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2006

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Cover photo of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park by Miller Outcalt.
January 2006
  • Effects of Embalming after Interment
    Ron Hast
    Ron responds to colleague opinion about the perception of client families regarding the lasting effects of embalming.

  • Colleague Wisdom:
    Client Perception about Embalming

    We asked colleagues, “What do you believe is the perception of client families about the lasting effects of embalming after interment?”

  • Just Conversation
    Ron Hast
    A look at the concern by most funeral directors regarding presentation of the deceased, presentation of your information on business cards and advertising, Gypsy (Roma) clientele, advertising benefits achieved by accident, lapel pins, automated telephone answering systems and a Northwest funeral director who pointed with pride to his new water feature in the lobby of his funeral home.

  • Memorial Products
    Douglas O. Meyer
    New memorial products seem to come on the market every week. Some of these products seem strange, even bizarre, to me, but an item that strikes me as strange will be exactly what someone else is looking for. You shouldn’t assume that just because a company is offering a product in your state that it’s legal to use.

  • To Write or Not to Write
    Are You the Best Writer for Your Business? Part 2

    Kim Stacey
    Last month I shared with you ways to create powerful sales and informational copy on your own. But what should you do if you don’t have time? Then it’s time to turn to a professional writer — but it’s essential you are hiring someone who has an appreciation of the unique business you are in! After all, you’re not selling cars, toasters or carpeting.

  • Improving Your Professional Skills
    Brian J. Porteous
    Most funeral directors have the ability to improve their on-the-job performance by 25-50% without reading a book, without taking another seminar or learning new professional skills. Follow these steps in improving your professional performance.

  • Funeral Homes in the Online Community
    Patrick Davis
    With the advent of the Internet, coast-to-coast and international communications markets exploded. From the simple use of email to complex online commerce, the Internet affords almost instantaneous, destination-based communications solutions for nearly every person in the modernized world. Where does the question of your funeral business fit into the realm of the online community?
  • Body Parts Trafficking Probed at Funeral Homes (Brooklyn, New York)
    A ring of body parts traffickers, harvesting from corpses at funeral homes, is being investigated by the district attorney’s office.
  • Priest Likely Killed Funeral Home Employees (Hudson, Wisconsin)
    A Catholic priest who hanged himself likely killed two people at a funeral home more than three years ago.
  • Some Angered by FEMA’s Kenyon Contract (Shelbyville, Louisiana)
    Some funeral directors were angered at FEMA’s decision to hire Kenyon International Emergency Services to spearhead disaster mortuary services.
  • State Board Probes Mistaken Cremation (Laurel, Maryland)
    The body of a 20-month-old girl was mistakenly cremated when it was supposed to be prepared for burial.
  • CJD Has Funeral Directors Spooked (Boise, Idaho)
    Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, suspected in the deaths of seven people in the state, apparently has some funeral directors spooked.
  • GPS Technology Enters Funeral World (London, England)
    A British architect has initiated the use of Global Positioning Satellite to usher in the next wave of cemetery memorialization.
  • Widow Wants Husband’s Body at Home (Chester, Connecticut)
    A widow wants her late husband to remain buried on their property at home, but town officials aren’t pleased with that.
  • Australian Death Care Going Green (Sydney, Australia)
    Several recent developments in the Australian funeral industry are aiming to make funerals more ecologically sound.
  • Body Mix-Up Upsets Mourners (Durban, South Africa)
    A family has alleged that Central Funeral Services placed the body of another man into a coffin meant for their uncle.
  • Hawaiians Torn Over Fate of Funeral Items (San Francisco, California)
    A federal appeals court will hear the case brought by two native Hawaiians over a dispute about funeral items originally housed in Honolulu’s Bishop Museum.
  • Looters Cash in on Ancient Artifacts (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)
    Looking for ancient artifacts to sell, poor villagers have looted around 100 historic sites, discarding piles of human bones.
  • Reborn Dolls Used For Grieving (Pensacola, Florida)
    “Reborn” dolls, which are replicated to look like a real baby, are among the latest trends in memorialization.
  • Couple Attends Wrong Funeral (Cheltenham, England)
    An elderly couple could not believe their eyes when they went to their friend’s wake — and he opened the door.
  • Sheriff Seizes Cemetery Records (Carlsbad, Texas)
    Sheriff’s officials seized records at Sunset Gardens Memorial Cemetery due to complaints regarding agreements people had made with the cemetery.
  • Family Sues City in Land Dispute (Alpine City, Utah)
    A family has filed a lawsuit against the Alpine City, claiming the city is preventing them from selling their property because it wants to acquire it for a cemetery expansion.
  • Ice Age Burial Discovered (Austria)
    A pair of ice-age human infants, possibly twins, has been found buried together on a hillside overlooking the Danube in northern Austria.
  • Last Call Poker (Los Angeles, California)
    A millionaire poker fanatic created the website Last Call Poker (www.lastcallpoker.com) and willed $5 million to keep it going from beyond the grave.
  • Swedes May Be Freeze-Dried (Jonkoping, Sweden)
    The Swedish town of Jonkoping hopes to pioneer freeze drying to bodies for burial.
  • Advisors Believe Lenin’s Body Should be Buried (Moscow, Russia)
    The embalmed body of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin, residing in a mausoleum, should be moved to a cemetery, according to some Soviet officials.
  • A Cemetery Land Rush (Orlando, Florida)
    A recent digital survey at the 125-year-old Greenwood Cemetery has discovered unused land could be used for thousands of new spaces, causing a rush on plots.
  • SCI Taking Softer Sell Approach (West Orange, New Jersey)
    Service Corporation International is softening its approach to market preneed packages.
  • Man Lives with Corpse to Collect Pension (Marseille, France)
    To keep receiving his mother’s monthly pension, a hospital morgue worker lived for five years with his mother’s corpse.
  • Bill to Ban Strip Mall Funeral Providers Withdrawn (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
    A bill that would make it illegal to put funeral homes in strip malls was pulled by the representative who proposed the legislation.
  • Body Exhumed after Mix-Up Discovered (Tasmania)
    The bodies of two women who died on the same day were mixed up at a funeral home.
  • Land Shortage Prompts Cremation Proposal (Yerevan, Armenia)
    Due to a shortage of lands for cemeteries, the RA National Assembly has proposed a bill to allow burial through cremation.
  • “Buy One, Get One” Plan Investigated (Kansas City, Kansas)
    Complaints are being waged against Memorial Park Cemetery, alleging the cemetery has been selling a “buy a pre-paid cemetery lot and get one free plan.”
  • O’Hare Expansion Halted Due to Opposition (Chicago, Illinois)
    A $15 billion expansion of O’Hare Airport was halted by an appeals court hours after it received the go-ahead from the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • Man Lived with Mother’s Corpse for Two Decades (Hyderabad, India)
    An English professor in India had lived with his mother’s corpse for 21 years.
  • Wiccan Wants Emblem on Headstone (Seattle, Washington)
    A man who works at the Seattle office of the Department of Veterans Affairs wants to know why he can’t have his obscure religious beliefs known on his headstone.
  • Lawmakers Look To Curb Funeral Protests (Newkirk, Oklahoma)
    A local lawmaker is hoping to curb protests at funerals by introducing the Oklahoma Funeral Protection Act.
  • Family Awarded After Discord with Burial (Fresno, California)
    A jury found Mountain View Cemetery at fault for negligence and breach of contract for failing to bury a Hmong homemaker in a dignified manner.
  • Four Indicted in Cemetery Plot Tax Scheme (Greenbelt, Maryland)
    Four men face federal charges for allegedly selling millions of dollars worth of false tax deductions involving the donation of cemetery plots to charities.
  • Gambling Bones Found in Ancient Grave (Mazandaran, Iran)
    Archaeologists excavating an ancient cemetery have discovered some 600 pieces of bone used in a gambling game.
  • Women Sought for Mortuary Work (Karachi, Pakistan)
    After receiving complaints about male staff handling female corpses, health authorities are hoping to recruit female mortuary attendants.
  • Burial Artifacts Show Women Were Privileged (Kharand, Iran)
    Archaeologists believe women enjoyed a more privileged status in ancient times because they were buried with more gifts than men were.
  • Ancient Horses Had Their Own Cemetery (Gilan, Iran)
    Excavators have made a surprising discovery at a 3,000-year-old cemetery — a section specific for the burial of horses.
  • Cemetery Still in Disrepair (Santa Fe Springs, California)
    Almost a decade ago, state officials took over Paradise Memorial Park amid a scandal involving the illegal moving of remains, but observers say that very little upkeep has happened.
  • Casket Found in Woods (Fayetteville, West Virginia)
    Fayette County law enforcement officials are investigating why a casket containing a body was dug up and moved to a wooded area.
  • Jazz Funerals Return to Big Easy (New Orleans, Louisiana)
    The traditional jazz funeral procession returned to the city a few months after Hurricane Katrina hit.
  • Mock Funeral Bids Katrina Goodbye (New Orleans, Louisiana)
    Eager to bid the heinous hurricane goodbye, an impromptu entourage of “mourners” held a mock funeral in the French Quarter for Hurricane Katrina.
  • State Takes Over 15 Cemeteries and Funeral Homes (Montgomery, Alabama)
    The state insurance department has taken over 15 funeral homes and cemeteries from Mike Graham and Associates.
  • Thousands Claim Portion of Settlement (West Palm Beach, Florida)
    About 9,000 people have staked a claim in a $100 million settlement against two cemeteries accused of desecrating graves and mishandling burials.
  • Crematory Regulations May Tighten (Concord, New Hampshire)
    New Hampshire crematories may soon face stricter regulations.
  • India Plans More Eco-Safe Crematories (New Delhi, India)
    Compressed natural gas, used to run transport vehicles to reduce pollution, will now be used by more crematoriums.
  • Corpse Frightens Burglar (Amsterdam, Holland)
    Phoning the police is probably not what a Dutch burglar was planning when he broke into a house in The Hague.
  • Woman Is “Married” After Death (Bhopal, India)
    When a 25-year-old died of tuberculosis, her girlfriends decided to honor her last wish — to marry her boyfriend.
  • Woman Erroneously Declared Dead Four Times (Sampues, Colombia)
    A 97-year-old Colombian woman was declared dead four times, but surprisingly, she fooled all her doctors and lived.
  • Unwanted Plants Turned into Coffins (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)
    Invasive, unwanted plant life has now spawned new life in death — as the materials for eco-friendly coffins.
  • Man Auctions Ad Space at his Funeral (New York, New York)
    A man solicited bids on eBay for advertising space at his funeral and beyond, seeking people to advertise on his coffin, in his coffin and at his wake.
  • Cremains Found in Jar Bought at Auction (Skowhegan, Maine)
    When a former funeral director opened a Chinese ginger jar she had purchased at an auction, she knew exactly what was inside — human remains.
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Cover photo of Matanuska Glacier in Alaska by Allan Abbott.
February 2006
  • Learning From Others
    Ron Hast
    Every day can be a learning experience. We are constantly reminded about the value of education — and how it relates to the quality of life. It rarely matters what field or subject is embraced — it is all mental exercise, and generally rewarding.

  • Just Conversation
    Ron Hast
    A look at an example of telephone habits overtaking good sense, two priests competing for graveside service, Seinfeld's comments on classic car collecting, and the presence of trade publications in public areas of the funeral home.

  • Preneed Insurance
    Douglas O. Meyer
    Preneed insurance can help provide a future revenue stream to your mortuary, but it can also cause you some problems if you’re not careful.

