
He holds his DTM designation through
Toastmasters International and his Certificate in Management through the American
Management Association.
He has taught classes in insurance
sales, management development, prelicense certification, ethics and marketing
and sales development. He has been
approved as an instructor for numerous
continuing education classes in many
states and all Canadian Provinces.
He received the Assurant Sales Hall
of Fame Award, the companys highest
award. He holds a masters and Ph.D.
degrees in marketing.

Editors note

Preneed Sales Success, an ICCFA

Magazine column by various authors,
focuses on building success in sales,
particularly the preneed sale of cemetery, cremation and funeral products
and services. Submission inquiries are
welcome. For details, contact ICCFA
Magazine Managing Editor Susan


ICCFA Magazine

How to make your preneed

program irresistible to families

had a chance to speak at the ICCFAs

Wide World of Sales conference last
year in New Orleans, which is always
an honor, and it gave me the opportunity to
share a three-step program that will boost
your call volume. Im going to outline that
program here.

Step 1: Prime the pump

with direct mail

It all starts with a direct mail campaign,

in which you send a survey to selected
families in your neighborhood. I recom
mend hiring a direct mail house to handle
this end of things. After all, they are the
experts, not you, and their services do not
have to cost an arm and a leg.
Some direct mail providers will go as
low as 40 cents per piece. That is for full
servicecost of printing the surveys,
folding and inserting them in envelopes,
warehousing and mailing.
The survey should be short and sweet,
just one page, only 10 questions. The
easier you make it for people to respond,
the more responses youll get. Use
big, black and white print. Using black
and white rather than full color cuts on
costs, and there is no evidence that color
improves your response rate.
Youll want to sweeten the pot by
including a free gift with each survey. The
secret is to make sure the gift is practical.
So think keychain flashlights and those
little plastic rulers.
Of all the gifts Ive experimented with,
the one that works the best is the miniature
eyeglass repair kit. Why? Older people
need them.
At the same time you mail the surveys,
I suggest placing an ad in the obituary
section of your local paper. The ad
doesnt have to be large; it should simply
announce the fact that youve sent a survey

to the community.
This works to spread your message
even further, and you might be pleasantly
surprised to get phone calls from people
in zip codes you didnt mail to but who
saw your ad and want to take part in the
survey. Here is a sample ad, placed in a
community newspaper, that has worked in
the past:

We want to let you know we

are conducting a survey in
our community regarding
funeral planning in our area.
We would really appreciate
it, if you received one of our
surveys, if you would take the
time to complete and return it
to us at your earliest convenience. You may also call us
directly at 1.800.555.1234 if
you did not receive a survey
and would like us to provide
one to you.
Step 2: Follow up on the phone

Next, wait for the responses to start

filtering in. Go straight for the ones who
tick yes next to the question that reads:
Would you like us to contact you with
more information? Then get on the phone
immediately and call them to set up faceto-face meetings in their homes.
When you call, heres what you say:
Hello, Mrs. Adams. This is Michael
Main of Main Funeral Home. I wanted
to call and personally thank you for
participating in our recent funeral survey.
I really appreciate you taking the time to
complete the survey. Mrs. Adams, was
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You have to get them on the phone fast, because in two or three days, that lead is going to get cold.
The longer you wait, the less receptive the person is going to be.
there a particular reason you completed the
survey? Were you looking to prearrange
your own funeral or another member of
your familys funeral?

home. Experience proves that home is by

far the best venue for selling preneed.
Dont try to sell people over the
phone, and dont settle for a promise that
theyll drop by the funeral home next
Step 3: Find out exactly what you
time theyre in the area. If you want to be
need to know, without saying a word successful selling preneed, youve got to
Then stop talking and listen. If youre
be a lot more aggressive and set that home
quiet, people will tell you everything you
need to know. And after the person has
I cant emphasize enough how
finished talking, say this: Thats exactly
important it is to call candidates as soon
why Im calling. I have prepared particular as possible. Think about it: When you get
information on this process, and Im going a good lead, you have to mentally picture
to be in your area on Tuesday. Are morning that its hot; its burning up.
or afternoon appointments better for you?
You have to get them on the phone fast,
Thats important. You are always
because in two or three days, that lead is
aiming to set up a meeting in the persons
going to get cold. The longer you wait, the

less receptive the person is going to be.

Also, think of it this way: If a person
responds to your survey by checking the
Please contact me with more information
box, something must be going on in her
life that made her respond that way. Maybe
she knows someone who just died. Or
maybe she saw a movie that made her
think about her own mortality.
Whatever it is, she wont stay in that
frame of mind for long. So get a meeting
with her while you can.
Finally, a great way to keep the
aggressive edge is to keep a rotating file
going of all the people you need to call. It
keeps you organized and gives you daily
specific tasks to follow through.

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January 2015


by Courtney Gould Miller, Esq.


More companies have been considering buying products abroad

to cut costs. But if importing is done without proper due diligence,
anticipated savings can disappear quickly.

Importing risks & rewards:

What you need to know

ICCFA Magazine author spotlight
Gould Miller is an attorney with

OMelveny & Myers LLP, Los Angeles,

California, litigating on behalf of
international clients in criminal and civil

She has assisted several public and

private corporations internal investigations
relating to potential violations of anticorruption, and draws from these
experiences to advise companies on
foreign anti-corruption compliance.

More from this author

and about this topic
Gould-Miller is chairing and speaking at

the inaugural International Death Care

Import-Export Summit, January 28-29,
at the Terranea Resort, Los Angeles,
California, the only assembly dedicated to
import-export control in the industry. For
more information, contact MKJ Marketing
at 1.888.655.1566, or go to


ICCFA Magazine

eath-care firms are increasingly

exploring the opportunity to obtain
high-quality caskets, urns and
monuments abroad at a fraction of the cost,
but this reward comes with risks. Many firms
may begin importing, believing that they can
trust an agent to handle any issues that arise.
Too often, this trust is misplaced.
Agents, even if well intentioned, frequent
ly run afoul of U.S. laws that strictly regulate
interaction with foreign government officials.
In fact, U.S. government enforcement efforts
are increasing, prosecuting even small private
companies (and their agents) for providing
gifts or benefits of even a few thousand
dollars to government officials in return
for cheaper prices or making sure goods
clear foreign customs, and the fines against
violators can reach the millions of dollars.
Agents often violate U.S. law unknow
ingly, believing they are following typical
practices of entertaining and giving gifts to
commercial partners when these partners
can be construed by the U.S. government as
government officials through their political
party or official affiliations.
Further, agents are notorious for ripping
off unsuspecting U.S. investors that are
unfamiliar with the cultural or commercial
landscape, funneling money to related
companies or relatives posing as vendors,
never to deliver the finished product with the
quality promised.
The best way to avoid these risks and pro
tect your investments abroad is to ensure you
comply with all U.S. and foreign laws and
conduct necessary due diligence in advance.

Vetting your supplier

The importing process begins with identify

ing your supplier. When forming a crosscultural business relationship, the foundation
must be built on trust. Questionable business
practices, including requesting payment to
accounts outside the country or lacking a
business address, are red flags.

Dont discount general business instincts

and expectations when operating abroad:
You should not enter an agreement with
anyone who seems unreliable, regardless of
whether the foreign partner operates in a lessdeveloped country.
While its tempting to choose the cheapest
option, you will almost certainly regret that
decision when the suppliers quality is subpar or the supplier fails to deliver on time.
Ask for references that can confirm how they
do business.
Sample due diligence questions:
c Do the ultimate products look like the
samples, or is the quality different?
c Were shipments ever late? If so, under
what circumstances?
c Have products ever arrived with scratches
due to cheap packing materials?
c How has the supplier handled problems
that have arisen?
It is often worth the small investment
up front to run a background check on
foreign partners when possible. These are
routine when doing business abroad and
can be relatively efficient and affordable.
As discussed below, fixing issues that
may arise later is exponentially more difficult
when dealing with a foreign company, given
the limitations on dispute resolution. You
need to understand who your provider is
and the quality of product and service they

Hiring an agent

Unfortunately, hiring an agent does not solve

all your problems when doing business
abroad. Many importers seek (or are sought
out by) agents who know how to operate
in the target foreign countries. Sometimes
agents bring legitimate business knowledge,
language skills and contacts to the table. Too
often, these individuals prey on companies
that are unfamiliar with the market, trading
on vague references to their ability to
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management / international business

In some circumstances, such as when you are doing business in a country such as China
that does not enforce U.S. judgments against its citizens or organizations,
youll need to consider dispute resolution outside the U.S. to recover any money.
fix any problems that arise through their
While on-the-ground advice is needed,
agents must be closely supervised. You must
know whom they are interacting with and
what they are representing to others on your
behalf. You must limit how much of your
money they can spend and require strict
accounting standards, including supporting
receipts for expenses.
And, of course, you must always be
vigilant for fraud (toward others and especi
ally toward your own company) when
trusting others with your money and brand.

Bribery: Its not worth the risk

Some agents will tell you that you have to

pay off government officials to get things
done. Or they may suggest that you give
lavish gifts to business partners, even if
they are state-owned enterprises, to have a
successful relationship. These are people to
avoid, not to indulge.
Agents focused on results at all costs are
prone to work in the grey areas of the law,
violating both foreign and U.S. laws. The
U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits
offering or giving anything of value to a
foreign official, including executives of stateowned enterprises, with corrupt intent to
obtain, retain or direct business.
As a U.S. company, you have the respon
sibility to ensure agents acting on your firms
behalf comply with all U.S. laws, including
anti-bribery statutes. Officers, directors,
employees and agents also can be personally

liable. An agents actions can expose you and

your personnel to criminal sanctions under
U.S. law, including:
Up to $250,000 in fines per violation,
which can easily grow to millions of dollars
when violations compound;
Up to a five-year maximum sentence for
Probation and corporate monitors for
companies accused of bribery; and
Expensive legal bills from litigating with
the U.S. government.
Foreign laws also criminalize bribery,
even in countries where it appears there
is a culture of corruption. Many foreign
jurisdictions even prohibit commercial
bribery between non-state actors where the
intent is to corruptly obtain, retain or direct
business. Be cautious about trusting agents
representations about their activities without
due diligence and regular monitoring.

Resolving disputes

If a supplier or agent does not deliver, your

options for recourse can be limited. U.S.
courts often cannot hear cases over a defen
dant that is not a resident or citizen of the
U.S. or does not do business within the U.S.
in some capacity.
In some circumstances, such as when you
are doing business in a country such as China
that does not enforce U.S. judgments against
its citizens or organizations, youll need to
consider dispute resolution outside the U.S. to
recover any money.