  • Things Just Ain’t the Way They Used to Be
    Robert Brown
    We both function “out of time and place” and are still living in another era — an era when cremation comprised an infinitesimal percentage of the country’s total final disposition.

  • Preneed 101:
    The Good, the Bad and the “How To”

    Craig Vogel
    With cremation at an all-time high, discounters entering the marketplace and fading family loyalty, many firms are searching for one big thing to preserve and build their profits far into the future — the auto market’s hybrid car, if you will. Some believe the funeral industry’s “hybrid” is preneed. But is it?

  • A Visit to Cemetery
    Todd W. Van Beck
    One of the outcomes of my return visits to my home state is that I take the time to drive throughout the countryside. I always visit certain places that hold exclusive memories for just me — no one else cares about or knows of these places, and that is just fine, for to explain their significance takes way too much time, and is really nobody’s business except mine.
  • Alderwoods Wants Family to Shut Business (DeLisle, Louisiana)
    Alderwoods Group has asked a federal judge to shut down a funeral home because the owners have split with their group.
  • UCLA Wants to Reopen Donated Cadaver Program (Los Angeles, California)
    UCLA will seek permission to reopen its donated body program, which was suspended following allegations of theft of body parts for illegal donation.
  • Cemetery Closed Pending Investigation (Knoxville, Tennessee)
    The attorney general’s office has shut down Halls Memory Gardens pending an investigation of fraud into the cemetery’s owner, manager and those linked to the business.
  • Cemetery Bookkeeper Pleads Not Guilty (Polson, Montana)
    A former Lake View Cemetery Association bookkeeper has pleaded not guilty to theft after an audit found more than $34,000 missing.
  • Abandoned Cremains are a Growing Concern (Boston, Massachusetts)
    With the number of cremations projected to reach nearly 1.5 million by 2025, the Cremation Association of North America believes about 70,000 of those remains may go unclaimed.
  • Employee Files Discrimination Suit Against Alderwoods (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
    The former supervisor of the Burton L. Hirsch Funeral Home has filed a federal complaint alleging religious harassment and discrimination against Alderwoods Group, which owns the funeral home.
  • Funeral Home Faces Complaints (Hamden, Connecticut)
    State officials are investigating the Colonial Funeral Home after a family claimed the funeral home kept their family member’s body months after his death.
  • Cremation Promoted Due to Space Shortage (New Delhi, India)
    As burial space becomes scarce in India, Christians are being asked to consider cremation.
  • Woman Says Funeral Prep was Botched (Alton, Illinois)
    Police are investigating a family’s complaint that Williams Mortuary failed to properly embalm and clothe their loved one.
  • Headstone Remove to Prevent Repossession (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada)
    Fearing repossession, a widow removed the headstone from her husband’s grave.
  • Man Wakes after Being Declared Dead (Detroit, Michigan)
    After being declared dead, a 51-year-old man awoke, startling his family when he opened his eyes.
  • Mummy Predating Incas Discovered (Lima, Peru)
    The remains of the oldest mummy ever found in Lima have been unearthed by archaeologists.
  • Gulf Coast Funeral Homes Still Face Challenges (New Orleans, Louisiana)
    Cemeteries on the Gulf Coast are still trying to return to normal after the wrath of Hurricane Katrina.
  • Limo Ticketed Outside Funeral Home (Ramsbottom, England)
    Officials have cancelled a parking ticket issued to a limousine outside a funeral home.
  • Hanging Mistaken for Halloween Decoration (Frederica, Delaware)
    In a macabre discovery, the body of a woman hanging from a tree in late October went unreported for hours because passersby thought the body was a Halloween decoration.
  • Bogus Funeral Directors Doing Business (Durban, South Africa)
    An investigation has found that more than 200 bogus funeral parlors in the greater Durban area have been doing business with government institutions.
  • Record-Setting Corpse Flower Blooms (Berlin, Germany)
    The world’s tallest flower — the corpse flower — has bloomed at the Stuttgart botanical garden.
  • Industry Preps for Bird Flu (Victoria, Australia)
    The Australian government is anticipating a bird flu pandemic, prompting talks with the funeral industry.
  • Do Elephants Honor Their Dead? (Kenya, Africa)
    Scientists now think African elephants know when they are in the presence of their long-dead ancestors.
  • Suspended for Storing Remains (Glendale, California)
    State investigators have suspended a cemetery’s license after it found the cremated remains of as many as 4,000 people stacked in storage rooms and tossed in a trash bin.
  • Inventor Touts Sky Burial (Moscow, Russia)
    Inventors and engineers in Russia are testing a device that would launch the cremains of the dead into the air via balloons.
  • Vertical Cemetery Hits Snags (Camperdown, Australia)
    A controversial proposal for the Western world’s first vertical cemetery has been put on hold.
  • Implants May Have Come from Illegal Sources (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
    Canadians who received tissue transplants need to be tested for infectious diseases after it was discovered the U.S. supplier may have illegally procured them from corpses at funeral homes.
  • Funeral Home Snared in Drug Raid (Gloversville, New York)
    Police raided Hollenbeck Funeral Home and found suspects tossing crack cocaine into caskets.
  • Funeral Industry Plagued with Violations (Prague, Czech Republic)
    The Czech Retail Inspection office has found that 66% of the funeral establishments inspected are not operating according to regulations.
  • Katrina Victims May Have Been Improperly Cremated (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
    The state medical examiner is investigating improper cremations of Hurricane Katrina victims.
  • Grave Site Sheds Light on Ancient Polynesians (Vanuatu, Polynesia)
    Early Polynesia settlers honored their dead with much ceremony, archaeologists have learned.
  • Power Outages Cause Grief after Hurricane Wilma (Royal Palm Beach, Florida)
    After Hurricane Wilma pounded the area, funeral homes that lost power were unable to keep bodies cooled.
  • Warrior Buried in Fighting Pose (Tehran, Iran)
    Archaeologists have found the skeleton of a warrior buried holding a dagger in an attack pose in a 3,000-year-old gravesite.
  • Cemetery Head Charged with Fraud (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
    The former superintendent of Rodef Shalom Congregation’s West View cemetery has been charged with theft and fraud.
  • Germans Seek Savings through Czech Cremations (Czech Republic)
    To save money on cremations, German funeral directors are seeking the services of Czech crematoriums.
  • Association Calls for More Regulation (Johannesburg, South Africa)
    The United Funeral Association of South Africa has called on government to regulate the funeral industry.
  • Cremation Center Files Defamation Suit (Cadillac, Michigan)
    Claiming defamation may hurt potential business, Oak Grove Cremation Center has filed suit against the director of Peterson Funeral Home.
  • Graves of Aryan Nomads Unearthed (Yerevan, Armenia)
    Archeologists have unearthed burial mounds that they believe contain remains and trinkets from ancient Aryan nomads.
  • Few Coffin Craftsmen Remaining (Liuzhou, China)
    Coffin-making in China isn’t the big business it used to be.
  • Mystery of Urn’s Ashes Solved (St. Louis, Missouri)
    When a woman purchased a small ceramic urn from a street vendor, she got more than she bargained for.
  • Ashes Not Beamed Up As Planned (Los Angeles, California)
    The ashes of Star Trek actor James Doohan were to have been launched into space aboard a rocket, but engine trouble grounded the trip.
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Cover photo of a rose by Greg Abbott.
March 2006
  • Facing Realistic Trends
    Ron Hast
    An abundance of information continues to confirm the trends of death care and funeral choices in the United States. These unofficial statistics, unlike escalating percentages reported by various organizations and associations, reveal a much more profound effect of trends.

  • Just Conversation
    Ron Hast
    A look at a downside of losing weight, personalization in funerals, funeral directors providing identification for personnel, and the Forum — the official journal of the National Funeral Directors Association of Southern Africa.

  • Powers of Attorney
    Douglas O. Meyer
    Funeral directors are frequently presented with powers of attorney documents. While intended to be a straightforward authorization for one person to act on behalf of another, these documents frequently confuse both the persons signing them and the persons presented with them.

  • Behind the Wheel
    Sharon Verbeten
    Historic autos are avid passion for Wisconsin funeral director. Driving an antique car is a treat for both the owner and for those who watch the sleek piece of automotive history drive down the road.

  • If Jerry Maguire Were a Funeral Director
    Brian J. Porteous
    The most famous line from the movie Jerry Maguire is, undoubtedly, the mantra “Show me the money!” It’s a great line, but I don’t believe that it is the richest line in the movie.

  • The Answer, My Friend, Is Blowin’ in the Wind
    Patrick Davis
    Cremation presents real options that afford expressive and creative solutions for end-of-life celebration.

  • Green Burial
    Ron Hast
    Recent national public media articles about green burials (the burial of bodies without casket or vault) have generated speculation. The masterful works of Tyler Cassity, the young gentlemen who tackled the resurrection of the famed Hollywood Cemetery in Hollywood, California, is apparently the inspiration of the subject.