International arbitration can be an excel

lent alternative, and judgments from panels
such as those from the Hong Kong Arbitra
tion Centre are much more likely to be en
forceable than judgments of national courts,
due to international treaties that apply. Be
sure to include choice-of-law provisions
in any contract you sign with a supplier or
agent. In general, you want U.S. law to apply.

Best practices: Establishing

policies and procedures

Setting appropriate firm-wide policies is

critical to quality control as well as compli
ance with applicable laws. If youre already
engaged in foreign importing, have an attor
ney review your process and recommend
policies to protect your firm when doing
business abroad. This should include
appropriate gift, travel and entertainment
policies that cover any dealings with foreign
companies or personnel.
If youre considering importing, start out
by complying with best practices and avoid
risks that can cut into the savings you hope
to achieve. The more you understand about
the process, the easier it will be to control it.
Get to know your suppliers and agents before
entering any business agreements.
Make clear policies that your personnel
and agents can follow when acting on your
firms behalf abroad. And most important,
become familiar with the U.S. laws that
govern your business activities abroad and
the import process.

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January 2015


by Mark Feltz, DVM

ICCFA Magazine
author spotlight
Feltz has more than 25

years of veterinary hospital ownership experience.

He is the founder and
owner of VetNetwork LLC,
Dover, New Hampshire, a
full-service marketing, design and search
engine optimization company dedicated
exclusively to helping veterinarians grow
their hospitals and increase revenue.

The Internet makes it easy for potential clients to find your

businessas well as the businesses run by your competitors.
How can you make sure your business stands out online?

Three essentials elements of

your Internet marketing plan

ouve established a business in

the burgeoning field of pet loss
services, opened your doors to the
public and even bought an advertisement or
two. Its time to sit back, relax and watch
the new clients and profits roll in, right?
If only things were so simple. Though
the overall economic climate has im
proved, many small businesses continue
to struggle with navigating the economic
landscape. The old methods of operating
are no longer sufficient; gone are the
days in which any business could simply
offer high-quality services and be certain
success would find it.
These days, potential clients can easily
find your business, but they can, with a
single click, just as easily find scores of
others offering similar services or products,
especially in a rapidly expanding industry
like pet loss services.
The advent of the Internet has made it
easier for more businesses to compete for
customers attention and almost instan
taneously adjust their approach to target
new clients. That means its more important
than everand more challengingto make
your voice stand out amidst the noise. So
what can you do to set yourself apart from
the crowd?

Improve your presentation

The pet owner seeking your services is

likely doing so online. While you may
be conscious of the importance of a web
presenceand perhaps have one already
its equally important to understand that
establishing yourself on the Internet is a
matter of more than simply putting up a
Any of a dizzying array of companies
can provide a bargain-basement, quick-fix
solution to put your companys name on
a template, but taking the right steps to

ICCFA Magazine

invest in and improve your web presence

can show pet owners your business has the
authority and expertise theyre seeking.
That means finding a design partner that can
build a web site delivering the following:
A professional look: A first-time visitor
considers visual appeal above everything
else, so your website needs aesthetic value
delivered through a quality color scheme,
high-quality photography and a layout that
instantly makes sense to a pet owner in the
middle of a search.
Functionality and ease of use: A
potential client knows what they want, and
values a design that easily leads them to the
service they need in just a click or two. A
website should be easy to grasp and simple
to use on a PC, a tablet or a mobile phone.
A reflection of your brand identity:
Your website should illustrate who you
are, both in terms of your facility and your
philosophy. Include photos of your staff,
display your companys logo (or arrange
to have a striking one designed) and ask
for copy to be written that reflects your
approach as a pet loss professional.
Easy updates: Your web presence, like
your business itself, cant stay static and
unchanging. It has to be agile and able to
be modified based on your needs from day
to day. Be sure to find a web vendor who
allows you to make updates on the fly so
that you can offer new deals, update your
staff information as necessary and react
to trends in the pet loss industry. Its an
investment now thats sure to pay off later.

Rank higher

Its vital, of course, to put together a website

that looks compelling and functions well,
but even the most strikingly well designed
landing page isnt worth much if clients
cant find it. If you dont understand the
complexities of search engine results, its
likely that pet owners wont see you when
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Be sure to find a web vendor who allows you to make updates on the fly so that you can
offer new deals, update your staff information as necessary and react to trends in the pet loss industry.
they look. Here are a few points to consider:
Attention spans are short: Studies
have shown that the vast majority of online
searches go no further than the first page of
search results, so your chances of locating
new customers depend in large part on high
The system behind search engines is
complicated: While consumers generally
know only that results appear whenever
they type a phrase into Googles search
engine, the reality is much more complex.
Search engines use complicated pro
gramming to index huge swaths of infor
mation, scrolling through the Internet for
specific combinations of words. If your
business website doesnt meet search
engines criteria, youre falling behind the
Search engine optimization is key:
Various companies can optimize your
website so that its more easily located by
search engines for the terms you want to be

associated with your business, whether they

be related to a region, the pet loss industry
or the types of services you provide.

regular posts crafted about your staff or

your business achievements and calls
for participation from others, such as
giveaways and contests.
Engage your audience
Thought leadership: To be considered
The last step to take in setting yourself apart as an industry leader, and thus as a pet loss
is the most difficult, because it isnt a step
professional worthy of clients business, its
at all, its a commitment. Its tempting as
important to continue contributing content
a business to consider tasks as things with
for dissemination. Your company should
a beginning and an ending, to check off
be writing articles about topics related to
to-do lists and be satisfied that you have
the pet loss industry, commenting on recent
completed tasks on deadline. When it comes trends and participating in events and
to marketing, however, theres simply
no defined end date in sight; the effort is
Community participation: Pet owners
ongoing as long as your business exists.
also are interested in working with a
business thats an established presence in
Your continuing mission will include:
Social engagement: Pet owners seeking the local community, as well as within the
wider online landscape. Work with local
your services want to see that you engage
foundations and charities and publicize your
on the prevailing social platforms, and
contributions. Potential customers will see
that means cultivating an active presence
your investment in the place you live and
on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and
work, and as a result theyll be increasingly
others. This engagement should take the
likely to make an investment in you.
form of interaction with satisfied clients,

Flowers for Cemeteries

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January 2015


interview by ICCFA Magazine

Managing Editor Susan Loving


ICCFA Magazine
subject spotlight
Christine Hunsaker
is president and CEO
of Hunsaker Partners,
Atlanta, Georgia. In
September 2014, Hunsaker Partners acquired
three metro Atlanta properties: Holly Hill
Memorial Park, Eastlawn Memorial Park
and Southern Cremations & Funerals at
Cheatham Hill Memorial Park.

Can you have fun climbing the corporate ladder?

Is it fun to risk everything and strike out on your own, starting
a new company based on meeting the needs of cremation
familiesat the cemetery as well as at the funeral home? If youre
Christine Hunsaker, the answerin both casesis yes.

In 2004, Hunsaker launched Paws,

Whiskers & Wags, Your Pet Crematory.
Her successful pet cremation business
helps over 12,000 pet owners annually at
three locations that serve Georgia, South
Carolina and North Carolina.

Hunsaker has more than 25 years of experience in the death-care industry and is
one the nations leading cremationists. She
has been a corporate officer for Stewart
Enterprises and Service Corporation International. At Stewart Enterprises, she was
named senior vice president of cremation
in 2009. From 2001 to 2004, she served
as SCIs president, cremation services/
cremation operations, North America.
She previously served as SCIs managing
director, national cremation society brand
development & marketing, North America.
Before joining SCI, she was a marketing
manager for Batesville Casket Co.
She holds a degree in political science

and business administration from Utah

State University and an MBA in international business/trade/commerce from the
University of Cape Town in South Africa.


ICCFA Magazine

President and CEO Christine Hunsaker with her management team, Brett Newbern,
vice president/finance, and Rhonda Fuller, vice president/general manager.

Hunsaker building her brand

by serving cremation families

hristine Hunsaker has built a repu

tation, through work at corporate
giants Batesville Casket Co.,
Service Corporation International and
Stewart Enterprises, as one of the profes
sions cremation experts. Confidence that
she knows what cremation families want
underpins her move from employee and
part-time employer to full-time employer,
running a business that encompasses
funeral, cemetery, cremation and pet
She has owned a pet crematory business
since 2004 with locations in three states.
And now (since September 25, 2014) she
also owns two stand-alone cemeteries and
a funeral and cremation business located at
a cemetery.
In other words, this is a cremation expert
who believes that cremation families want

permanent memorialization as well as

meaningful services at the time of death.
Theres a catch, though, she says. You have
to know what will appeal to those families
and be willing to invest in first-class
facilities and gardens to serve them.
What made you want to transition from
being a corporate officer to being an
owner and entrepreneur?
Ive always been a business owner and
entrepreneur. I own Paws, Whiskers
and Wags, which is a very sizeable pet
cremation company I started 12 years ago
thats now doing 12,000 calls.
So while I was a corporate officer
at Stewart, I already owned my own
business. I also have a sizeable personal
real estate company called Hunsaker
Most of you know me through the
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You need to be able to get a mindset

wrapped around the idea of making the same
kind of investment in beautiful columbariums
and world-class cremation gardens that are
robust and lavish and botanical garden in
feeling. Christine Hunsaker

Whispering Waters
Cremation Garden
at Southern Cremations & Funerals,
located at Cheatham
Hill Memorial Park.
Hunsaker developed the cremation
garden and a funeral
home while she
worked at Stewart
Enterprises, the
previous owner.

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Selection rooms, a retort and the exterior of facilities for Hunsakers pet business, Paws, Whispers & Wags, which opened in
2004 and operates in three states. The new cremation, cemetery and funeral company is a completely different brand but will
operate on the same philosophy of service and care and 100 percent full disclosure and dignity in what we do, Hunsaker said.

ICCFA and, most recently, as an officer

at Stewartwhere I absolutely had a
wonderful timebut Ive always had a
huge entrepreneurial spirit. This is simply
my first opportunity to buy a business of
this size.
If you dont come from significant
personal wealth, it takes a while to get
your bank account someplace where you
can participate in this world, especially as
a single woman. Its a pleasure, an honor
and a lifelong dream for me to be an owner
of such beautiful businesses.
Im wondering how many hours you
sleep, to have been doing all that
simultaneously all these years.
My life was incredibly busy. I would leave
home on Sunday and work my heart out
for Stewart Enterprises, which is such a
fun company, and where I made lifelong
friends. I believe we became the thought
leader in the cremation world while I was
I worked my tail off around the clock,

ICCFA Magazine

and then Id get home late at the end of the

week and run over to my other company
and stay all weekend, signing checks and
meeting with my team and working to
keep us growing.
Im extremely entrepreneurial; its been
going on a long time. We opened our doors
at the pet business in 2004, but I started it
a bit before that, working on the business
And 10 years later just before this
interview, I was in our board room with
a veterinarian who heard about us and
came to us, asking if wed help her in her
practice. Thats whats started to happen
people are asking us to help them, versus
us knocking on doors asking for their
business. Ive got something special down
Thats amazing, because you hear a lot of
pet providers talk about how hard it is to
even get in to talk to veterinarians.
We have veterinarians saying, Weve
been using another provider, but youre so

well loved, and people are walking into

our veterinary practice saying, I want
you to send my pet over there (to us).
And it only takes three or four times of
that happening for a veterinarian to think,
Why are we not working with them?
Now, were going to be taking all
the unique secret sauce that we used
to grow our pet business at mach speed
and transition a lot of those ideas about
service and memorialization and trust and
confidence over to what Ive been doing
on the human side.
I believe wholeheartedly in great
service, being honest and our core value,
which is to build relationships and create
meaningful experiences. Its what drives
our companies forward.
One of our values is that being able
to work hard is a privilege. Everybody
who works with me at my companies is
a tireless worker, because they all realize
that service to others in our industry is a
24-hour calling. We dont stop until weve
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I think cemeteries and cremation are the future of our business.

Im going to say it again: Just because somebody chooses cremation for their loved one
doesnt mean that they havent just as significant a desire to remember them
by having a place to write their name and memorialize a great life that was well lived.
taken good care of people.
Our motto is to say, yes. Say yes
to each other, to our customers and to the
families we serve. Anyone who calls us at
any time and needs somethingour motto
is to say yes and to help them.
You got into the pet business earlyit
wasnt really a focus yet for the human
funeral and cemetery profession. What
made you think of doing that?
My dog died, and we had a real miserable
experience. And I wanted to build a pet
business, just like for the human busi
nesses that I now own, that demonstrates
trust and confidence when you have
someone elses loved one in your care.
So the entrepreneurial side has been
alive and well in me for a long, long time.
Today, our pet operation is sizableits
probably one of the biggest in the U.S.,
and I started it from scratch with my own
moneynobody helped me.
And now we are going to take the
Atlanta funeral business by storm, just like
I did on the pet side.
Why did you buy those particular
properties: Holly Hill Memorial Park,
Eastlawn Memorial Park and Southern
Cremations & Funerals at Cheatham Hill
Memorial Park?
A couple of reasons. One, they were
properties I knew, because they were
owned previously by Stewart Enterprises.
Secondly, they were divestitures
required by the Federal Trade Commission
when SCI bought Stewart. Atlanta was
an overlap market, meaning that SCI and
Stewart overlapped in several markets,
and they were required to divest a certain
amount of revenue in businesses.
Im not quite sure how all that works,
but these were companies that the Federal
Trade Commission asked SCI to sell.
The third reason is not only were they
in Atlanta and available, they also were
already significantly enhanced cremation
What do I mean by that? Take a look at
what I bought, exactly. I bought Southern
Cremations and Funerals at Cheatham Hill
Memorial Park. Cheatham Hill is a very

ICCFA Magazine

historic area. Theres a huge green space

right across the street from us thats owned
by the Department of the Interior because
its an historic battleground, the Battle of
Cheatham Hill. Its very famous.
So our cemetery is called Cheatham
Hill Memorial Park. But what is unique
about it is its got a brand new funeral
home and world-class, state-of-the-art
crematory operation that I built while I
was at Stewart.
Its got a million dollar cremation
garden out front thats got water features
and rolling granite balls. Its spectacular;
the design is amazing. Its got a new
mausoleum. We took this sleepy, gorgeous

Above, cremation
options at Eastlawn
Memorial Park. A
cremation garden was
opened there about a
year before the larger
Whispering Waters at
Southern Cremations &
Funerals at Cheatham
Hill Memorial Park.
Left, Holly Hill Memorial Park, which will
have cremation options
added. Each of the
cemeteries has about
50 acres, including
undeveloped land.

rolling hill cemetery and turned it into a

world-class cremation campus. And then
the merger was announced.
I was keenly interested in this property
that we at Stewart had an amazing vision
for, because its set up today to address the
needs of our consumer. Ive been one of
the thought leaders about cremation and
cemeteries and cemetery memorialization,
and I believe Cheatham Hills is cutting
edge for where our funeral businesses
need to go to address a growing consumer
demand for cremation.
Weve got a competitive advantage here
in Atlanta that no one else has got, period.
As for the other two cemeteries

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It doesnt matter
what your vision
or your wishes
for you or your
family are, our
garden has it.
And it is beautiful
and spectacular.
And heres the
best part: You
have to pass
through it to get
into our funeral

Southern Cremations & Funerals, built on a cemetery in a historic area, has a traditional Colonial appearance. It sits atop a hill,
with the cremation garden in front so that visitors see it as they enter the building. Its got a neat reception area (above right);
its got a quaint chapel, Hunsaker said. Our crew from Stewart Enterprises decorated within an inch of its life. Its very, very
beautiful. Its got world-class embalming operations; its got top-of-the-line crematory operations. Its 5,000-6,000 square feet.

I bought, Eastlawns got a gorgeous

cremation garden built by Stewart, and
Holly Hill is a gorgeous cemetery almost
in the city that we have great cremation
plans for. I am interested in transitioning
them to really serve the change in our
I wondered why you bought the two noncombo cemeteries, because stand-alone
cemeteries, I think, are more challenged
by cremation.
But theyre notthey dont have to be.
What youve got with cemeteries,

ICCFA Magazine

number one, is land. And youve got a

zoning opportunity. What I mean by that
is youve got such a significant land buffer
that youre not faced with all the other
problems if you want to grow a cremation
company. Third, what youve also got is
memorialization opportunity.
When a family comes in to a funeral
home and says, I just want cremation.
OK, well, youve got the opportunity
to serve that family on the at-need
side, but you have no opportunities for
memorialization or to create heritage or a

lasting memory for that family.

Whats unique about owning cemeteries
is if you do it well, and do it right, if you
put up world-class cremation companies
at your cemeteries and couple them with
cremation gardensI believe families
desires to remember their loved ones
doesnt go away just because theyre
choosing cremation.
But what I hear from cemeteries, espe
cially the ones that dont have a funeral
home, is that 40 percent is considered
a pretty good memorialization rate; 50
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You want to make sure the content, the look and

the feel are all right, that the website is functional
and sexy and nice.

The websites for the properties Hunsaker bought have been

redone to incorporate the new branding. All include cremation
options on the home page menua must.

percent is considered outstanding. As

opposed to the old days, when it was
basically 100 percent. I love cemeteries,
and I worry about the effect of cremation
on them.
Dont worry; I think cemeteries and
cremation are the future of our business.
Im going to say it again: Just because
somebody chooses cremation for their loved
one doesnt mean that they havent just
as significant a desire to remember them
by having a place to write their name and
memorialize a great life that was well lived.
I really believe that, and it comes down
to our ability as funeral professionals

ICCFA Magazine

to create the right space and the right

environment that communicates to a
cremation family value and something
they want to invest in.
If youve got the wrong things in your
cemetery and nothing that communicates
value and talks directly to the cremation
consumer, I agree with youyoure going
to struggle. But if you create a destination
built specifically for cremation families
and dont scrimp, and do it well, you will
be very successful.
Back in a 2005 story, Andrea Vittum of
White Haven Memorial Park in Pittsford,
New York, wrote about their cremation

nature trail for us. She said it was

actually the most expensive space in their
cemetery, and it was outselling everything
Thats right. But again, youve got to
be willing to make the investment. Its
funny, people will spend millions on a
mausoleumwhich is necessary and
valuable for the families who want it,
but people buying mausoleums, that is a
shrinking world. Or these elaborate burial
gardens. Burials going down; cremations
going up.
You need to be able to get a mindset
wrapped around the idea of making the
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same kind of investment in beautiful
columbariums and world-class cremation
gardens that are robust and lavish and
botanical garden in feeling. And then when
your cremation consumer walks in, theyre
going to say, Thats for me; thats where I
want to be.
When I was at Stewart, we built the San
Francisco Columbarium, a big addition
onto that very historic building called
One Loraine Court. What we found is
that the same families who had invested
in these beautiful niches years ago were
still interested in investing in the future.
On that property was a Neptune Society
location, and we were doing $1,000
cremations and $9,000 niche sales, one
after the other.
Why is that? Because again, families
dont have less desire to memorialize and
remember their loved ones just because
they choose cremation. As cemetery
owners, we have a responsibility to build
things for them that are meaningful to
Thats why Im so tickled about Cheat

ham Hill, Holly Hill and Eastlawn

theyre wide-open canvases for one of the
biggest major cities in our country. Atlanta
is huge.
What is the cremation market like in
It hovers between 40 and 50 percent
cremation right here in the city, depending
on whose business youre talking to.
So half of all the business here wants
cremation. And you know what I say about
that? I think its awesome, because I want
it for myself.
I hear it. I cremated my dog. Im going
to have myself cremated. Thats what I
think people want. But it doesnt mean
they want it cheap; it doesnt mean they
dont want meaningful memorialization;
and it doesnt mean that they dont have
the same desires to remember their loved
one that burial consumers do.
So my entrepreneurial spirit is just
thrilled that now Ive got probably three
of the most beautiful properties in the city
to take where I want them to go. And the
great news is, Im well on my way because

of what Stewart Enterprises did before I

bought them.
How would you say youve earned being
called a cremationist?
Ive earned it by a lot of hard work, and
Im proud of it. I think its one of the
nicest titles in our industry. Ive done it by
making cremation my business, from my
opportunities with Options by Batesville,
to my opportunities at Service Corporation,
helping them grow the Neptune and
National Cremation Society brands, to
the opportunities I had at Stewart as their
senior vice president of cremation.
Ive spent 25 years making cremation
my business, and I believe I know it
as well or better than anyone else. Im
honored by the title cremationist.
Does your crematory handle third-party
Prior to acquisition, there were other
cremations being done there. We now are
only handling our own business, because I
only want to be responsible for the families
we serve.