  • Mortician Faces Extortion Charges (Fort Lewis, Washington)
    A mortician at Fort Lewis was charged with demanding kickbacks from a local funeral director to perform services with soldiers’ remains.
  • Funerals “Greening” in Japan (Tokyo, Japan)
    The funeral industry across Japan is beginning to embrace ways to make burials more earth-friendly.
  • Florida Facing Dearth of Cadavers (Gainesville, Florida)
    With fewer people donating their bodies to science in Florida, a dearth of cadavers is creating concerns in the scientific and medical communities.
  • Just in Case of an Emergency (Dublin, Ireland)
    Obsession over cell phones has sunk to new depths, as a growing number of people have been requesting that their cell phones be buried with them.
  • New Anatomical Exhibit Falls Under Fire (New York, New York)
    The bodies in the new show “Bodies… the Exhibition” have medical ethicists and human rights advocates questioning whether the show’s specimens were legally obtained.
  • Logging Truck Plows into Cemetery (Bowdon, Georgia)
    A truck driver was trying to avoid hitting a deer when he swerved his logging truck into the 200-year-old cemetery.
  • Graveyard Games (Los Angeles, California)
    Most people consider a cemetery a sacred place, but several cemeteries this year were sites of the Graveyard Games.
  • City Faces Dispute after Bodies Moved (Dillon, Montana)
    After his parents were buried in the wrong cemetery plot, dug up and reburied without his knowledge, a man is seeking damages from the city.
  • Infamous Crematory’s Land Placed in Trust (Noble, Georgia)
    Eager to put the infamous case of the Tri-State Crematory behind her, the mother of the crematory operator has signed an agreement to place part of the property into a trust.
  • Ancient Chilean Tribes Had Elaborate Burial Rituals (San Miguel De Azapa, Chile)
    Archaeologists have learned that the Chinchorro tribe had some pretty elaborate ways to mummify their dea.
  • Man’s Bizarre Tribute to Mom (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
    The son of a Philadelphia Eagles fan thought a fitting last tribute to his mother would be to sprinkle her ashes on the gridiron.
  • Ill-Prepared for Power Outages (Lauderhill, Florida)
    With losses reaching the millions after Hurricane Wilma, funeral industry officials relied too heavily on government officials for assistance, according to some observers.
  • Another Body Farm Proposed (Cedar Falls, Iowa)
    A biological anthropology professor at the University of Northern Iowa hopes to secure a national grant to establish a body farm.
  • Man Sentenced for Breaking into Crypt (Newburyport, Massachusetts)
    A 19-year-old man was sentenced to in prison after pleading guilty to charges of breaking into a crypt and removing remains.
  • Third Time’s the Charm for Elderly Woman (Botosani, Romania)
    A 72-year-old pensioner who bought her first coffin a decade ago has purchased a third.
  • Cemetery Association Treasurer Sent to Prison (Wichita, Kansas)
    A man who stole $176,239 from a cemetery association while serving as the group’s treasurer has been sentenced to federal prison.
  • Controversial Crescent Replaced at 9/11 Memorial (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
    Amid controversy, a key design element of the Flight 93 memorial has been replaced.
  • Soldiers Disciplined after Burning Taliban Bodies (Afghanistan)
    Two U.S. soldiers have been reprimanded for burning the bodies of two Taliban fighters because cremation is forbidden under Islam.
  • Woman Left for Cremation Saved by Funeral Director (Beijing, China)
    Unable to afford hospital treatment, a man left his wife at a funeral home for cremation, but the woman was saved when a funeral director spotted tears in her eyes.
  • Appeal Dies in Mortuary Dispute (Cheyenne, Wyoming)
    The Wyoming Supreme Court has ruled against a funeral director in his appeal to reverse a district court’s order on his dispute with another local mortuary.
  • Costco Tests Caskets in More Stores (Laguna Niguel, California)
    Expanding on its online casket sales, warehouse giant Costco has added kiosks at four stores in Southern California.
  • Injunction Affects O’Hare Expansion (Chicago, Illinois)
    A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked the city from taking over a cemetery that is in the path of a planned expansion of O’Hare International Airport.
  • No Horsin’ Around at This Funeral (Midway, Kentucky)
    Horses reign supreme in Kentucky, so it’s not unusual to hear about a horse funeral and cremation.
  • CDC Warns of New Bacterial Illness (Atlanta, Georgia)
    A deadly bacterial illness commonly seen in people on antibiotics appears to be growing more common.
  • Cemetery Owner Sentenced (Carlsbad, New Mexico)
    The co-owner of a Carlsbad cemetery has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for disturbing a marked burial ground.
  • Roman Burial Ground Stuns Archaeologists (Rome, Italy)
    Complete with marble sarcophagi, a Roman burial ground, previously unknown to archaeologists, has been unearthed.
  • Funeral Industry Helps Prepare for Bird Flu (Australia)
    To better prepare for a pandemic, funeral homes and cemeteries are facing state government audits to determine how many bodies they can handle in a worst-case scenario.
  • Cemetery’s Sculpture Likely Targeted by Art Thieves (Yarmouth, Massachusetts)
    A $10,000 bronze statue is missing from a Cape Cod cemetery and police are saying the disappearance is the work of professional art thieves.
  • Industry Ups Recruiting Efforts (Albany, New York)
    Funeral directors here have been upping their recruiting efforts, attending career days and reaching out to local high schools.
  • Government Weighs Industry Changes (New South Wales, Australia)
    Australians may be facing new funeral service options — such as cardboard coffins and grave reuse — if the recommendations of a parliamentary inquiry are implemented.
  • First Exhumation in Body Snatching Probe (Queens, New York)
    A probe is widening amid allegations that funeral homes and biomedical facilities took tissue and organs from corpses without proper authorization.
  • Grief Dog Featured in Calendar (Ellwood City, Pennsylvania)
    A dog that serves as a funeral home grief counselor is featured on a national 2006 calendar.
  • Holiday Grave Decorations Sold Well (Toledo, Ohio)
    Over the Christmas holiday, this state saw an upswing in sales of evergreen-bough blankets and other holiday grave decorations.
  • Invention Eases Casket Transportation (Holly Township, Michigan)
    The former director of Rock Island National Cemetery wanted a better way to transport caskets to graves, so he began designed a swiveling casket carrier mounted on a four-wheeler.
  • Mayor Suggests Death be Outlawed (Biritiba Mirim, Brazil)
    With no more room to bury its dead and a law preventing cemetery expansion, a Brazilian farm town mayor suggested death be outlawed.
  • Lawmaker Wants Casket Bill Passed (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
    Under Oklahoma law, only licensed funeral directors can sell caskets, but state representative wants to change that.
  • Jesus Statue Stolen from Funeral Home (Lindenwald, Ohio)
    Over the Christmas holiday, thieves stole a 100-year-old baby Jesus statue from the Nativity scene in front of a funeral home.
  • Daughter’s Grave Relocated After Hurricane (Long Beach, Mississippi)
    Hurricane Katrina not only stole a couple’s home and possessions, it also separated them from their 2-1/2-year-old daughter’s gravesite.
  • Broadcaster’s Bones Snatched in Notorious Theft (London, England)
    The bones of late broadcaster Alistair Cooke were stolen before his cremation and are thought to have been sold for transplants.
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Cover photo of the Byodo-In Temple in the Valley of the Temples Cemetery on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, by Greg Abbott.
April 2006
  • Clarification
    Ron Hast
    Opposing opinions are, and have always been, welcome in our “Readers’ Forum” section. However, our printing and commenting on this material should in no way mean that we endorse or agree with the stand they take.

  • Just Conversation
    Ron Hast
    Too many in death care have lost clear focus on the primary purpose of this service; an example of unimpressive customer service; the wisdom of carefully choosing sensitive words; a funeral home uses its message board in a humorous way; and some interesting quotes to enjoy.

  • Some Suggestions about Your Funeral Home
    Douglas O. Meyer
    On the subject of funeral home design and interiors, Doug passes along some suggestions and thoughts about the physical layout and attributes of the funeral homes that can ehance service and protect against liability.

  • We’ve Provoked Rules
    Ron Hast
    Ron addresses some questionable sales techniques and pricing policies that in some cases have caused regulatory agencies to step in.

  • Simplicity with Elegance in Death Care
    Brian J. Porteous
    In collaboration with funeral home architectural firm J. Stuart Todd, Ron follow's up his all-time most popular article, “Funeral Home of the Future” with another design presentation emphasizing the current trend towards cremation, simplification and personalization. The layout, which is entirelly displayed, incorporates a modular add-on concept to accommodate different services to be offered.

  • Relics of the Past: Museum of Funeral Customs Chronicles History of Profession, Rituals
    Sharon Verbeten
    The Museum of Funeral Customs in Springfield, Illinois, uses relics of the funeral industry’s past to establish a framework for the public to better understand an often-misunderstood profession.
  • Body Ends Up in Landfill (Holland, Michigan)
    The state mortuary board is investigating how a body at a funeral home was mistaken for trash and ended up in a landfill.
  • Settlement in Leaky Casket Suit (Durham, North Carolina)
    After accusing a cemetery of allowing bodily fluids to leak from their mother’s crypt, two women have settled the case out of court.
  • Employee Killed During Service (Denver City, Texas)
    A funeral home employee died when a truck driven by a drunk driver plowed into a church during a funeral service.
  • Man Caught Stealing Flowers from Graves (Benton, Arkansas)
    After being caught on tape, a man was arrested for allegedly stealing flowers and trees planted at family gravesites.
  • Proponents Seek Do-It-Yourself Burial (St. George, Vermont)
    A family wants to turn 50 acres of undeveloped land into a natural burial ground for do-it-yourself burials.
  • Motorcycle Passenger Turns Out to be Corpse (Tijuana, Mexico)
    Police discovered that a passenger on a motorcycle involved in an accident was in fact a corpse that the driver had strapped to his back.
  • Cemetery Investigated for Dumping Oil (Ahuimanu, Hawaii)
    The state Department of Health is investigating the dumping of used cooking oil at Valley of the Temples Memorial Park.
  • Racism Rife in South African Funeral Industry (Johannesburg, South Africa)
    Even with years of overcoming apartheid, racism is still rampant in the country’s funeral industry.
  • Funeral Home Owner Indicted after Drug Raid (Gloversville, New York)
    After being arrested in a drug raid, Hollenbeck Funeral Home owner Steven Blomquist and his girlfriend have been indicted on six charges.
  • Shouting Mourners Take to Hilltop (United Kingdom)
    The incessant shouting and wailing coming from the top of Littleton Leisure Park has baffled villagers for months.
  • Cremated Remains Stolen from Home (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
    A police sergeant was stunned to return home to find her apartment burglarized and the cremains of her brother stolen.
  • Police Warn of Burglaries During Funerals (Merrillville, Indiana)
    A string of burglaries have been carried out while mourners were at funerals or wakes for family members.
  • Director Injures Wife with Embalming Chemicals (Buffalo, New York)
    After spraying toxic embalming chemicals at his wife, a funeral director was arrested for reckless endangerment.
  • Law Tightens Rules at National Cemeteries (Hagerstown, Maryland)
    President Bush has signed into law a bill that includes a provision that would broaden the list of criminals prohibited from having their remains placed at national cemeteries.
  • Woman Stores Husband’s Body in Suitcase (New York, New York)
    It wasn’t until neighbors noticed a foul smell that police discovered the body of a man in a suitcase.
  • More Germans Seeking Cremations Across Border (Czech Republic)
    Despite German government attempts to hinder cross-border business, crematoria in the Czech Republic are doing a booming trade with Germany.
  • County Considers Cremation for Indigents (Travis County, Texas)
    County commissioners are discussing indigent burial service, including considering cremation as an alternative to the traditional burials it provides for indigents.
  • Islamic Rule Trumps Burial Wishes of Widow (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
    Against the wishes of a Hindu widow, Islamic authorities gave her husband a Muslim burial.
  • Sons Sue Cemetery Over Missing Remains (Chicago, Illinois)
    Two men have filed a lawsuit against a Chicago cemetery they claim lost their father’s remains.
  • Funeral Director Nabbed on Pornography Charges (Washington County, Wisconsin)
    A funeral director who is facing child pornography charges is being investigated for an online relationship with a child.
  • Dead Man Coughing (Lisbon, Portugal)
    A man in a hospital mortuary was heard coughing several hours after he was declared dead.
  • Crematorium Ban Planned at Old Site (Liverpool, England)
    Environmental concerns could lead to a ban on cremations at one city site.
  • Former Cemetery Manager Charged with Felony (Homestead, Pennsylvania)
    A North Side cemetery office manager has been charged with embezzling more than $200,000.
  • Officials Scrutinize Funeral Industry (Australia)
    The Victorian and New South Wales parliaments have been holding inquiries into the funeral industry.
  • Cremation on Rise in Trinidad (Port of Spain, Trinidad)
    Latest figures show a growing number of Trinidadians are choosing cremation over traditional burials.
  • Casket Stunt Lands Producers in Court (Genk, Belgium)
    Producers of a Candid Camera-like show have ended up in court for their funeral home prank.
  • Funeral Home Reincarnated into Hot Dog Joint (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
    The newest restaurant in the trendy part of the city used to be a funeral parlor.
  • Poll Shows Interest Up in Living Wills (Washington, D.C.)
    People are more likely these days to plan for their own death or talk to close relatives about the subject that many have long been inclined to avoid.
  • Vets Sue Cemetery Over Promised Memorial (Glendora, California)
    Seventeen veterans are suing Oakdale Memorial Park, claiming the cemetery failed to build a promised veterans memorial.
  • Prisoner Views Funeral on Video (Belfast, Ireland)
    For the first time, a convicted robber watched a funeral for a family member on a video link from his prison cell.
  • Some Historic Books Bound in Human Skin (Providence, Rhode Island)
    Several books in some of the nation’s most prestigious libraries have been bound in human skin.
  • Remnants on Grave Possibly from Coffin (South Wales)
    Two sisters visiting their mother’s new grave found remnants believed to be part of their father’s coffin.
  • Funeral Director Helps Solve Mystery (Manchester, New Hampshire)
    A funeral director has been honored for his role in solving the mystery of a man wanted by authorities.
  • Cremation Ground Restored to Religious Groups (Kabul, Afghanistan)
    A funeral site destroyed by the Taliban has been restored to the Sikh and Hindu communities.
  • Mortuary Faces Probe in Missing Money (Alton, Illinois)
    After a complaint from a client, a mortuary is facing a probe into a missing $3,500.
  • Cliff Tombs Discovered (Shangluo, China)
    Local archaeologists have found more than 4,220 cliff tombs at 680 sites in western China’s Shaanxi Province.
  • Man Can’t Keep Parents’ Corpses on Ice (Angers, France)
    A man was ordered to either bury or cremate his dead parents, who have been kept for years in deep-freeze in the cellar of his home.
  • Too Much TV (Madisonville, Ohio)
    The mummified body of a woman who didn’t want to be buried has been found in a chair in front of her TV where she died 2-1/2 years prior.
  • Woman Donates Body to Exhibit (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
    A Toronto woman has become the first Canadian to donate her body for public display after she dies.
  • Man Seals Dead Mother in Wardrobe (Aqui Terme, Italy)
    An Italian man stashed away the body of his 71-year-old mother when she died three years ago.
  • Funerals Could be Outlawed in Case of Pandemic (New Zealand)
    Frightened by the possibility of a bird flu pandemic, New Zealand’s Funeral Directors Association says it will outlaw funerals if that happens.
  • Non-Orthodox Face Burial Issues (Athens, Greece)
    The country’s non-Orthodox communities are facing a shortage of sanctioned burial grounds.
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Cover photo of a hibiscus flower in Hawaii by Greg Abbott.