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I believe we will grow our funeral footprint, and we will also make more acquisitions.
Its just in my nature to grow.
from page 49
Southern Cremations & Funerals at
Cheatham Hill did 138 calls at about 50
percent cremation, prior to acquisition,
but remember, the funeral home had just
barely opened. We hope to perform more
than 300close to 400this year.
Did you name the Cascading Water
Cremation Garden?
We branded Whispering Waters at
Stewart, but there are a lot of Whispering
Waters also owned by SCI, so I changed
the name. We rebranded our cremation
gardens to Cascading Waters.
Tell us about Cascading Water Cremation
Garden. What kinds of memorialization
do you offer? Whats special about it?
It is very special, and I guess the reason
why Im very fond of it is because I
designed it when I worked for Stewart.
Whats great is its got misdirectional
pathways, meaning that you can wander
around in there. And I think there are
several things that make it unique.
Its got several water features that
create movement and an ambience so that
when you walk into it, you feel like youve
arrived somewhere special. Its got a
committal shelter right in the center of the
garden that looks out over the cemetery.
Its got robust landscaping and a lot of
color. Its got music. Its got uplighting.
Its got moving water.
Its got music?
Yes, its got music. Music is piped in,
Theres a lot going on there that makes
you think youve arrived somewhere
special. And its got an offering for any
family of any financial means. You can
have a niche in one of our columbariums,
or you can have something as elaborate as
a big, gorgeous granite statue in a whole
estate where youve got space for cremated
remains for your whole family.
It doesnt matter what your vision or
your wishes for you or your family are,
our garden has it. And it is beautiful and
spectacular. And heres the best part: You
have to pass through it to get into our
funeral home.
You park in the parking lot and walk
through it coming into our funeral home,

ICCFA Magazine

up three steps to a beautiful porch with

rockers that you can sit on and look out
over the whole garden and then further out,
into the cemetery.
I took my father there. Hes been in the
funeral business for 50 years maybe 55
and he had tears in his eyes. He said, This
should be every funeral directors dream,
to own something so beautiful.
Another thing, having worked for
Batesville, SCI and Stewartthat was a
coast-to-coast opportunity to see whats
out there, whats available. And I would
venture to say that the opportunities before
me are as grand as anybodys, and Im
excited about it.
You said theres also a new cremation
garden at one of the other cemeteries?
At Eastlawn Memorial Park. Its a
beautiful cemetery, beautiful cremation
garden and beautiful estates. I also
designed that cremation garden when I
worked for Stewart.
Its a smaller one in scale compared
to Cheatham Hill, but its got a beautiful
fountain in the middle, its got a beautiful
big statue in the middle. We finished it
about a year before we finished the one at
Cheatham Hill.
Did you learn anything or change
anything you used when you went on to
add the cremation garden at Cheatham
At Stewart Enterprises, there were several
determining factors on how big or small
we made a garden, such as whether there
was a funeral home there, if the funeral
home had a crematory, what the population
was around us.
Cheatham Hill is right in the heart
of Atlanta, with a very dense, large
population. Eastlawn is south of the city
in quieter community, not as densely
populated, and its a stand-alone cemetery.
So it didnt make sense or require us to
have such an elaborate cremation garden
there in the beginning.
Do you plan on adding a cremation
garden at Holly Hill?
There will be cremation options there,
In the press release about Hunsaker

Partners buying the Atlanta properties,

it said that, Unlike acquisitions
made through large, publicly traded
corporations, Hunsaker Partners
emphasizes that all locations will be
locally owned and operated.
People like to do business with people
they know. And I live here in Atlanta, Im
well known, and Ive established some
companies that are well known. I like to
do business with local businesses and I
believe a lot of people are likeminded.
When I worked for Stewart, we worked
really, really hard to make sure we had a
lot of really great local people to help us
go forward, and I just want to take a page
out of that book.
I wondered if you planned to stay in
Atlanta or to eventually grow your
business regionally or nationally.
Well, I think if youre a business owner
and an entrepreneur, your goal is to
always grow, right? And my pet business
is already in North and South Carolina as
well as in Georgia.
Were building a brand new, beautiful
place in Charlotte, North Carolina, at
the moment. Itll be one of our best yet.
I bought a house up there and have been
spending a lot of time in Charlotte.
But I think its important for businesses
to grow, if they get the opportunity to do
so and it makes sense to do so. At this
time, our human businesses are just here
in Atlanta. However, weve gotten several
calls recently from other businesses asking
if we would be making more acquisitions,
and our answer is always going to be the
same: If it makes sense for us to do so.
Hunsaker Partners is set up to be a
growth company. I believe we will grow
our funeral footprint, and we will also
make more acquisitions. Its just in my
nature to grow. I think were going to have
fun no matter what we do, but Ill bet we
grow. Were going to build businesses that
make a difference for people.
Your press release also mentioned that the
acquisitions are significant partly because
of the fact that youre a woman. How
has being female affected your journey
in the profession and your journey to
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I dont think theres a magic bullet thats made me successful, but rather
a whole bunch of factors, from my mother to my education to being in the right place
at the right time, to being very driven and dedicated. And being, quite frankly, a little tough.
You cant get your feelings hurt, and if you do, get over it and get going.
I dont believe there are very many funeral
businesses out there solely owned by
women who have gotten there on their own.
I think this is a huge thing for me and my
company and the great employees I have.
Two years ago when the ICCFA
convention was in Tampa, you had Bridget
Brennan as a keynote speaker, and she spoke
about why she buys. Eighty percent of
the consumer economy of services involves
purchases by women. If you go back and
read what she talks about, if what she says
is true or even half trueand I believe what
she says is right on the moneyI believe
that gives me, as an owner, a competitive
advantage no one else has in this town.
Being a cremationist, female, the right
age (Im 48), and having been given such
great opportunities from Stewart and
Service Corp. and Batesvilleall that
gives me a unique perspective to grow this
company in amazing ways.

But that didnt necessarily make it easier

for you to climb the corporate ladder.
It made it very difficult. But I will tell you, at
Stewart Enterprises, at Service Corp. and at
Batesville, I was treated very well, and I was
promoted easily. I never felt at any of those
three companies that I didnt compete on a
fair playing ground. Im not sure all women
will feel like that, but I never, ever thought I
was discriminated against in any way.
I believe all companies want the
same thing from all people, and thats
performance. I believe I did well by all
those companies and thats why they treated
me well, because it was a good partnership.
Im a hard worker and I believe in what I
do, and I believe I have the ability to do it
as well as anyone else.
My corporate career speaks volumes
for that, and the three big publicly-traded
companies I had the pleasure to work for
treated me well, in all honesty.
Some women say that its hard to climb
the corporate ladder, and I would say,
Which one were you climbing? Because I
didnt have a problem myself.
What advice would you give to women
who want to own their own funeral home
or cemetery? Were there certain things

ICCFA Magazine

you did to prepare yourself to be in this

I think there are a lot of things at play. Youve
got to be willing to make things happen for
yourself, and that means youve got to work
hard, play fair and do your very best.
I think some of it is timing. Who would
have known in 2004 that my dog would die
and that it would be so important to me that
I would want to do better at it than how I
was treated? And its become a really neat
space to have a business. I think that was a
matter of timing.
I think the other thing for me is not to
quit. Margaret Thatcher said, Nobody
can make you upset unless you let them.
Because women are often very emotional
and men are very transactional. A lot of
women think this is a personal game, and
its not personalits called business.
You need to be internally strong and
confident in who you are. I think maybe
part of is that I had a hell of a mentor in my
mother. My mother is strong, she is smart,
she climbed the corporate ladder on her
own at a time when it wasnt popular, at the
Union Pacific Railroad.
My mother was incredibly successful,
and she was all those things that Bridget
Brennan talked about: She was a mother,
she was the caretaker, she took care of
elderly parents, she took care of the pets,
she took care of my dad, she took care of
our house and she had a full-time, fullblown career. She was just, quite frankly,
well put together and tough. Not everybody
has the privilege to have a mother like mine.
I also grew up in a family that saw to
it that I had a great education, and it has
served me very, very well, to have not only
a bachelors degree, but also a masters
Batesville served me well by making me
a good public speaker and a good presenter,
full of conviction. Batesville has raised a lot
of great executives in this industrymany
of us grew up early on as young kids out of
college under Batesvilles philosophies.
I dont think theres a magic bullet
thats made me successful, but rather a
whole bunch of factors, from my mother

to my education to being in the right place

at the right time, to being very driven and
And being, quite frankly, a little tough.
You cant get your feelings hurt, and if you
do, get over it and get going.
Are there certain kinds of jobs that give
you important experience if you want
to run your own business? Something
Its important to be well balanced if youre
going to be an entrepreneur. I think Ive
been well balanced in having just enough
education on the financial side and just
enough financial savvy that Im able to
make good decisions. Ive got a good
barometer when it comes to legal issues.
Ive got a very good marketing mind.
I think vision is important; you need to
have an idea of where youre going. And
I think a good balance of those things is
important in a good leader. So again, I dont
think its one thing.
Some of the very best financial people
Ive ever met are probably some of the
worst leaders Ive ever worked for, because
theyre not entrepreneurial, theyre not
visionary. But by golly, theyre brilliant
when it comes to finance.
Its a worn-out phrase, but be a Jack of
all trades, a master of none. And if youre
weak in one area, youd better buck up,
buddy. Or surround yourself with people
who are strong in those areas.
I was going to say, hire someone you can
I think thats something Ive done well, too,
is been really, really fortunate in the people
who have worked with me, for me and
around me, or that Ive gotten a chance to
work for.
Ive had some great mentors in this
business, and I really am grateful to them.
And I still call them today, even though
some of them are retired.
I know your goal is to give excellent
service to families, as it says in your
release. What would you say is your more
long-term goal in terms of the company?
Our company is going to be nimble and
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flexible and aggressive to meet the changing
demands of our consumer. What I mean by
that is, as cremation continues to grow, you
can count on us to be ready and be best at
As technology advances and changes
and people look to it to gain information,
you can count on us to be great at that.
I believe weve done our homework, and
our new operating platform is one of the
best to help us in our back office.
I think that from an aggressive market
ing standpoint, we are going to spend
appropriately and aggressively.
I want to develop our employees so that
theyre not only well compensated, but also
happy and enjoy where they work and can
see that theyre working for a company
where they want to stay.
If you look at the people who work for
my pet company, they dont leave. They
dont quit because they love it, and they
love it because theyre a big part of who
we are and our culture and propelling us
Our promise to our employees is that we
foster a work environment where diversity is
welcome, individual growth and aspirations
are encouraged and innovative ideas are
applauded from any level. The growth and
strength of the company is enhanced because
of those people. And we are going to carry on
with that at this company, too.
You grow strong companies by taking
care of your employees and by taking care
of the customers.
How many people do you have working for
you now?
About 25 on the human side and 25 on the
pet side. And about five in my corporate
Is there anything you wanted to mention
that we havent talked about?
Ive been asked to run for the ICCFA Board
of Directors, which I think is an honor and
a privilege. I love my relationship with
ICCFA. Im proud of the PLPA and what
they are doing. Ive really appreciated my
affiliation with NFDA and CANA also, but
the ICCFA has really done some things that
have generated independent thought and
leadership in our industry, and Im grateful
to be a part of it.
I think Im the most blessed woman in
funeral services with the opportunities I have
ahead of me. And were having a ball.
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January 2015


interview by ICCFA Magazine

Managing Editor Susan Loving


Chris Cooke has

Regardless of a whether a cemetery is under private

or municipal ownership, management needs
to respond to industry trends to keep it viable.