May 2006
  • Competition
    Ron Hast
    It is natural to be negative about our competition — we don't like others on our turf attracting business away from us. Often fueled by frustration, the subject comes up more often than it should.

  • Just Conversation
    Ron Hast
    Professional funeral service specialist answering services; the belief that preaching the value of traditional funerals will turn the trends of cremation preference; a van with plastic landau panel being used instead of a hearse; the former tradition of used veils to cover the decedent; and a funeral director who used roses as a sensitive gesture to the family.

  • Selling Your Funeral Home
    Douglas O. Meyer
    If you are thinking of selling your business, you should consider and understand a number of things, both practical and legal in nature, before you start the sale process.

  • An Environmental Journey of 10 Years
    Paul Rahill, President of Matthews Cremation Division
    The regulation development process for human and animal crematories that began in 1996 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did not have any regulations covering the design, installation and operation of human or animal crematories, leaving this process to the individual states and provinces to deal with as they may. (Article includes “Mercury Update” sidebar and “Excerpt of Funeral Regulations for Other Solid Waste Incineration.”

  • The 100 Hours of Work Before Buying or Selling Your Business
    Daniel M. Isard
    The definitive guideline of the work that needs to be done by the buyer or the seller in preparation for the sale or purchase of a funeral business.
  • Jury Says No Financial Damages for Mix-Up (Torrance, California)
    A jury has decided that no damages are due to the family of a woman whose ashes were scattered by others following a mix-up.
  • FDA Shuts Down Biomedical Firm (Fort Lee, New Jersey)
    Amid controversy into illegal harvesting, the Food and Drug Administration has shut down BioMedical Tissue Services.
  • Charges Dropped after Suspect Dies (Tacoma, Washington)
    A Fort Lewis casualty affairs officer who faced charges of extortion and bribery died of a heart attack before he could be tried.
  • Hindus, Sikhs Seek Funeral Pyres (Gosforth, England)
    The European Court of Human Rights has been petitioned to ensure that dead bodies of Hindus and Sikhs are cremated on traditional funeral pyres.
  • 500-Year-Old Burial Site Uncovered (Miami, Florida)
    While excavating two American Indian burial sites in downtown Miami, archaeologists have found hundreds of remains piled in limestone fissures.
  • Death and Taxes Rear Ugly Head (New Brunswick, Canada)
    Outraged at the sales tax she had to pay on the cost of her son’s funeral, a woman started a campaign to have the federal government drop the tax.
  • Ancient Coins Unearthed in Grave (Xi’an, China)
    More than 150 coins from different dynasties and 60 ceramic utensils have been found in a tomb dating back more than 600 years.
  • Man Auctions Funeral Voucher (Auckland, New Zealand)
    A recent online auction saw heated bidding for a $5,000 funeral voucher.
  • Vertical Cemetery Franchise Possible (Victoria, Australia)
    A franchise of vertical cemeteries may be possible in the future.
  • Body Mix-Up Stuns Family (Huntsville, Alabama)
    The family of deceased woman was shocked to find another body in the casket at their 84-year-old mother’s funeral.
  • Jogging with the Dead (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
    Visitors to cemeteries may soon be able to exercise on running tracks while they visit their loved ones.
  • Cemetery Subsidies Could Impact Industry (Kent, England)
    Funeral directors are concerned about the city council cutting the subsidy it makes to its cemetery service.
  • Supreme Court Upholds Suicide Law (Washington, D.C.)
    The Supreme Court has upheld Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide, rejecting a Bush administration attempt to punish doctors who help terminally ill patients die.
  • Humorous Billboards Shock Some (Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada)
    A new preneed ad campaign is causing people to take notice and question its message.
  • Woman Sinks at Soggy Gravesite (Monmouth, Oregon)
    Wet weather gave one resident a spook recently when it caused her to sink into a fresh grave.
  • Mausoleum Planned for Upscale Clients (Boca Raton, Florida)
    A developer is creating a luxury cemetery where deceased can be ensconced in marble mausoleums with price tags up to $700,000.
  • Funeral Home Sees More Pet Arrangements (Hilton Head, South Carolina)
    Growing numbers of Americans are choosing cremation not only for their family’s deceased, but for their pets as well.
  • Protest Bill Passes State Senate (Bedford, Indiana)
    The Indiana State Senate has passed a bill aimed at restricting protest demonstrations at funerals.
  • Parents Upset over Delay of Ashes (Raleigh, North Carolina)
    A family says it had trouble getting their baby’s remains from a cremation service used by local hospitals.
  • Subway Commuter May Have Been Dead for Hours (New York, New York)
    It is believed that a dead man rode the subway train for several hours overnight.
  • College Opens Funeral Museum (Norwood, Massachusetts)
    The FINE Mortuary College has opened its collection of funeral memorabilia to the public.
  • Grave Markers Stolen (British Columbia, Canada)
    Several metal plaques have been stolen from headstones at Qualicum Beach graveyard.
  • Man Dies After Driving into Cemetery Pond (Indianapolis, Indiana)
    A man died after driving into a pond at Washington Park North Cemetery.
  • Human Rights Group Urges Legalized Cremation (Athens, Greece)
    Despite opposition from the country’s powerful Orthodox church, the National Committee for Human Rights is urging the government to legalize cremation.
  • Medieval Graveyard Discovered (Leicester, England)
    Developers of a retail complex discovered a large medieval cemetery containing around 1,300 skeletons.
  • Richard Pryor’s Celebrant Service (Hollywood Hills, California)
    After comedian Richard Pryor’s wife chose a certified celebrant to plan a personalized service.
  • Funeral Director Robbed at Knifepoint (Vevay, Indiana)
    A funeral director was robbed at knifepoint in the early morning outside his funeral home.
  • Report Says Maryland Funerals Too Costly (Annapolis, Maryland)
    A recent Washington Post report states that Maryland’s costs may be higher than they need to be.
  • Ancient Roman Tomb Unearthed (Athens, Greece)
    A well-preserved underground tomb belonging to a prominent Roman-era family has been unearthed on the island of Crete.
  • Hundreds of Euthanized Pets Dumped (Chantilly, Virginia)
    Police are investigating how hundreds of animals euthanized at the county shelter ended up being dumped in West Virginia.
  • National Library of Medicine Opens Forensic Exhibit (Bethedsa, Maryland)
    The history of forensics is the focus of a new exhibit at the National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine called Visible Proofs: Forensic Views of the Body.
  • First Burials for Unidentified Katrina Victims (Pascagoula, Mississippi)
    More than five months after the storm, two unidentified victims of Hurricane Katrina were the first of more than 100 unidentified to be buried.
  • Forensic Expert Pens Novel (Knoxville, Tennessee)
    Dr. Bill Bass, expert in forensic anthropology, has written Carved in Bone: A Body Farm Novel, with writing partner Jon Jefferson.
  • Man’s Claims May Prompt State Regulation (Denver, Colorado)
    A former funeral director’s complaints may prompt the state to consider regulating the industry.
  • Numerous States Eye Funeral Protest Bills (Columbus, Ohio)
    More states are seeking bills to limit when and where people may protest at funerals.
  • State to Erect Park as Roadside Memorial (Hockessin, Delaware)
    The state is establishing a memorial park near a highway exit in an effort to cut down on roadside memorials.
  • Tomb of Prehistoric Leader Unearthed (Rome, Italy)
    The ashes of an ancient chief or priest have been unearthed in the heart of the city.
  • Former Employee Wages Complaint in Forgery Case (Bessemer, Alabama)
    Faith Memorial Chapel Funeral Services is being accused of forgery, assault and illegally conducting business.
  • Students May Perform Embalming for Anatomical Board (San Antonio, Texas)
    The mortuary science department at San Antonio College has been asked to have its students complete the initial pickup and embalming of bodies for the Anatomical Board of Texas.
  • Intact Tomb Found in Egypt (Cairo, Egypt)
    What appears to be an intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings has been unearthed.
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Cover photo taken in Inwa, the capital of Myanmar (Burma) for almost 400 years. Photo by Walt Bilofsky .
June 2006
  • A Chain is Only as Strong as Its Weakest Link
    Ron Hast
    Service Corporation International (SCI) is acquiring Alderwoods Group (AWGI), merging the two largest consolidators. Ron comments on the values that these companies embrance, which appear distant from underlying basis of their existence — serving the bereaved with comfort and high standards.

  • Just Conversation
    Ron Hast
    The vernacular of what has typically been referred to as “funeral serivce” is changing; a clever memo that a manager sent to his staff; audio-visual presentations now add a personal dimension to gatherings of friends and relatives upon death; email has become so prevalent that email messages have replaced formal business letters in many cases; the 2006 Mortuary Management/Funeral Monitor Seminar in Reno, Nevada, was as spirited as times past.

  • Keeping Up
    Douglas O. Meyer
    Having just attended an industryseminar, Doug points out, “Some of the funeral home owners who don’t attend seminars and industry conferences have good businesses and don’t get into trouble with their regulatory agency. It’s been my observation, however, that many of those who don't attend seem to struggle.”

  • It's Just a Matter of Time!
    Daniel M. Isard
    A detailed examination of why it makes sense to invest in up-to-date computer equipment and software. Considering that staffing is the single largest expense of your operation, technology can enable you to free up valuable hours of work time that can be put to more efficient use

  • And Now for Something Completely Expected — SCI Swallows Alderwoods Whole
    Sue Simon
    The announcement that Service Corporation International was buying Alderwoods for $865 million in cash plus the assumption of $374 million of Alderwoods’ debt put the gossip to rest. The planned buy is surely good news for independent funeral home owners, who have long loved to compete against any of the conglomerates in terms of both price and service.
  • Freezing Their Assets (Scottsdale, Arizona)
    The financial industry is taking note of the increasing number of wealthy individuals who are hitting the deep freeze, awaiting medical resurrection.
  • Casket Makers Shift to Embrace Cremation (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
    Casket makers are retooling their traditional business approach, offering new products and designs to appeal to cremation customers.
  • Baboons Shown to Grieve Loss (Okavango Delta, Botswana)
    A new study shows that female baboons that suffer the loss of a close friend turn to other baboons for comfort and support.
  • Film Highlights Dog at Master’s Grave (Edinburgh, Scotland)
    A film called The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby is recalling a simple and tragic 19th-century story of a dog who was a devoted companion to the very end.
  • Lawsuit Challenges State’s Funeral Law (Arlington, Virginia)
    Maryland law limits funeral home ownership to licensed funeral directors, but the Institute for Justice has filed a federal suit disputing that law.
  • Officials Hope to Clean Up Industry Standards (Durban, Zimbabwe)
    Health officials in Durban are working to restore proper health and safety standards at many of the small funeral homes that have cropped up in recent years.
  • Flowers on Grave Tradition Has Ancient Roots (Carmarthenshire, Wales)
    Researchers have found that the tradition of laying flowers at a graveside stretches far further back than was previously imagined.
  • Study Explores Dog Burials An extensive new survey of the earliest known dog burials in the Journal of Archaeological Science suggests humans domesticated canines much later than other studies show.
  • City Claims Custody of Unclaimed Hurricane Victims (New Orleans, Louisiana)
    The city is taking custody of more than 200 unidentified or unclaimed victims of Hurricane Katrina.
  • Huge Tomb Found in Macedonian Capital (Pella, Greece)
    In the birthplace of Alexander the Great, archaeologists have unearthed a massive eight-chambered tomb.
  • Domestic Partners Get Help in Burial Disputes (New York)
    A new state law creates a simple, legally binding form anyone can use to designate another person to be in charge of his or her remains.
  • Former Funeral Director Pleads Guilty to Sex Charges (Portville, Pennsylvania)
    A former funeral director has pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual abuse.
  • Woman Charged with Smuggling Human Head (Miami, Florida)
    A woman who packed a skull in her suitcase has been charged with smuggling a human head and failing to declare the head on a customs declaration form.
  • Funeral Home Investigated in Cremains Mix-Up (Louisville, Kentucky)
    The Anderson Funeral Home is under investigation for mixing up cremains.
  • Funeral Home Under Fire from Client (Wilmington, North Carolina)
    A funeral home client claims that when she couldn’t come up with any more money, her mother’s body and casket were out in the parking lot.
  • Widows Met and Will Marry at Funeral Home (Springfield, Ohio)
    Two widows have decided to get married at the same place where they mourned the loss of their spouses.
  • Cemetery Fined over Cremation Emissions Monitoring (Springfield, Massachusetts)
    The state Department of Environmental Protection has fined Springfield Cemetery for failing to properly monitor the airborne by-products of the cremation process.
  • Tri-State Relatives Re-Indicted (Walker County, Georgia)
    The mother and sister of the former operator of Tri-State Crematory have been indicted by a grand jury.
  • Manager Must Pay Back Embezzled Funds (Meridian, Mississippi)
    The former assistant manager of James F. Webb Funeral Home has been ordered to pay restitution of $40,000 he stole from the business.
  • Mourners Snap Photos of Dead in Japan (Tokyo, Japan)
    Mourners at Japanese funerals are using their camera-equipped cell phones to capture a final picture of the deceased.
  • Doctors Recommend Legalizing Organ Sales To meet rising demand, two American doctors have suggested the sale of organs be legalized.
  • Theater Director to Rehearse His Own Funeral (Budapest, Hungary)
    A man with terminal cancer wants to lie in state for a week while still alive so he can experience his own funeral.
  • Son Lists Mother’s Ashes on eBay (Inverness, Scotland)
    A man who said his mother’s last wish was to be taken to different countries worldwide has put her ashes up for auction on eBay.
  • Funeral Home Settles in Antitrust Case (Eugene, Oregon)
    Several clients of a memorial park and funeral home may be due a refund because of an alleged “illegal tying” arrangement.
  • Former Employee Sought for Theft (Clute, Texas)
    A former funeral home employee who allegedly cashed a check for a headstone but never provided the product was doing the work on the side.
  • Man Finds Body in Living Room (Muenchenbuchsee, Switzerland)
    A Swiss man returned home from his vacation to find an unidentified corpse lying on his couch.
  • Retired Director Faces Sex Charges (Port Washington, Wisconsin)
    A retired funeral director has been ordered to stand trial on charges of possessing child pornography and soliciting sex online from a teenage boy.
  • Kennewick Man’s Past Being Uncovered (Washington, D.C.)
    One of the oldest skeletons ever found in North America was likely laid to rest by other people alongside a river more than 9,000 years ago.
  • Coroner Wants to Prepare for Pandemic (Miami, Florida)
    The Miami County coroner has asked county commissioners to stock up on body bags in case of a bird flu pandemic.
  • Designer Brings Tasteful Touches to Funeral Home (Houston, Texas)
    An interior designer and funeral director has filled his funeral home with antique furniture and art he collected over three decades.
  • Grieving Man Stores Wife’s Body in Freezer (Edinburgh, Scotland)
    Agonizing over his wife’s death, an elderly man kept his wife’s body in a freezer because he could not bear to be parted from her.
  • Ancient Graves Unearthed (Dwreca, Poland)
    Five of Europe’s most ancient graves, dating back 10,000 years, have been unearthed.
  • No Charges Filed Over Mummified Body (Cincinnati, Ohio)
    After finding a woman’s mummified body 2-1/2 years after she died, prosecutors have determined no crime was committed.
  • Illegal Harvested Tissue Possibly Diseased (Pensacola, Florida)
    Attorneys are alleging a 65-year-old woman may have contracted HIV from bone tissue she received as part of a routine surgery.
  • Cemetery Fills in Pond to Discourage Geese (Berkley, Michigan)
    Geese have long enchanted visitors to Roseland Park Cemetery, but those beautiful birds may soon be gone.
  • Cemetery Accused of Misusing Trust Funds (Hawaii)
    RightStar, owner and operator of several cemeteries in the state, is under investigation for misuse of funeral preneed trusts.
  • Man Wins First Round in Non-Compete Battle (Gulfport, Mississippi)
    A man will be allowed to operate a funeral home in direct competition with the company that bought his family’s old business.
  • Funeral Home Offers to Host Wedding Receptions (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)
    A funeral home offered to host wedding receptions for couples after a local restaurant they had booked went out of business.
  • Cadaver Shows Clash at Museums (Houston, Texas)
    Faced with both running similar cadaver-themed shows, two museums have shifted their schedules.
  • WTC Memorial Breaks Ground Amid Controversy (New York, New York)
    While construciton began on the World Trade Center memorial, relatives of some of the victims headed to court to fight the plans to build.
  • Underground Chamber was Ancient Embalming Room (Cairo, Egypt)
    A chamber unearthed recently in the Valley of the Kings is not a tomb, but a room used by the ancient Egyptians for mummifying pharaohs.
  • Country Focuses on Elderly Abuse (Sydney, Australia)
    Recent deaths have left the city shocked to realize that someone can die in their home and go unnoticed for months.
  • Farmer Feeds Corpse to Pigs (Frizlar-Haddamar, Germany)
    A farmer has been charged with improper burial and fraud after he confessed to feeding the corpse of an elderly family friend to his pigs.
  • Dozens Injured in Funeral Procession Accident (Jettingen-Scheppach, Germany)
    At least 25 people were seriously injured when a delivery van collided with a funeral procession.
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Cover photo of Waimea Falls in Oahu, Hawaii, by Allan Abbott.
July/August 2006
  • Religion and Funerals
    Ron Hast
    Most funerals have been deeply rooted in a religious theme, without alternative choices available. Patrons unwilling to accept being drawn into a religious experience contribute to trends avoiding funerals altogether.

  • Just Conversation
    Ron Hast
    How expressing sympathies to bereaved families via the Internet on funeral home websites can result in unexpected messages; alternative methods of final care of the deceased; memories of an off-the-wall embalmer; automotive repair costs and extended warranties; and Astral Casket making a special delivery.

  • Swimming with the Tide of Cremation
    Douglas O. Meyer
    As everyone involved with the funeral industry knows, the cremation rate in almost all markets has been increasing rapidly over the last few years. Many in the industry are struggling to adapt to this change in preference from full traditional funerals with all the attendant pomp and circumstance to simple cremations involving little or no ceremonies.

  • Overcoming Family Objections
    The Art of Good Communication

    Brian J. Porteous
    Do you “go through” family objections or do you “grow through” family objections? Successful funeral directors welcome objections and grow through them. They learn to convert objections into satisfied families! Every objection can be managed, even though not all of them can be overcome. Not until you understand and identify a specific objection, however, do you have a realistic chance of overcoming it and developing a satisfied family.

  • Sensitivity a Must for Better Business
    Gloria Lintermans and Marilyn Stolzman, Ph.D., L.M.F.T.
    People are one of a kind, not necessarily wanting to be part of a greater crowd, as a religious service would dictate. This means treating people as individuals and that requires sensitivity on your part in order to understand what they are feeling at a time of sorrow.

  • Celebrating Charlie
    Beacham McDougald
    Beacham writes, “Charlie was a great friend. For many years he owned and operated our local Ford-Mercury dealership, but his contributions to our community and others went well beyond that.” Beacham describes Charlie’s funeral service, featuring a 1922 Model-T with a Henney hearse body that Charlie had admired and worked on.