been superintendent of Evansville City Cemeteries since

2008. Oak Hill and Locust Hill cemeteries
have a combined 300 acres.

He is a graduate of ICCFA University,

having been chosen by fellow students as
valedictorian in 2013. In 2014, he graduated from ICCFAUs Masters Program.
He is a board member of the Indiana
Cemetery Association and in 2014 was
appointed by the governor to the Indiana
State Board of Funeral and Cemetery

flat and
monuments of

In 2006, he was nominated for the

Indiana Governors Award for Community
Service. He is president of the Eastview
Neighborhood Association and of the Vanderburgh County Historical Society, and is
a past president of United Neighborhoods
of Evansville.
He received a bachelors degree in
history from Wabash College in 1998. He
previously worked as a records specialist
for the Evansville Police Department, a
business development specialist at Staples
and a regional manager for a tax service.

Municipal cemeterian Cooke

serves families & taxpayers

Preserving the past; preparing for the (cremation) future

here are people who grow up in the

profession, knowing theyll follow
in their parents footsteps as funeral
directors and-or cemeterians. And there are
those who dont. Municipal cemeterians often
come from the latter group. Sometimes they
didnt intentionally choose cemetery work at
allthey simply got transferred there from
another municipal department.


ICCFA Magazine

Chris Cooke, superintendent of cemeteries

for Evansville, Indiana, was a history major
who had dome some work in sales (not
selling cemetery property or funeral services)
and was working for the police department
when he was approached about applying for
the job of cemetery superintendent.
More than six years later, he is doing
what most other cemetery superintendents
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January 2015


management / c E M E T E R I E S
The city
office at Oak
Hill Cemetery.
The city has
two cemeteries because
now incorporates a
separate city
that had its
own cemetery. Since the
properties are
only about 10
minutes apart,
one administrative office
serves both.

We kind of changed our approach to working with the public based on the
celebrant training I went through. Weve been able to lower our complaint level by being
more proactive with some of the families who come in here emotionally charged.
are doing: Working to maintain and improve
grounds, finding ways to bring in additional
revenue and figuring out how best to serve
families in the cremation era.
He uses his interest in history as he works
to preserve the citys cemeteries, which are
160 and 162 years old. He uses his back
ground in sales to make sure the people of
Evansville know the historic cemeteries still
have room. And he seeks out the educational
and networking opportunities he needs to
make sure both bereaved families and the
taxpayers of Evansville are well served.
Lets start with your background and how
you got into cemetery work.
I came to work with the city in 2007 as a
civilian with the police department. I was
approached by my eventual boss about the
possibility of either running animal control
or the city cemeteries. Being a history
major from Wabash College, the cemeteries
piqued my interest. And I had a sales and
management background with some jobs
prior to my time with the police department.
About six months later, the cemetery
superintendent had retired and after an

ICCFA Magazine

interview, I was awarded the job, in 2008.

What kind of sales did you do?
I was abusiness development specialist at
Staples, doing business-to-business sales.
Before that, I did communications stuff,
business-to-business phone and Internet, right
out of college. And I worked in a furniture
business all the way through college. I did
everything from the back door (warehouse)
to the front door, and I might still be working
there, but you dont go to college to sell
I was going to take a year off and then
go to law school, and at 38, Im still taking
that year off. I got into the masters program
at the University of Evansville a year ago to
study public administration, but with all my
extracurricular activities, its difficult to find
the time to attend. One of my other passions
is working with neighborhood associations,
and it takes up a lot of my free time.
I did get my masters from ICCFA Uni
versity last summer, which is good because
its industry-specific, and helps with what
I do here in my role as superintendent of

How did you find about ICCFAU?

Working at a municipal cemetery, I serve at
the pleasure of the mayor and mayors get
elected every four years. If you look at the
wall where all of the superintendents names
are listed, you notice that about every four
years, they tend to change. My boss said,
Chris, you need to become a professional in
your industry.
I did some research and found ICCFAU. I
told my boss about it, but the city didnt have
the money to send me. So Im thankful I was
awarded a scholarship to attend that first year;
it covered tuition, so I just had to drive down
and pay for the room. I got a scholarship to
cover three of the four years, and then the city
decided the cost was worth the education and
paid for me to go.
You must have made it through at least one
mayoral election since 2008.
The mayor didnt run for reelection. The
mayor now is of a different political party,
but kept me based on my service record and
background. This job isnt about politics.
When you come in the cemetery gate, we
dont care what your politics are. The job is
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management / cremati o n

The citys of Evansvilles Facebook

pages for its two
cemeteries includes
links to obituaries
and announcements
and photos
of events.

all about serving families.

Oak Hill Cemetery dates back to 1853,
and Locust Hill Cemetery, 1855. There are
over 70,000 interments at Oak Hill, and
around 30,000 at Locust Hill. So they are two
small cities.
Some of the issues and challenges we
faced when I first got here didnt appear
overnight, and they arent going to go away
overnight, but in the past six and a half years,
weve turned a corner and started to get
things back to what they traditionally looked
like, with a keen eye to preservation.
Weve done some outside-the-box events
at the cemetery like our Howl-o-Ween event.
Weve become participants with the Race
Across America program, and weve really
helped build a bridge with our local veterans
Because were municipal, we dont
really compete with the private cemeteries,
but Im a very competitive person, and I
always play to win. Were a full division of
local government, and we have two large
properties in what is the third-largest city
in Indiana. I try to play with the team Ive
been given, one thats limited by budget and
The state does some balancing of its books
on the backs of the municipalities; Ive had to
do more with less every year Ive been here.
And it was because of the education I got in
Memphis (at ICCFAU) that Ive been able to
make this work.
I walked in here with a history degree;

ICCFA Magazine

there wasnt a manual. I literally was thrown

the keys, and my boss told me hed meet me
out here. I got to introduce myself to my staff.
On any given day, I have problems that
go back to 1853, and its not like I can pick
up the phone and call somebody across
town to talk about it. Through ICCFAU, Ive
been able to develop a network of industry
professionals whose opinions I trust and I can
What size staff do you have?
I have an assistant superintendent, one
part-time person in the office and five city
Teamsters and two seasonal folks in the
summertime who work the grounds. We
contract out our mowing for both facilities.
So Ive got roughly seven full-time
people, myself included, for two facilities
that have about 100,000 interments between
them, about 300 acres total, including about
80 undeveloped acres.
One of the things were going through is
trying to get more exact with our mapping,
and to get up to speed with our cemetery
management software.
Most of the land thats undeveloped at
Oak Hill we lease to a farmer. Part of Locust
Hill is leased to a Little League, so there are
a couple of baseball diamonds on cemetery
land that we lease for a dollar. Granted, itll
probably be another 50 years before we have
to use it, but a lot of people dont realize
thats part of the cemetery.
How many interments do you do each year?

Between the two cemeteries, 300-320, on

average. During its heyday, Oak Hill alone
was doing 700. Fifteen years ago, we were
handing the same number of interments and
had twice as many people on staff.
With not having a sales staff other than
myself and the assistant, it can present some
challenges, but weve been able to increase
our revenue the past couple years. Were not
completely self-sufficient, and we keep our
prices low because were a taxpayer service,
but there are always areas of opportunity for
reducing costs to the taxpayer.
Were now closer than weve been to not
costing the taxpayers anything. The last time
I was able to find (some of the old financial
records have been a challenge to locate) that
the cemeteries turned a profit was in the late
Since were backed up by the citys
general fund, our endowment care fund isnt
what you might see at other cemeteries this
old, but one thing we do have that a lot of
cemeteries our age dont is undeveloped land.
If we plan it carefully, the city is going to
be in the cemetery business for many years
to come. So, when someone says, Lets
take part of the cemetery that the farmers
using and put this civic project on it, I say,
No; weve got to have it for the future
development of the cemetery.
When you report to a governmental entity,
you have to stay on top of whats going on
the industry and be able to explain it to the
people who are making decisions that affect
My job should maybe be utility man
instead of superintendent. One minute I
might be selling a grave, and the next I might
be leading a service, and then next working
on the budget.
We try to keep the operation as lean as
possible while still providing the level of
service our families want. Another thing we
face, being a municipal cemetery, is that we
get most of the Medicaid businessthats
about 18 to 20 percent of what we do.
Other cemeteries will accept it, but
not in the numbers that we do. Were a
governmental agency; thats what were here
to do. But that is a good deal of potential
revenue we lose each year.
One of the things Ive done is try to
differentiate us from the other cemeteries by
talking about our history but at the same time
letting people know that these cemeteries
are not museums. Both of our cemeteries are
active ones with a lot of land to sell.

to page 60
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January 2015


management / c E M E T E R I E S
The Howl-O-Ween
event held at Oak
Hill Cemetery to
benefit the Spirit
Medical Fund,
which helps cover
medical costs for
animals, includes a
dog walk, a cemetery tour and a pet
Halloween costume
contest. Right,
people gather at
the cemetery for
the days activities.
Below left, Cooke
with some of the
attendees. Below
right, local personality Evie Sue the
Litter Dog, mascot/
volunteer at Keep
Evansville Beautiful.

from page 58
Weve approached it with a mix of
Internet and print advertising, and weve done
quite wellits more than paid for itself. Im
hoping that as our new software goes online,
people will actually be able to look at a map
of our cemetery and shop online.
The idea is to make it so that by the time
people come in to see us, theyve already
educated themselves through our website,
and our time with them can be more
productive. And with the generation thats
coming, weve got to have some of these
technologies in place.
I know Im not going to be sitting in

ICCFA Magazine

my position forever, and I want to make

sure I move things forward while Im here
and leave the office in good hands. Each
superintendent inherits some things and then
has the chance to make the job their own.
In 2006, they closed the Locust Hill office,
consolidating operations at Oak Hill in order
to cut costs. Thats worked out well. We do
everything by appointment, and Locust Hill is
only about 10 minutes away from my office.
Why does the cemetery have two cemeteries
almost the same age?
Locust Hill Cemetery used to be the cemetery
for Lamasco, a separate city to the west of
Evansville. Evansville basically absorbed

Lamasco in 1905, and that included the

cemetery. Locust Hill still had its own board,
but everything was combined in the 1990s.
Now both cemeteries are under the citys
public works board.
When you were talking about all the
different things you might do in a day, you
said something about leading a service.
I know you became a Certified Celebrant
through ICCFAU. How much do you get to
use that training?
Not very often. But I wanted to get that
training to be more well-rounded. Our
cremation rate is still behind national trends,
but its gotten more and more noticeable.
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management / cremati o n

One of the things were looking into now is whether we can use solar power
on some of our flat-roofed mausoleums. This could be another case where being
a municipality is a positive, because we might be able to get some grants.