  • Dying for Advice
    Ray Hennessey
    Undertakers are about to bury financial advisers. There’s a move underway among funeral directors in my home state of New Jersey to begin offering financial planning as a bolt-on to traditional funeral services. If you think the funeral home business doesn’t know anything about finances, think again.
  • Death Rate Declines in U.S. (Atlanta, Georgia)
    Recently released government figures show that the annual number of deaths in the U.S. dropped by nearly 50,000 in 2004 — the biggest decline in nearly 70 years.
  • Grief Study Targets Married Couples (Washington, D.C.)
    A recent study conducted by the University of Michigan found that six months after the death of their partner, nearly half of older people had few symptoms of grief.
  • A Break for Service Member Families (Washington, D.C.)
    President Bush has signed into law Senate bill S1184, which waives the passport fees for certain relatives of deceased members of the Armed Forces traveling abroad to attend a funeral or memorial service for such members.
  • Dead Man Calls His Own Funeral (Novi Sad, Serbia)
    A funeral service was shockingly interrupted when the man who was supposed to be in the coffin called his daughter on her cell phone.
  • Mystery of Old Tombstones Cleared Up (Wentzville, Missouri)
    When a hiker discovered around 100 tombstones in a creek bed, it incited a mystery about where they came from.
  • Preneed Takes on New Meaning (The Netherlands)
    A Dutch entrepreneur is hoping his newest version of extreme sports — “Fun Burials” — will be a success.
  • Director Admits Stealing Preneed Money (Columbus, Ohio)
    A funeral director has admitted to stealing $180,000 from clients’ preneed trusts.
  • Tipsy Hearse Driver Bites Policeman (Berlin, Germany)
    A tipsy hearse driver put up such a fight when asked to take a sobriety test that he bit the police officer.
  • Gay Man Denied Words on Partner’s Crypt (Cranston, Rhode Island)
    When a man asked St. Ann’s Cemetery to inscribe the word “husband” on his partner’s crypt, the Catholic cemetery refused.
  • Funeral Dinners Annoy Local Residents (Shanghai, China)
    Incessant music and crying during funeral dinners at Jia Yuan restaurant are irritating local residents.
  • Widow Sues After Discovery at Funeral (Ramsey County, Minnesota)
    When Kathleen Gohde leaned toward her husband Allan’s casket at his funeral, she was startled by a loud beeping coming from his chest.
  • Dead Man Spends Days Unnoticed (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
    After a passing motorist stopped to check a car on the side of a highway, he realized the car’s driver was dead.
  • Remains Still Being Found at Ground Zero (Manhattan, New York)
    Four-and-a-half years after the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, remains of victims are still being found at Ground Zero.
  • Traffic Stop Uncovers Pension Fraud (Kassel, Germany)
    A 67-year-old man had been collecting his dead brother’s pension for 26 years after taking on his identity.
  • Cell Phones Taken to the Grave
    Researchers are finding that increasing numbers of people are asking to be buried or cremated with their mobile phones.
  • Frenchman Cremates Parents After Freezer Breaks (Nueil-sur-Layon, France)
    A man who had fought a long-running legal battle to keep his parents’ bodies in freezer has cremated them after the freezer broke down.
  • Tombstones Used to Smuggle Drugs (Washington, D.C.)
    The Drug Enforcement Agency has broken up a ring of drug smugglers who used tombstones featuring the Virgin Mary to move hundreds of pounds of cocaine into the United States from Mexico.
  • Funeral Home Employee Locked in Coffin (Almaty, Kazakhstan)
    A funeral home employee got a rude awakening after burglars locked him in a coffin.
  • Obese Woman Sparks Cremation Dispute (Dallas, Texas)
    An obese indigent woman became the center of a dispute between Dallas County and the crematory contracted by the county.
  • Sarcophagus Features Epic Illustrations (Nicosia, Cyprus)
    Archaeologists have unearthed a 2,500-year-old sarcophagus that features vivid color illustrations from Homer’s epics.
  • Family Seeks Recall of Cemetery Officials (Ashby, Massachusetts)
    Three brothers are pushing for the recall of the Glenwood Cemetery Commission after workers allegedly left their father’s vault exposed overnight.
  • Chinese Selling Organs from Prisoners (Shenyang, China)
    To meet the medical needs of the wealthy, hundreds of affluent Japanese are turning to China’s burgeoning human organ transplant industry.
  • Man Not Charged with Keeping Wife in Freezer (Edinburgh, Scotland)
    A 74-year-old man who kept his wife’s body in a freezer will not face criminal charges.
  • Bills Aim to Change Casket ID Issues (Chalmette, Louisiana)
    The state House Commerce Committee has approved a bill that would require funeral homes to include some sort of ID or inscription on each casket.
  • Skull Finding Leaves Investigators Puzzled (Lhasa, Tibet)
    Police in China are investigating whether the discovery of more than 120 human skulls may be part of a growing trade in macabre handicrafts.
  • Couple Fakes Obituary to Avoid Work (Waterloo, Iowa)
    Two people have been arrested and accused of filing a fake obituary.
  • Coin Tossing at Funerals Discouraged (Hongkou District, China)
    While many mourners toss coins in funeral homes and cemeteries to help the spirits of the deceased return to Earth, some officials want to see the practice halted.
  • Obesity Finds Its Niche (Lynn, Indiana)
    While obesity grows among all age groups, manufacturers are seeing the value in supersizing.
  • Stolen Book May Be Covered in Human Skin (Leeds, England)
    A 300-year-old book that appears to be bound in human skin has been found on a street in northern England.
  • Funeral Director Fakes Death (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
    A Colorado Springs funeral director thought he had found the perfect way out of paying child support and student loans by faking his own death.
  • Wake Traditions Threatened by Possible Ban (Ireland)
    The Irish custom of corpses being kept in an open coffin so the deceased can be viewed during the wake has recently gone under fire by an environmental commissioner.
  • SCI to Pay Fine in Dispute (Lewiston, Maine)
    Service Corporation International has agreed to pay a $7,250 fine and to stop using prepaid funeral dollars to invest in the stock market.
  • Elaborate Mausoleums are Increasing Trend (Daytona Beach, Florida)
    Private family mausoleums are the latest trend in perpetual — and elaborate — memorialization.
  • Communism Falls, but Funeral Costs Rise (Moscow, Russia)
    Russians may savor their newfound freedom after the fall of Communism, but an unexpected side effect has been the high cost of death.
  • Victim’s Mother Seeks Change in Funeral Law (Fort Wayne, Indiana)
    A woman whose pregnant daughter and young grandson were murdered is seeking a bill to change state law regarding funeral arrangements.
  • Lender Sues State in Preneed Dispute (Honolulu, Hawaii)
    A lender’s lawsuit is the latest in legal troubles over who is responsible for financial problems at Hawaii’s largest group of cemeteries and preneed funeral trusts.
  • Woman Drives Dead Mother in Car (Berlin, Germany)
    Police fined a 53-year-old German woman who was driving her dead mother across country to save on mortuary transportation costs.
  • Women’s Stolen Remains Uncovered (Staffordshire, England)
    The remains of a woman, stolen several years ago by animal rights activists, have been recovered.
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Cover photo of the Chapel of the Chimes at Wisconsin Memorial Park in Brookfield, Wisconsin.
September 2006
  • Managing the Unexpected
    Ron Hast
    History clearly shows us that tragedies have occurred repeatedly and will continue. We’re never sure what or where something will happen until it does. Flooding, earthquakes, fires, storms and terrorism are threatening forces that can take many lives. But history shows us that disease, out of control, is of the most concerning of all the threats.

  • Colleague Wisdom: Emergency Preparation
    We asked colleagues what provisions they have made for unexpected situations such as power failures and what safety measures they have taken to respond to the unexpected.

  • Just Conversation
    Ron Hast
    Theodore Roosevelt’s ideas on immigrants and being an American, as spoken in 1907; more wisdom from the past, to keep in mind the next time you hear or are about to repeat a rumor; a casket kiosk seems to vanish shortly after being added in a prominent position within a Costco store; some thoughts on security issues for funerals of victims of gang violence; and liability issues related to violence occurring a gang related funerals.

  • Disaster Planning
    Douglas O. Meyer
    Considering terrorist attacks, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and pandemics, the list of potential disasters seems to be getting longer. Before the next disaster strikes, you should give some thought to the possible effects a disaster could have on your business, and what you can do to prepare.

  • Asian Bird Flu: An Update for Embalmers
    James H. Bedino
    Speculation regarding Bird Flue and its worldwide repercussions is running rampant. What are the facts and interrelationships of Bird Flu to human influenza viruses and the consequences of infection among the global population? What do embalmers need to know and do in the event that the worst-case predictions come true?

  • Celebrating Lillian
    Beacham McDougald
    Lillian Buie was a unique lady. For many years she was a high school teacher with a unique connection to her students. Following her death, her son and three daughters created a most memorable and enjoyable memorial service, including video presentation, and a website containing years of information about their mother.
  • Congress Takes Stand on Funeral Protests (Washington, D.C.)
    Demonstrators would be barred from disrupting military funerals at national cemeteries under legislation recently approved by Congress and sent to the White House.
  • Google Ignores Memorial Day (Mountain View, California)
    Known for incorporating holidays another other commemorative events into its home page logo, the search engine Google appears to be ignoring Memorial Day.
  • Woman Reburied in Correct Vault (Brandon, Florida)
    For three years, a widower has been fighting with Service Corporation International because he claims they used a concrete box instead of the fiberglass-lined vault he paid for.
  • Funeral Home Owner Charged with Assault (Reading, Pennsylvania)
    A coroner and hospital technician have accused a funeral home operator of assault.
  • Pizzas Man Also Delivers Bodies (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
    When he wasn’t delivering pizzas, a Domino’s deliveryman used the same car to transport corpses to funeral homes.
  • Woman Killed Visiting Grave (Queens, New York)
    An elderly woman made a fatal mistake when she left her car running as she visited her husband’s grave.
  • Ancient Tomb May Contain City’s King (El Peru Waka, Guatemala)
    Archeologists have discovered a Maya Indian royal burial site at the base of a 60-foot pyramid.
  • Funeral Home Owner Swindled Preneed Accounts (Davis, California)
    A former funeral home owner has been arrested and accused of stealing more than $20,000 from preneed accounts.
  • Director Sued After Marine’s Funeral Dispute (Fort Lupton, Colorado)
    A woman has alleged that a funeral director has refused to pay her money awarded by a small-claims court for her son’s funeral costs.
  • Couple Charged in Cemetery Thefts (Fort Pierce, Florida)
    A married couple has been arrested for theft and fraud after allegedly stealing from 35 graves at Hillcrest Memorial Gardens.
  • First Private Cemetery Opens in Country (Cologne, Germany)
    With room for 10,000, the first private cemetery in the country has been opened in a forest near the western city of Cologne.
  • Tattoo Spells Out Last Wishes (Decorah, Iowa)
    Just to be sure her family members know her last wishes, a woman had the words “Do Not Resuscitate” tattooed on her chest.
  • Native American Remains in Red Tape Limbo (Columbia, South Carolina)
    A tribal chief wants the remains of about 300 Native Americans returned to their tribes for reburial, but the case remains mired in federal red tape.
  • Boomers Fuel Change in Funeral Experience (Newberry, South Carolina)
    Non-traditional funerals are growing in interest, particularly among the 75 million baby boomers.
  • Employee Wants to Withdraw Plea (Seabrook, New Jersey)
    A former Bayview Crematory employee wants to withdraw his guilty plea in the case against the crematory and go to trial.
  • Small Retail Niche Influencing Market (San Francisco, California)
    The presence of Costco and other discounters is influencing the way the funeral business operates.
  • Lawmakers Reject Euthanasia Bill (London, England)
    The House of Lords has rejected proposed laws to allow physicians to assist terminally ill people to die.
  • Funeral Director Educates on Gang Violence (Pilsen, Illinois)
    A funeral director at Zefran Funeral Home in Chicago has seen the death toll of gang violence first hand.
  • Archaeologists Puzzled By Burial Items (El Brujo, Peru)
    A female mummy with tattooed arms has been found in a ceremonial burial site.
  • Burglar Caught Napping in Casket (Canton, New York)
    A man is facing criminal charges after breaking into a funeral home and falling asleep in a casket.
  • Bill May Allow Ghost Town Burials (Washington, D.C.)
    A Senate committee has approved a bill that would allow the residents of the ghost town of Elkhorn, Montana, to bury their dead close to home.
  • Bill Denies Individual’s Rights (Lansing, Michigan)
    A bill passed by the state’s House of Representatives would deny individuals the right to make their own funeral arrangements.
  • Marine’s Father Sues After Funeral Protest (Greenbelt, Maryland)
    The father of a Marine whose funeral was picketed by protesters has filed an invasion-of-privacy suit against the demonstrators.
  • Body Parts Scandal May Have New Twist (Brooklyn, New York)
    A funeral director already under indictment on charges of secretly harvesting body parts may be soliciting new business.
  • Unlicensed Funeral Consultant Wins Case (Jefferson City, Missouri)
    Under a court agreement, a man who sells caskets and gives advice on how people can save money on funerals can continue to do so but cannot handle funeral services.
  • Body Exhumed in Case of Mistaken Identity (Gaylord, Michigan)
    The body of a woman disfigured in an accident was exhumed in a case of mistaken identity.
  • Director Surrenders License After Mix-Up (Houston, Texas)
    A couple is unsure whose remains they actually received after the body of their infant turned up elsewhere.
  • Evidence of White Wine Found in Tut’s Tomb (Cairo, Egypt)
    The first evidence of white wine has been found in Egypt in the tomb of King Tutankhamen.
  • Cemetery Closes Amid Troubles (Glendale, California)
    After months of financial problems, Grand View Memorial Park has closed its gates indefinitely.
  • VA Won’t Allow Pentacles on Tombstones (Washington, D.C.)
    A Marine wants a symbol of his Wiccan faith on his government-issued tombstone, but the Veterans Affairs Department is forbidding it.
  • Frescoed Tomb One of Europe’s Oldest (Veio, Italy)
    Archaeologists have uncovered one of the oldest known frescoed burial chambers in Europe.
  • Ancient Tomb Aligned with Sun (Wales)
    An archaeologist has discovered that the passage into an ancient burial mound was built to catch the rising sun on the summer solstice.
  • Student Solicits Cremains for Art Project (South London, England)
    An art student advertised on the Internet to find people willing to donate their loved ones’ remains to her art project.
  • Long-Lost Remains Are Difficult to Find (Milford Township, Michigan)
    Locating hidden remains is no easy task, especially when it comes to finding long-lost bodies.
  • Government Seeks Ban on Brothels Near Cemeteries (Ipswich, Australia)
    Local governments have called on state authorities to ban brothels opening near cemeteries.
  • Death of Last Titanic Survivor Prompts Interest (Worcester, Massachusetts)
    In death, Lillian Asplund received the attention she so assiduously tried to avoid in life as the last American survivor of the Titanic disaster.
  • Bankruptcy Court’s Finding Reversed (Spokane, Washington)
    The U.S. District Court in Washington has reversed a federal Bankruptcy Court that had held that property operated by parishes, such as cemeteries, are owned by the Diocese and should therefore be considered assets of the Diocese for bankruptcy proceedings.
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Cover photo taken in Homer, Alaska, by Greg Abbott.
October 2006
  • The Art of Embalming and Its Purpose
    Ron Hast
    Embalming is the best known method of presenting a deceased person in a statue that will last well through the memorial event. But to say the reason for embalming is “to protect the public health” is not substantiated by any known study.