The setup for one of the weddings held at Evansvilles cemeteries last year.

And sometimes we get the families who

have nowhere else to go, and can help those
The city attorney has not yet come up with
a fee structure that would warrant me putting
in the time to do full-blown celebrant services
for everybody who walks through the door.
There have been some scenarios involving
indigent folks where Ive helped out.
The main thing the celebrant training did
is help me understand the nature of grief and
how to better address the families we serve. I
think celebrant training helped me learn more
about myself than anything else. I learned I
was still struggling with the loss of my father,
and it helped me overcome a lot of that.
And I was able to use what I learned
about grief and loss to talk to my team about
working with families. I started thinking back
to some of our complaints where we thought
people were upset with us, and realizing those
folks were dealing with grief.
We kind of changed our approach to
working with the public based on the cele
brant training I went through. Weve been
able to lower our complaint level by being
more proactive with some of the families who
come in here emotionally charged.
About once a month, we take a few
minutes at our staff meeting and talk about
grief, things to look for and how to deal with
them. Its really paid some dividends, added
to our customer service palette.

ICCFA Magazine

What do the city cemeteries offer cremation

We have cremation spots. We have some
niches. We sell vaults and thats about it. We
do graveside setups, if the family wants a
table and tent. Its still an area of opportunity.
Our cremation rate is still below 20 percent.
Im on the board of the Indiana Cemetery
Association, and at our annual meeting last
fall, when they said the cremation rate in
central Indianawhich is mainly Indiana
poliswas 36 percent, it kind of shocked us.
Ive noticed ours going up, but I wont have
the exact figures until the end of the year.
Another thing ICCFAU helped me with was
tracking certain metrics.
But my predecessor did build a niche area
at Oak Hill. There are glass-front niche areas
in the mausoleum at Locust Hill. At Oak Hill,
weve got an outdoor niche garden and at the
rate were going, well have to add to that in
the next year or two because its about full.
The niche tower in the garden was built in
2006, and the first couple of years I was here,
we didnt sell a single one. In the past six
months, I bet weve sold 10. Weve got plans
roughed out for more. One of the challenges
when you work for a municipality is that you
have to justify what you need to people who
often dont have a background in the industry.
Now, in my case, the man who hired me had
a brother in the funeral business, and my
current boss is also a pastor, so he does have

some experience in the death industry.

Do you have any community mausoleums?
There are seven mausoleums in Oak Hill and
then theres one big community mausoleum
at Locust Hill, The Temple of Eternal Peace.
We still have space, but one of the things
were having to look at is the fact that they
werent really built for singles.
One of the biggest challenges were facing
involves recent changes in Americans with
Disabilities Act regulations that took away
some of the grandfathering of our historic
buildings. So now weve got to get them into
One of our big capital projects is taking
what essentially was built as a chapel in
1899 and is now our office and making it
wheelchair accessible and generally ADA
compliant. Its a challenge to try to keep
the work as non-invasive to the structure as
possiblethe buildings built like a tank
and do the work right so that the building can
be used for another 100 years.
Weve been adamant about trying to pre
serve our history. One project we completed
was restoring our memorial chimes, origi
nally installed in 1961. Weve gotten a lot of
public feedback on doing that.
You mentioned connections with veterans
Our veterans plaza was dedicated in 2001.
Every November, the mayor presents the
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management / c E M E T E R I E S

Were testing different grass varieties; weve done some testing of buffalo grasses
were right on the line of viability for it. Our biggest expense is mowing, so if I can put in a grass thats
not going to need to be mowed as much, thats in the best interest of the taxpayers.

Evansville has hosted a Wreaths Across America program for several years now.
Below, attendees gather at the cemetery. Above, some of the decorated graves.

Veteran of the Year Award and theres a big

ceremony there. Our Veterans Day service
has been recognized as an official regional
site by the VA the past two years.
We also have a veterans area at
Locust Hill, which is named after the first
American killed in World War I, who is
buried at Locust Hill. Most of our veteran
events are in that area.
There were several hospitals here during
the Civil War, so weve got a Civil War
veterans area where 572 Union soldiers
are buried. There are about 37 canons that
are incorporated into the fence around the

ICCFA Magazine

section. When I first got here, canons were in

disrepair, flagpoles werent working and we
had the wrong size flags flying. I asked my
boss where to go for help and went to talk
veterans groups.
I introduced myself and listened to them
and told them some of my ideas. I got their
blessing on a couple of things, fixed things
and the relationship started to blossom,
because they said I was the first one to talk to
them and ask what they wanted. And its led
to some sales.
Do you have relationships with other
community groups?

Im currently the president of the Vander

burgh County Historical Society.
One year they had cut my stone uprighting budget to $5,000 and I was trying
to think of what I could do to maximize
that money. There are five family plots that
encompass all the Evans graves (the family
the city is named after), and we rehabbed it to
get ready for the citys bicentennial.
I felt the need to get somebodys blessing,
because there was a large, flat sandstone
tablet that had been painted over with black
paint. I had seen some pictures from the
1950s where it didnt look that way. I was
told one of my predecessors painted over it
with black paint to make it stand out more.
So we worked with a monument company
and restored things back to what we thought
was the original intent. I went to the historical
society board sort of the way I did with the
veterans and established a relationship.
After the monument project, the society
wrote a nice letter to the mayor and then the
following year asked me to be on the board,
and then asked me to be president. So Ive
gotten very involved with them, but we do a
lot of tours at the cemetery, and make use of
historic groups.
Ive also developed a little bit of a rela
tionship with the Civil Air Patrol cadet
squadron. They approached me four years
ago with The Wreaths Across America
project, which they wanted to bring to a city
So now we partner with them on the
wreaths program, and after the first year, we
actually made the calendar the group puts out.
They used a picture of our Civil War area, all
decorated with wreaths.
We also work with the Spirit Medical
Fund, which raises money for animals that
need immediate medical attention. About 14
years ago on Halloween, a dog was burned
and left to die at Oak Hill Cemetery. The
dog was rescued and saved, and renamed
Spirit. They had raised more money, through
community outreach, than was needed to help
her, so they used it to start a fund to help other
In 2013, we decided to hold a dog walk
on the Saturday before Halloween to benefit
the Spirit Medical Fund. The event, which
we called Howl-o-Ween, includes a costume
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management / c E M E T E R I E S

We would like to use some of the alleyways in the historic areas for some precast cremation options,
because one of the things people tell us they want is to be near history. This would give us a way to
generate some revenue out of some areas that have not generated revenue for more than 100 years.
contest for dogs and cats and animals
available for adoption. For a $5 donation,
you can take your pet or one of the adoptable
animals for a walk through the cemetery, on
our roads. Each visitor is issued a doggie bag.
We had about 50 volunteers for that
event, including some from the university,
and we had local media people and elected
officials as celebrity judges for the costume
contest. I led a historic tour for people and
their pets, and Spirit joined us on the tour. We
cooked food and the cadets were here, selling
That first year, we raised about $1,500
and had one animal adopted, but what was
really important was the awareness we
created for the fund, because a lot of folks
dont realize its out there. That event was one
I was asked about repeatedly. I know were
not reinventing the wheel with a pet event at
the cemetery, but no one else has a story like
Notices from the city cemeteries
My dog was here for the event and got
Facebook pages about a tour and about
her picture on the society page of the local
Memorial Day services.
paper. It was cool, because that same Sunday
I was at another event and also made the
newspaper. I said, Oh, look, father and
daughter both made the society page.
In 2014, we raised much more money
with Howl-o-Ween. In addition, weve had
several people come back to the cemetery
after the event and buy property. They hadnt
realized that we were still selling spaces
they thought this was a museum.
What other events do you have at the
We have several historic walks during
preservation month, which is May in
Indiana. We usually do two walks then and
periodically well do special tours for small
groups. Were looking at doing a tour with
Weve actually had four weddings out
here recently, because people have been
inquiring about getting married at the
cemetery. Were having so many were
You would not believe the amount of
looking at developing a fee.
work I had to do for the dog event. There was
Ive proposed doing concerts out here, but a service that day, and we notified the funeral
it wont fly. Well, it would fly as far as the
director so he could make the family aware of
public attending, but it only takes one person it, and we recommended coming in through
to complain, to call the mayor. Its not like
one of the other gates, not the main one. We
being at a private cemetery, and you have to
had volunteers cordon off those areas of the
be cognizant of that.
cemetery during the service and altered the

ICCFA Magazine

path of the walk so that the family wouldnt

see any dogs. Even so, someone who was in
the procession complained.
When youre in this role, there is a
political side to it, and not everybody wants
to hold hands and sing Kumbaya.
You want to think outside the box, but
sometimes when you work at a municipal
cemetery, youre not going to get too far
outside that box, not by choice but because of
the system.
What would you say are the benefits or the
drawbacks of being a municipal operation?
One drawback is you cant change and shift
gears as quickly; there are a lot of extra
hoops that a private cemetery wouldnt have
to deal with. If I propose a change, it goes
to my boss, who has to go through some
hoops, and ultimately it goes to the lawyer,
then it to the board and the mayor. Six
months to a year later, we might implement
that change.
That was the hardest part coming from the
private sector to municipal government, the
amount of time it takes to change things; its
just a whole different ballgame. Now, once
you learn how things work, you can shorten
some of that time, but its not like at a private
cemetery where the manager can initiate a
change and implement it the next day.
Thats a drawback because the industry
continually evolves. Municipal cemetarians
can get left behind if theyre not paying
attention to where the industry is going, if
theyre too focused on where its been. I tell
people I dont know what wed do if I didnt
have the contacts and information Ive gotten
through ICCFAU to help the cemetery get
positioned to be viable in the future.
I fear for the municipal cemetarians out
there that arent keeping an eye on where
the industrys going. I think theyre going to
become the history that they try to preserve.
Ive been making contacts through the
Indiana Cemetery Association with other
municipal cemeterians, and were trying to
get a group together to start talking about
some of our issues, but thats still in its
There are personal benefits to being a
municipal employee. I might make less
money, but have better insurance, a retirement
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Foresight AD
page 67

management / c E M E T E R I E S
Insurance covered some of it, but not all.
There was a tree that had fallen down
by making sure were positioned
inches from the wall, and when it was
being removed, the backhoe tapped the root
to catch the cremation wave.
ball and a whole section of the wall, made
Because if I dont, its going to
unstable by the storm, fell down.
The insurance company said they
cost the taxpayers money when the
werent going to cover that damage
because it was after the fact. We argued
cemetery has to dip further into their
with them and argued with them, and in
pockets to help fund its operation.
the meantime, I was getting call after call
plan I can participate in. But the benefit I feel that building, and were going to be starting from the public asking when we were
going to fix the wallthat section faces the
I get from being here is that because I dont
on another 100.
U.S. highway that runs along one side of
have a sales staff, I get to interact with people,
Personally, I like to compete, and to
the property. So, finally we had to bite the
and I have to be prepared for anything. I
win. Ive kind of turned this job into a
bullet and just fix it.
enjoy the challenge of that, so I see it as a
competition with myself, to try to improve
What else would you like to accomplish?
myself and be the best in the industry.
I believe in solutions, not excuses, and
And you dont get best in the industry by
One of the things were looking at as far
Im not going to ask anybody who works
reaching a goal and then sitting on your
as long-term planning is the possibility
for me to do something I wouldnt be
duff. You have to always be improving,
of opening up some different types of
willing to do myself. Being able to work
whether by talking to other people in the
cremation areas. We would like to use some
with some of the people I do makes me
industry, going to educational meetings,
of the alleyways in the historic areas for
really appreciate what we do here at the
learning online or talking to suppliers.
some precast cremation options, because
One of the things were looking into
one of the things people tell us they want
Another benefit: During snow season, I
now is whether we can use solar power
is to be near history. This would give us a
can get salt from the city salt barn, which
on some of our flat-roofed mausoleums.
way to generate some revenue out of some
makes it easier to keep our roads open
This could be another case where being
areas that have not generated revenue for
during the winter. I can only imagine what
a municipality is a positive, because we
more than 100 years.
private cemeteries have to spend on salt.
might be able to get some grants.
Were also trying to get cremation front
It seems like most of the municipal
Im also working with the urban forestry and center. Were looking at providing
cemeteries I encounter are the oldest ones
department, looking at the potential of
some niche options up toward the main
in the area, so we get to be the guardians of creating our own composting pile, taking
gate, and looking at some greener options.
local history. With my interest in history,
some of the woody debris that both of our
Not necessarily green burial per se, but
I appreciate the opportunity to be that
departments generate and creating topsoil
something like a cremation area thats
guardian. I watch over 100,000 interments, we can use for our various projects.
more wooded, non-traditional, with GPS
and try to ensure that their legacies
Were trying to become as green
positioning instead of markers, done in
are preserved for future generations of
a cemetery as possible. Were testing
phases. Ive talked to my people and its
Evansville citizens, so that they can learn
different grass varieties; weve done some
roughly sketched out at this point, but
about our history. Thats one of the things
testing of buffalo grasseswere right
funding will be the challenge.
that keeps me going; its an awesome
on the line of viability for it. Our biggest
I want this place to be ready for the next
expense is mowing, so if I can put in a
100 years, and on my watch, Im going to
Most people, when they do long-term
grass thats not going to need to be mowed do everything I can to ensure that this place
planning in their jobs, theyre talking
as much, thats in the best interest of the
is as progressive as possible. I want to do
about next quarter or next year. With
my best by the taxpayers by making sure
every decision I make, I have to think
With some of the things Ive learned
were positioned to catch the cremation
about the next 100 years. Everything you
down at Memphis, Ive been able to
wave. Because if I dont, its going to cost
do has long-term consequences. Maybe
maximize some contracts so that weve
the taxpayers money when the cemetery
somebody in 1920 had a bad day and
been able to save money, and weve been
has to dip further into their pockets to help
misfiled something, or recorded something able to allocate some of the savings into
fund its operation.
incorrectly, or eyeballed something instead maintenance programs, into maintaining
Thats why what I was saying earlier
of measuring it correctly, and those things
some of the cemeterys older features.
about education is important. When we, as
can affect us today.
We replanted our main entrances, which municipal cemeterians, dont get out there
So with our ADA project, for example,
had not been done for a long time.
and educate ourselves about the industry
Im looking at a 100-year solution. This
And there are always things you dont
and where its going, were not just doing
thing is built like a tank, of brick and
anticipate. Last year we had a storm that
ourselves and our facilities a disservice,
stoneI dont see it going anywhere.
did some damage to the historic wall
were doing a disservice to the taxpayers
Weve gotten more than 100 years out of
we have around most of our property.
we serve.

I want to do my best by the taxpayers


ICCFA Magazine

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January 2015


Supply Line
Far left, Wilbert
Funeral Services
Inc. President
Dennis Welzenbach speaks at
the Miller Family
Park dedication.
Marlene and Rich
Miller are at right.
Left, the memorial
at Miller Family
Park outside the
WFSI Broadview
READERS: To find the products and services you need online, go to
and select find a member to find:
Supply Link Search
Engine, the fastest way
to find the products and
services you need at your
funeral home, cemetery or
SUPPLIERS: Send your press releases
about your new products and services,
and about awards, personnel changes and
other news to
for inclusion in Supply Line. Large files that
will not go through the ICCFA server can be
sent to

Passages new bamboo urn.


ICCFA Magazine

n Wilbert Funeral Services,

Broadview, Illinois, recently dedicated
a park on its grounds to members of a
family who have a combined 100+ years
of service to the company and the funeral
industry. Miller Family Park was dedicated to the Miller family: Marlene, Rich
and the late Glenn. Glenn Miller began his
career at Wilbert in 1974 and continued at
the company until his death in 2013. He
held various positions within manufacturing, from group leader of the weld shop
to assistant foreman, foreman and finally
plant manager. Marlene Miller, who is now
WFSIs inside sales manager, began her
Wilbert career in 1972 as a biller and order
entry specialist. The two were married for
18 years, and Glenns son, Rich, worked in
the weld shop for 20 years before taking
over as metal liner department leadman
last year.
WFSI President Dennis Welzenbach
presided over the park dedication, which
was attended by Marlene and Rich Miller,
their friends and relatives, Wilbert licensees and the entire Broadview staff. As this
little piece of land has been in the middle
of all the activity and commotion that went
on here for so many years, it seems fitting
to have it dedicated today in the name of
the Millers to honor in a small way those
years of care and service, he said.
The park is an area of green space, a
gazebo and picnic tables located between
the manufacturing and office buildings. A
monument honoring the familys commitment to Wilbert will be on permanent
display at the park.
n passages international, Lake
Orion, Michigan, has added the Tribute
bamboo urn to its collection of biodegradable and eco-friendly urns. The urns
are handcrafted from half-inch bamboo
plywood. The bamboo used to produce the
urns grows rapidly in mountain regions

of China and is widely used throughout

Asia. It is not a species that is consumed by
endangered panda bear populations. Each
urn features a natural water-based finish
and the base affixes with steel screws. The
front or top of the urn can also be engraved. 1.888.480.6400;
n Crematory Manufacturing & Service, Tulsa, Oklahoma, has
opened a new online help center and
online cremationist forum. Our mission
is to change the way people think about
cremation, CMS President Larry Stuart Jr.
said. The new help venter contains a variety
of resources, including a knowledge base,
FAQ, equipment manuals, specifications,
sequences of operations, installation manuals, extensive educational and informational white papers and environmental
resources, some of which are available to
the general public.
The cremationist forum allows any user
to set up a free account and post a question
related to crematory operations for another
user or CMS staff to answer.
The publicly accessible portion of the
help center contains a multitude of information for both the cremationist and the
general public regarding cremation and its
history and effect on our society, an eBook,
cremation education items, general operational guidelines and best practices.
n ACE caskets, Las
Vegas, Nevada, has hired
Tyler Fraser as market
and territory development

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n Homesteaders,
Des Moines, Iowa, has hired
Elizabeth Liz Carter as
an account executive serving the Southeast. Prior
to joining Homesteaders,
Carter held sales positions
at industry-leading comCarter
panies such as Fuji Photo
Film USA Inc. She has earned numerous
awards, including Sales Manager of the Year,
National Account Manager of the Year and
Salesperson of the Year. Her experience also
includes orchestrating promotional events
and strategic planning activities. She earned
a bachelors degree from North Carolina
State University. 1.800.477.3633;
n Brookside Agra,
OFallon, Illinois, has
partnered with soil and
plant nutrition experts/
consultants from Cardinal
Agriculture Services, Freeburg, Illinois. The consultants
are Ben Elliott, the companys
president and CEO, who
has worked in the chmiecal
formulating and research
fields for 10 years, and Andy
Rynski, company co-owner,
who previously worked for
Maschoff Pork Farms and
then John Deere. Brookside Agra plans to use their
expertise to help expand its
all-natural environmental
and agricultural product lines and expertise.
618.628.8300. ext. 24;
n Unity FInancial Life Insurance Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, has redesigned and reorganized its website as
part of its 50th anniverary celebration.
The clean and contemporary design offers
user-friendly pages including our story, our
mission, family ownership, company news,
frequently asked questions, client testimonials, preneed insurance and fneral trust
produts. 1.877.523.3231;
n Funeral Profit Protectors,
Edgewood, Kentucky, has signed a letter of
intent to sell to Kyle & Associates, Chicago, Illinois. The new combined entity will
retain the name Kyle & Associates, with corporate offices located in Hebron, Indiana.
Funeral Profit Protectors was founded by
Christopher Kuhnen, LFD, CPC. Kyle was
founded in 2007 by preneed sales counselor
Alice A. Kyle, CPC. She will retain the title
of CEO and president. Kyle currently serves
Start every day at the ICCFA Caf at

clients in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.

n Batesville, Batesville, Indiana,
recently held its first Education Week,
during which the company presented a
series of free online webinars. The webinars
covered understanding families through
consumer insights, becoming profitable
with cremation, using social media to
positively impact your funeral home and

satisfying consumer needs through innovative products.

n Matthews international,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, recently announced that its earnings were up 12.3
percent in fiscal 2014 over the previous
year. The acquisition of Schawk Inc., higher
sales in the graphics imaging and marking
and fulfillment systems segments and significant projects for the merchandising solutions and cremation segments contributed
to the sales grouth. Sales for fiscal 2014 were

Wuxi AD
1/2 I

January 2015



Alturnamats has added clear mats that

allow sunlight to pass through them to
its product line.