  • Colleague Wisdom: The Purpose of Embalming
    We asked colleagues, “When asking permission to embalm, how do you explain its purpose?”

  • Just Conversation
    Ron Hast
    If a dog were the teacher, what would you learn; a columbarium’s meet-the-neighbors party; observing a family’s behavior at a restaurant; the conservative approach to death care; a fraudulent lawsuit against a mortuary; a game from the Internet; and a joke about an expensive “memorial stone”.

  • And Nothing but the Truth
    Douglas O. Meyer
    In addition to state laws that prohibit fraudulent or misleading statements, the FTC Funeral Rule provides that it is a deceptive act or practice for a funeral director to represent that federal, state or local law requires the purchase of any goods or services unless that is the case.

  • Do You Care Too Much?
    Brian J. Porteous
    Ebrace your client families. Desire the best for them. Offer the best. But remember it is the family who controls the relationship. When you smother a family with too much “care,” it can produce resentment, poor compliance and other counter-productive family behaviors.

  • Revised Tax Rules Help Small Businesses
    Julian Block
    Recent law changes include valuable breaks for funeral providers and other small businesses. This article presents the highlights of several good-news provisions.
  • What's Your Story?
    Don Shell
    Too many funeral services bury the past right along with the person. But a Life Story Funeral employs a team of professional writers to chronicle a person’s life in rich detail.
  • Funeral Protestors Face Fines (Tallahassee, Florida)
    Governor Jeb Bush signed new legislation raising the penalties for disrupting a funeral with military honors.
  • Church Group Won’t Let Laws Deter Them (Flushing, Michigan)
    Despite new state laws designed to keep them from protesting at military funerals, members of the Westboro Baptist Church say they will not be stopped.
  • ACLU Joins in Funeral Picket Fight (Jefferson City, Missouri)
    The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, has enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties Union to its cause.
  • Protestors Charged for Security Detail (Mundy Township, Florida)
    Members of Westboro Baptist Church, who protest military funerals, have received a $5,000 bill for security.
  • New Theories on Complicated Grief (Utrecht, Netherlands)
    Dutch researchers are studying how intense grief can affect those mourning the loss of a loved one.
  • Thieves Target Cemeteries for Scrap Metal (Des Moines, Iowa; Huntington, West Virginia)
    The value of scrap metal is prompting thieves to target cemeteries for their next score.
  • Cemetery Thefts Tied to Value of Copper (Lodi, California)
    About 180 bronze vases were stolen from a cemetery in a two-month period and officials believe thieves have been selling them for scrap copper.
  • Casket Maker Recalls Product After Lawsuit (Waterloo, Indiana)
    A casket company agreed to recall a number of caskets from funeral homes after a patent-infringement lawsuit was settled in federal court.
  • Research Supports Cryopreservation (Helsinki, Finland)
    According to researchers, cells, tissues and even the entire human body could be cryopreserved without formation of damaging ice crystals.
  • Father Finds Son’s Casket in Shallow Grave (Portage, Indiana)
    A man received a shock when he visited the grave of his son and found the boy’s casket was buried only six inches underground.
  • Immigrant Bodies Flooding Border Morgues (Tucson, Arizona)
    Scores of bodies of immigrants are pouring into morgues, leaving workers with a challenging situation.
  • Disney Rescinds View on Pooh Gravestone (Clacton, England)
    When a couple wanted to put a image of Winnie the Pooh on their child’s gravestone, The Walt Disney Company balked and denied them permission.
  • Carpet Saves Funeral Home from Firebomb (Louisville, Kentucky)
    A flame-retardant carpet at a funeral home prevented a firebomb from exploding when it was thrown through a window at the business.
  • Paper Error Leads to Erroneous Cremation (Alexandria, Virginia)
    A mistake in the medical examiner’s office led to the wrong body being cremated at Jefferson Funeral Chapel.
  • Scores of Skeletons Found in Underground Chamber (Rome, Italy)
    More than 1,000 skeletons — dressed in fancy togas — have been discovered in one of the city’s oldest catacombs.
  • Cemetery Vandal Faces 10 Years (Pensacola, Florida)
    After pleading guilty, a man who vandalized graves will serve 10 years in prison.
  • Agreement Allows Baseball Imagery on Caskets (Chicago, Illinois)
    Major League Baseball has entered into a multi-year licensing agreement, allowing a company to use team names and logos on caskets and urns.
  • Funeral Insurance Scam Surfaces
    The latest funeral scam is causing grief among those already grieving a loss.
  • Abandoned Casket Mystery Solved (Tucson, Arizona)
    The mystery of an empty casket with a military seal discovered in the desert has been partially solved.
  • More Biomedical Lawsuits Crop Up (Hilton, New York)
    Another lawsuit has been filed in state Supreme Court against a New Jersey tissue firm and a funeral home.
  • Woven Flowers Found in Tomb (Luxor, Egypt)
    Archaeologists unearthed embalming materials and ancient woven flowers in a recently opened tomb.
  • Assisted Suicide Bill Fails Again (Sacramento, California)
    Legislation that would allow doctors to help terminally ill patients end their lives has been defeated again.
  • Teen Sentenced for Stealing Corpse Head (St. Johnsbury, Vermont)
    A teenager has been sentenced to prison for breaking into a tomb and cutting off the head of a corpse.
  • More Families Joining Cryonics Trend (Scottsdale, Arizona)
    Previously the domain of younger single men, cryonics has been appealing to entire families lately.
  • Bird Flu Pandemic Could Slam Industry (New York, New York)
    Are funeral homes in the United States prepared for a full-blown bird flu pandemic?
  • New Law Requires Crematory Licenses (Concord, New Hampshire)
    Based on last year’s gruesome findings at Bayview Crematorium in Seabrook, new regulations are in place requiring crematoriums to get licenses.
  • Thousands of Plots Exhumed at Pet Cemetery (Colma, California)
    About 1,000 animal remains had to be moved at Pet’s Rest Cemetery, prompting outrage and a lawsuit by a group of pet owners.
  • Hearse Driver Fined for Speeding (Dublin, Ireland)
    An Irish hearse driver has been fined for speeding — while leading a funeral cortege.
  • Cemetery Sued After Truck Runs into Mourners (Los Angeles, California)
    Funeral attendees don’t expect to be plowed over by a runaway truck, but that’s just what happened at Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary.
  • Funeral Homes Under Investigation (Memphis, Tennessee)
    The owner of Forest Hill Cemeteries is under investigation for improper business practices.
  • Woman Falls into Grave (Schollevaar, Netherlands)
    A Dutch woman fell into a grave after it collapsed while she was watering flowers at a cemetery.
  • More Funeral Homes Collecting DNA (Kanawha Valley, West Virginia)
    As an added service, five area funeral homes are asking families if they want to preserve and take home the DNA of the deceased.
  • Funeral Directors Becoming Party Planners (Rockland, Massachusetts)
    Much in the same way people are hiring wedding planners to celebrate their big days, more are turning to funeral planners to orchestrate their exits.
  • Soccer Fans May Get Stadium-Side Graves (Hamburg, Germany)
    Soccer fans that can’t get enough of their favorite sport in life can now be buried alongside their favorite team.
  • Coroners Overwhelmed by Heat Deaths (Fresno, California)
    The lingering heat wave of summer 2006 has taken its toll on the state’s residents and funeral industry.
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Cover photo of the central zedi (spire) of Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist site in Myanmar (Burma). Photo by Walt Bilofsky.
November 2006
  • Pride
    Ron Hast
    It’s not difficult to identify true pride in ownership and among staff. Long-term employment says a lot. Respect and praise of management says even more.

  • Just Conversation
    Ron Hast
    An incident in which ashes were stolen from a home, mistaken for cocaine; maintenance and condition of specialty equipment; contact information printed on business cards and checks; the importance of duplicate vehicle keys; the outlook many Catholics have on cremation; and what to do with outdated computer equipment.

  • Colleague Wisdom: Preneed Misappropriation
    Mishandling of money paid in advance for death care is escalating. We asked colleagues their opinion as to ensuring responsibility for its security between the receipt of funds to availability in covering death arrangements.

  • A Passing: The Epilogue
    Douglas O. Meyer
    Doug reflects on his grandmother’s funeral. Because she had planned her own funeral meticulously, Doug experienced first how easy such a detailed preneed arrangement makes it for the surviving familymembers.

  • Reaching Your Community with a Message … DeathCare is a Very Interesting Subject
    Brian J. Porteous
    One of the primary reasons why most funeral directors aren't anxious to accept speaking opportunities is that they are not psychologically prepared to face a large group of people. With this in mind, Brian reviews the best hints for successfully presenting a speech.

  • Colleague Wisdom: Refrigeration
    We asked colleagues, “Do you believe it is possible for a contemporary death business to operate efficiently without refrigerated decedent facilities? Do you maintain a refrigeration unit on premises, and if so, how do you utilize it?”.
  • Donated Remains Lawsuit Settled (Irvine, California)
    The University of California has agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging that UC Irvine illicitly sold a spine from a donated cadaver and lost the rest of the remains.
  • Casket Falls Off Truck Undetected (Somerville, New Jersey)
    A Batesville casket slipped off a tractor-trailer and was found alongside an interstate highway.
  • China Bans Corpse Trade (Beijing, China)
    China has banned the trade and commercial use of corpses, tightening controls on a transplant market fraught with illegal trade in organs.
  • Director on Probation for Drunk Driving (Kent, Ohio)
    A funeral director has been placed on probation and faces a suspended license for driving drunk while picking up a body.
  • Obese Man Posed Funeral Challenges (Johor Baru, Malaysia)
    Funeral providers in Malaysia encountered difficulties when trying to honor the burial requests of a morbidly obese man.
  • Pallbearer Sues After Grave Misstep (DeRidder, Louisiana)
    A pallbearer is suing a funeral home after he fell in a grave during a burial ceremony.
  • Final Frontier for Star Trek Actor (Tucson, Arizona)
    The ashes of Star Trek actor James Doohan will finally be blasted into space, following the original delayed launch by Space Services.
  • School May Establish Nation’s Second Body Farm (Cullowhee, North Carolina)
    A Western Carolina University professor is hoping to soon create the second “body farm” in the country.
  • Website Offers Online Obit Database (New York, New York)
    Targeted at Americans age 50 and older, a new social networking website has been established.
  • Cemetery Sued After Grave Robbing (Tampa, Florida)
    A woman is suing a cemetery owner after the remains of her six-year-old son were stolen.
  • Studies Find Elephants Venerate their Dead (London, England)
    Researchers have found that elephants pay their respects to lost loved ones and venerated leaders.
  • More Families Moving Final Resting Places (Hartford, Connecticut)
    More families are disinterring their loved ones and moving them to other resting spots.
  • Memorial Removal may Spark ACLU Suit (Crockery Township, Michigan)
    A controversial gravesite memorial has been removed because town officials say it violated a local ordinance.
  • Funk Legend Gets Notable Gravestone (Buffalo, New York)
    A two-ton, black gravestone has been erected for funk legend Rick James.
  • Bill to Allow Study of Ancient Remains (Yakima, Washington)
    Under a proposed bill, a federal law governing protection of American Indian graves would be amended to allow scientific study of ancient remains if they have not been tied to a current tribe.
  • Cadaver Exhibits Remain Controversial
    Two exhibitions of human cadavers have been traveling the country, but ethical concern remains about whether the bodies were legitimately obtained.
  • Woman Sues for Use of Photo (New York, New York)
    A woman has filed a lawsuit against a pet cremation service and a photo agency, claiming they used a photo of her and her dogs without her permission.
  • Funeral Home Doubles as Community Center (Mason, Ohio)
    The city’s first funeral home built on residential land will offer more than just a venue for memorials.
  • Mortuary Worker Accused of Stealing Drugs (Waco, Texas)
    A mortuary employee has been charged with stealing drugs from bodies being transported for autopsies.
  • Mourners Treated After Attending Victim’s Funeral (Scotland)
    After attending the funeral of a man killed by anthrax, about 40 mourners have been put on antibiotics.
  • Man Returns Home to Find Family Grieving (Malappuram, India)
    A man got the shock of his life when he returned home to find his relatives preparing for his funeral.
  • Museum to Return Centuries-Old Mummy (Madrid, Spain)
    There has been growing international demand for museums to return human remains to their places of origin.
  • FDA Shuts Down Body Parts Company (Raleigh, North Carolina)
    Health officials have ordered Donor Referral Services, which collected human body parts for transplant, to shut down.
  • Woman Dies on Husband’s Pyre (Madhya Pradesh, India)
    A woman was burned to death committing an outlawed Hindu practice, Sati.
  • Striptease Funerals Ordered to Cease (Beijing, China)
    Following several arrests, striptease send-offs at funerals may become a thing of the past.
  • Remains Go Missing in Mail (Snohomish, Washington)
    A family is grieving doubly because a portion of their daughter’s remains have gone missing in the mail.
  • City at Odds Over Graveyard Shortages (Tirana, Albania)
    Government and city officials are feuding over space issues in the city’s graveyards.
  • Archaeologists Find Tattooed Mummy (Mongolia)
    Archaeologists have unearthed a 2,500-year-old mummy with blond hair, tattoos and a felt hat.
  • Funeral Home Unveils Katrina Memorial (Moss Point, Mississippi)
    More than 100 people attended a memorial service to remember those who died in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
  • Pre-Civil War Casket Unearthed (Nashville, Tennessee)
    Archaeologists moving graves in an old cemetery uncovered a pre-Civil War cast-iron casket shaped like an Egyptian mummy.
  • Necrophilia Law Sought After Attempted Grave Robbery (Richland Center, Wisconsin)
    After an attempted grave robbery at a Cassville cemetery, a state lawmaker plans to propose a law to outlaw necrophilia in the state.
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Cover photo of a sunset on Saint Martin island by Sharon Verbeten.
December 2006
  • Standing Firm with Body Parts
    Ron Hast
    The need for human body parts has brought the subject to the forefront in death care. Motivated by handsome fees and profits, the misuse and mishandling of this precious medical resource has exposed far too many funeral service providers who have stepped over the line of propriety by compromisingtrust.

  • Colleague Wisdom: Counseling for a Fee
    We asked colleagues for opinions on any funeral directors association sponsoringa program for its members to become resource counselors for elders (who may have recently lost a spouse) to structure their financial planning and management, to provide references to such services as assisted living, and essentially any supportive and related services on a fee basis.

  • Just Conversation
    Ron Hast
    A casket company that shrugs conventional marketing style; more often than one might imagine, we receive calls from readers who want to share their concerns and opinions; newly formed pet death care companies are evolving in many places; a humorous recounting of an encounterat a funeral directors’ convention ; if full retirement at age 65 isn’t in your plans, you’re not along; a hilarious account of a “senior moment.”

  • Projecting an Image
    Douglas O. Meyer
    While it’s good to be friendly with the families you serve, don’t allow yourself (or your staff) to cross the line and treat families in a very casual, offhand manner.

  • Pre-Plan Your Marketing Needs with Direct Mail
    Spencer Chambers
    To promote your funeral home properly, you must develop a marketing and advertising strategy flexible enough to promote the benefits of pre-planning and at the same time promote your business. One way to achieve this is through the different avenues of targeted direct mail advertising.

  • Quality Publicity for Your Funeral Home
    Achieving favorable publicity requires an understanding of media needs and an ability to present material and ideas in a manner most suitable for consideration and possible use.
  • Funeral Director Appeals Conviction (Binghamton, New York)
    A lawyer for funeral director Stephen Sedlock will appeal a judge’s ruling upholding Sedlock’s conviction for forcibly touching a teenage boy.
  • Cremations Increase More than 400% (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
    Perhaps not unlike the trend sweeping the nation, Oklahoma has seen an incremental rise in cremations in the past 15 years.
  • Refinery Project Will Preserve Graves on Site (Rogersville, Missouri)
    Developers proposing to build an ethanol plant will preserve any gravesites on the property in a respectful manner.
  • Possible Satanic Killing at Cemetery (Des Moines, Iowa)
    Police are investigating claims that a teenager found dead in a cemetery was the victim of a Satanic killing.
  • Funeral Homes Dropping Out of Memorial Society (British Columbia, Canada)
    More than a dozen funeral homes have broken ties with a non-profit organization that negotiates discount funeral service rates for its members.
  • Cemetery Flags Blanket Squirrel Nests (Eau Claire, Wisconsin)
    Shortly after American flags started disappearing from soldiers’ graves at Forest Hill Cemetery, a groundskeeper noticed the flags high up in a tree.
  • Ancient Burial Rituals Under Fire (Mumbai, India)
    Pictures of rotting corpses piled at funeral grounds have sparked a furor over ancient Zoroastrian rituals.
  • Jewelry Theft May Prompt Regulations (Suffolk, Virginia)
    State regulators are examining the issue of whether funeral directors should warn families about the risk of theft from bodies.
  • Director May Lose Insurance License (Oakridge, Oregon)
    The owner of Oakridge Chapel of the Woods Funeral Home, who is accused of cashing in funeral-expense insurance policies for five clients who were still living, may lose her insurance license.
  • Wife Seeks Unlikely Souvenir of Dead Husband (Stuttgart, Germany)
    Wanting something to remember him by, a German woman chopped off her dead husband’s penis.
  • Real Corpse Found on CSI Set (Los Angeles, California)
    Actors are used to having fake corpses on the set of CSI: New York, but things got too realistic recently when a mummified body was discovered inside the building where production was underway.
  • Couple Finds Old Grave in Backyard (Boulder Creek, Colorado)
    In the process of landscaping their backyard, a couple discovered a headstone from 1941, along with a decayed redwood box containing cremated remains.
  • Wiccan Symbol to Appear on Soldier’s Plaque (Reno, Nevada)
    The widow of a soldier killed in Afghanistan has won state approval to place a Wiccan religious symbol on his memorial plaque.
  • Federal Judge Rules Against Funeral Protestors (Kansas City, Missouri)
    An effort by a preacher to throw out the state law limiting protests at military funerals has been rejected by a federal judge.
  • Prehistoric Female Skeleton Unearthed (Lake Travis, Texas)
    A prehistoric skeleton and campsite discovered on the muddy shore of Lake Travis could be between 700 and 2,000 years old.
  • Working Lab Houses 9/11 Remains (New York, New York)
    A forensic laboratory in lower Manhattan has been established to house the 14,000 human remains collected after the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center.
  • Family Files Suit After Botched Burial (Stockton, California)
    A man who had instructed his family to cremate his remains was mistakenly buried in somebody else’s casket.
  • Former Owner Sentenced in Preneed Theft Case (Salem, Missouri)
    The former operator of Spencer Funeral Homes has been sentenced to eight years in prison for misusing thousands of dollars prepaid for funeral expenses.
  • China Offers First Courses in Funeral Management (Shanghai, China)
    Shanghai University of Science and Technology is the first university in the country to offer a post-graduate program in funeral management.
  • Metal Thefts Hit Local Cemeteries (Huntington, West Virginia)
    Metal items worth $20,000 have been stolen from the Spring Hill Cemetery.
  • Grand Theft Charges Waged (Tampa, Florida)
    The owner of Singleton Funeral Home faces felony charges for allegedly selling a preneed contract and pocketing the money.
  • Doctors Accused of Letting Patients Die (Belgrade, Serbia)
    Authorities are investigating allegations that two doctors failed to make attempts to save the lives of dozens of patients after accepting bribes from funeral homes.
  • Tissue Industry Seeks to Regain Public Trust (San Diego, California)
    After recent scandals have rocked the funeral industry, tissue bankers are considering new rules aimed at preserving public trust.
  • More Questions Arise About Broadcaster’s Body (Alachua, Florida)
    Medical records are providing the most in-depth look so far into the case of TV personality Alistair Cooke and raise more questions about the safety of the cadaver tissue industry.
  • Von Hagens’ Crucifixion Film Stirs Controversy (Great Britain)
    In his planned 90-minute film Crucifixion, anatomist Gunther von Hagens will use a real body to illustrate how people died when crucified.
  • Ancient Dog Cemeteries Found in Peru (Lima, Peru)
    Investigators have discovered a pre-Columbian culture of dog lovers who built cemeteries and buried their pets with warm blankets and treats for the afterlife.
  • Returning Woman Shocks Family (Vitoria, Brazil)
    An 18-year-old woman shocked her family by turning up alive and well a week after her own funeral.
  • Candidate Denounces 9/11 Memorial (Phoenix, Arizona)
    The Republican gubernatorial candidate says the state’s recently dedicated 9/11 memorial should be torn down.
  • Key Witness in Crematory Case Dies (Seabrook, New Hampshire)
    The death of a key witness in the Bayview Crematory case won’t stop the prosecution of others involved, authorities say.
  • Court Docs Shed Light on Body Parts Scandal (New York, New York)
    In the continuing body parts saga, a former funeral home owner and embalmer admitted that he and his partner rarely got permission to take body parts for transplants.
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