Funeralwises redesigned blog.

$1.1 billion, compared to $985.4 million the

previous year.
n alturnamats, Titusville, Pennsylvania, has launched a new product,
the clear mat. The mats allow sunlight to
pass through, reducing burn from mat
placement. The clear mats feature the same
120-ton load rating and limited lifetime
warranty as the other mats in the companys
ground protection line.
n Crystal remembrance, Columbus, Ohio, has expanded its product line to
include handmade glass memorials for pet
parents. The company has grown to cover
most of the 50 states, as well as Australia and
the UK. The company opened a designer
glass gallery in its Grandview studio, featuring acclaimed artists from central Ohio.

obituaries and death notices all in a single

order. The LMC is a group housing more
than 1,000 daily newspapers, including McClatchy, Hearst and E.W. Scripps.
n The Center for Loss
and Life
Fort Collins,
has recently
published a new
book, Reframing PTSD as
Grief: How
Caregivers Can
The Center for Loss
and Life Transitions
Through Catchnew book about post
Up Mourning,
traumatic stress
by Dr. Alan
Wolfelt. Dr.
n Funeralwise, Wilmette, Illinois,
Wolfelt explores the similarities between the
has redesigned its blog, Digital Dying,
clinical condition called PTSD and normal
which looks at living and dying in the digi- grief. He then posits that PTSD be reframed
tal age. Rescently featured stories include
as traumatic grief. Like all forms of grief, the
How one man saves graves and helps preinner thoughts and feelings of traumatic grief
serves Mississippis blues legacy, National
require outward expression if the griever is to
museum of funeral industry breathes life
heal. This outward expression is mourning.
into death and Bonnie Parker and the un- Mourning, then, is the missing piece in our
dertaker. Columns include industry news;
current approach to PTSD treatment.
selected obituaries; Coffin Corner, which
takes a look at the lighter side of mortality;
n Kubota, Torrance, California, is in
and Tales From the Crypt, which features
the midst of one of the largest product
information on the business side of the
introductions in its history. The company
funeral industry.
has added three new models to its Z7001.866.386.9473;
Series line, the Z724X-48, Z724X-54 and
n EFileCabinet, Lehi, Utah, has
Z726X-60, all powered by Kawasakis FXintegrated eFileCabinet Online with
engines and available with a 48-, 54- or This integration means
inch deck. The series offers a wide operator
that customers can easily sync and view
station and thick high-back adjustable seat,
their eFileCabinet files and drawers within
with heavy-duty sealed spindes and flat-free
Salesforce, a cloud CRM tool, and view their front caster tires designed to absore impact.
Salesforce contacts within eFileCabinet OnIt recently debuted its R30 series wheel
line. 1.877.574.5505;
loaders, which includes the R530 and R630.
The R530 is the most compact of the series.
n, Denver, ColoFeaturing a 51 horsepower engine, the
rado, and Local Media Consortium,
R530 is larger in size than the prior model,
a nationwide alliance of leading local
with a larger bucket and a maximum
media outlets, have reached an agreebucket breakout force of 7,761 pounds. The
ment to work together. The deal provides
R630 is Kubotas first entry into the 60-80
funeral directors with a single website to
horsepower range, with a 64.4 horsepower
price and place obituaries into newspapers
engine, the R630 delivers a maximum
nationwide. Over 2,700 US newspapers are
configured in the network. bucket breakout force of 10,415 pounds.
The company also recently announced
Obituaries and death notices can be placed
it will open a 450,000-square-foot,
in any of these newspapers and online sites
as well, offering funeral directors a one-stop state-of-the-art parts distribution center in
Edgerton, Kansas.
shop for virtually all U.S. newspapers. Funeral directors can price, schedule and place 1.888.458.2682, ext. 900;


ICCFA Magazine

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Biondan AD
page 73


The customized Life Chest given to

former President G.W. Bush.

The Life Chest CEO Donna Yost and former President George H.W. Bush.

from page 72
n The Life Chest, Troy, Michigan,
presented former President George H.W.
Bush with a limited edition, custom-made
Freedom Chest for his 90th birthday.
The president celebrated his birthday with
a parachute jump in tandem with Mike
Elliott, the leader of the All Veteran Group.
After landing and being congratulated by
his wife and son, former President George

Dorics Board of Directors for the 2014-2015. Seated, Steven Vincent and Adair
Payment. Standing, from left, Joe Brewster, Hubert McQuestion, Jerry Cooper, Jim
Wiens, Michael Crummitt, Charles Chuck Foskey and Gerald Hardy.


ICCFA Magazine

Bush, the elder Bush met with Donna Yost,

CEO and president of The Life Chest. Yost
presented Bush with the chest, which was
resplendent with a gold presidential seal and
handles and filled with photos, keepsakes
and mementos from throughout his life.;
n Doric products, Marshall, Illinois,
recently installed its Board of Directors for
2014-2015. The board includes Joe Brewster,
Brewster Vaults, Millville, New Jersey; Jerry
Cooper, Central Burial Vaults, Oklahoma
City, Oklahoma; Vice President of Manufacturing Mike Crummitt, Crummitt & Son
Vault, Martins Ferry, Ohio; Charles Chuck
Foskey, Wicomico Vault, Salisbury, Maryland;
Secretary Gerald Hardy, Hardy Doric Inc.,
Chelmsford, Massachusetts; Hubert McQuestion, Lake Shore Burial Vault, Brookfield,
Wisconsin; Adair Payment, Atlas Concrete
Products, Orlando, Florida; President Steve
Vincent, J.P. Vincent and Sons, Galena, Illinois; and Vice President of Finance and
Treasurer Jim Wiens, CVI Funeral Supply,
Newton, Kansas. 1.800.457.0671;
n passare, San Francisco, California,
has made a new ebook available, Understanding U.S. Veteran Benefits and Services. The ebook offers a detailed overview
of eligibility and benefits, claims, programs
and services available to veterans, activeduty servicemembers and their families.
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January 2015


n Life With a funeral director, Reedsburg, Wisconsin, has

released Lessons for Life With a Funeral Director: Strategies to Strengthen Your Relationships & Inspiration to
Transform Your Life. The book is by
organization founder Katy Prange, who
is married to a funeral director. It offers
inspiration for people who live life with
a funeral director to love the life theyve
chosen together.
We know the divorce and angrymarriage rates are high in our industry,
Prange said. This book is an attempt to
change that. A
compilation of
ideas, concepts
and observations, the volume is divided
into sections to
meet different
Readers will be
reminded of
the good things about life in the Pretty
Sweet Perks section.
For the fianc, a newlywed or
someone dating someone in the industry, Things You Should Consider
gives the reader specific concerns,
concepts and questions to discuss as
they take the leap.
For everyone, there are 18 Strategies for Your Best Life with a Funeral
There is even a section to help
Prepare Your Family and Friends for
life with a funeral director, including
suggestions for ways to manage some
tough interpersonal conflicts common
to the industry.
Finally, a how-to section shares
best practices for a funeral directors
worst laundry, rearranging funeral
flowers for home use and more.
Sometimes we struggle to keep our
relationships with family and friends
strong and healthy because they just
dont get it, Prange said. I wrote Lessons For Life With A Funeral Director
to inspire and support others to live
their best life with their funeral director. My goal is to help strengthen our
industry by strengthening the relationships that make our businesses possible. Families are at the core of what
we do. While we serve others, we must
serve each other.
The book is available from amazon
in both print and digital formats.


ICCFA Magazine


Astrals sales representatives and management team at its annual meeting.

The ebook also includes a FAQ document

with links and contact information, as well
as specific instructions on how to apply for
benefits and services. 925.968.9495;;
n Astral INDUSTRIES, Lynn, Indiana,
recently honored sales representatives
who had far exceeded annual benchmarks.
Doug Roberts, Williamsburg, Kentucky, was
named Sales Representative of the Year. Rick
Klepacz, Chicago, Illinois, was presented
with the Rookie of the Year Award, and Curtis Cox, Williamsburg, Kentucky, was given
the Most Promotional Caskets Sold Award.
The awards were presented during the companys annual national sales meeting.
n ASD, Media, Pennsylvania, has unveiled
a new version of its
award-winning mobile
app, ASD Mobile 3.
The companys patentpending MobileFH feature is one of the
additions to the enhanced app. The app
allows users to show the funeral homes
number as the outgoing caller ID when
calling from a cell phone, to hear a recording of every call that is connected through
MobileFH and to monitor the funeral
home staff s communication by listening to
at-need, pricing or preneed calls before and
after they are patched.;
n DoDGE, Billerica, Massachusetts, has
hired Joe Nindes and John Schlottman as
sales representatives. Hindes will be serving the Pennsylvania territory previously
served by Russ Thomas, now retired. Hindes
received his funeral serice education at

Northampton Community College, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and has been a licensed

funeral director and embalmer in the state
since 1984, most recently practicing in
Lancaster. Schlottman, husband of Debbie Schlottman, Dodges representative for
Southern California and Hawaii, is in charge
of the Central California Valley territory. A
veteran of the Marine Corps, he completed
his mortuary science education at Cypress
College and has studied at Orange Coast
College and the University of California,
Irvine. For the past three years, he operated
a trade service near Los Angeles.
n Funeral TOuch Screens, Grand
Rapids, Michigan, has been created as a
separate group to better serve the funeral home industry. Adaptive Projections
launched the Time to Remember largeformat touch-screen product line several
years ago. The product group now includes
newly designed large touch-screen LCD
displays measuring from 32 to 70 inches
diagonally. These brilliant, rugged, thin,
interactive, high-definition displays feature
an integral PC with easy-to-use software
application templates. Funeral directors personalize the funeral experience by adding
visitor interactivity. Family and guests enjoy
photos and videos at their convenience with
simple hand motions directly on the screen.
This versatile tool can also be used for
digital lobby signage, guest registry, in the
sales process to interactively present services or to keep children busy with screen
drawing or games. A variety of stands,
mounting options and elegant furniture
pieces are available to complement the
system. 734.765.7435;;
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