Funeral Professionals and those who help them have an
incredible capacity to care for people under the most difficult of
circumstances. With that compassion often must come the
ability to distance themselves from the difficulty surrounding the
event. It is something you have to do to keep the burden from
Recently, I attended the visitation and funeral for a friend’s
sister and was struck by the experience and what people
found important, as I was no longer a distance from the death,
but a participant in the service. We were all talking at visitation
and I could not believe the level of laughter in the room full of
people. All around were friends and family telling stories about
great experiences and fun they had with her. It truly gave you a
sense of what a great person she was and the impact she had
on people’s lives.
While we talked during visitation, my friend removed a bookmark
from his coat pocket. It had all of the images that would be on
the vault cover at the cemetery the next day. He shared the
story behind each of the images and how they were special to
his sister and his family. It was a cherished collection of family
photos and symbols that brought happiness and joy to them
when they needed it the most in a time of great sadness.
The next day was Mass and the procession to the cemetery.
As everyone gathered for the final prayers at the grave and
were invited to stay for the lowering of the vault, the words of Pat Lynch, a profoundly respected Funeral Professional kept
coming through. “A good funeral gets the dead where they
need to go and the living where they need to be.”
Take a moment today and think about the families you and
many others will help through their time of sorrow today. Take
an extra moment and think about how you would want things
done for your own family. This photo came from Sterling
Wilbert Vault in Sterling, IL, and it sums up a good way they
strive to look at service every day. It is an effort to remind us all
of what it is like to be in the family’s shoes in the front row at
Mark Klingenberger is Vice President of
Sales and Marketing for Wilbert Funeral
“Leave no man or woman behind.”
For decades, this inspiring phrase has
prevailed as the absolute gospel of a
dedicated group of military humanitarians
with the acronym, “JPAC”…Joint POW/
MIA Accounting Command.
With inexorable fervor, JPAC continues
to search for and recover the bodies
(remains) of nearly 85,000 men and
women who never returned from combat
during World War II, Korea, Viet Nam
and most recently, the Middle East.
Few, if any, question the moral
commitment and validity of searching for
the American Warriors who so valiantly
sacrificed their lives for our freedom and
safety. Yet, there are myriad families,
friends and colleagues who still wait and
wonder “WHY?” their friends and loved
ones’ never came home.
To this day, searching, finding,
identifying and bringing home the
countless military people who have
vanished in combat still exist in historic
proportions. Carbon sampling, extreme
paleontological studies and recent DNA
findings are proof of the human
imperatives of discovering, retrieving,
returning and honoring their dead since
the dawn of humankind.
• Archeological discoveries indicate
that prehistoric man i.e. Neanderthal,
Piltdown and Peking instinctively
buried their dead with crude
• In 447 BC, during the war between
Greece and Sparta, the Greek army
called a two day moratorium in their
battle with the Spartans giving both
sides time to retrieve their dead and
memorialize their sacrifice.
• In the deadly battle of Manassas (Bull
Run) in the first year of the American
Civil War, both Union and
Confederate troops signaled a halt in
the battle to gather and honor their
victims of the conflict.
|• And in World War II, during the
bloody battle of Bastogne, both
German and American soldiers called
a momentary truce to gather bodies
of the dead for humanitarian care
Despite being burdened by the inevitable
bureaucratic slothfulness, JPAC’s
relentless search for fallen service
members continues to respond to a
form of grief known as “Ambiguous
Loss,” which may strike families from
generation to generation as they wait,
wonder and suffer the mystery of a lost
loved one on some distant battle field.
The syndrome of “Ambiguous Loss”
exists even beyond war casualties where
missing civilians require costly “search/
rescue and discovery” measures such
as, Amelia Earhart, John Kennedy Jr.,
young Rockefeller and countless others.
LIFE IS INDEED PRECIOUS,
EVEN AFTER DEATH.
Jerry J. Brown is
On Wednesday, September 5, 2013, we had the pleasure to
serve a very special family. Sgt. Charles L. Scott was killed in
the Korean War on December 2, 1950. He was missing for
almost 63 years. His remains were recently discovered in an
unidentified, numbered grave in Hawaii. DNA testing identified
the remains as Sgt. Scott and he was returned to his
hometown of Lynchburg, VA for a formal burial.
With a little finesse, we were allowed to use our full Wilbert
set-up at Fort Hill Cemetery, which is a full perpetual-care
cemetery. Two of our most experienced CSR’s, James Barnett
and Terry Overfelt, set two tents, chairs with veteran chair
covers, funeral grass, water coolers, a register stand and the
ovation device, displaying the open Veteran Triune® vault with a
custom legacy (thank you Marty Cox) on the carapace.
Two local television stations were present, reporting with live
coverage. It was a very large occasion with much fanfare.
Sgt. Scott certainly earned his honor. A motorcycle motorcade
of more than 100 Veterans of Foreign Wars escorted the hearse
from our state capital in Richmond to the cemetery in Lynchburg. Sgt. Scott’s 98-year-old mother and his sister were present for the service, along with countless veterans, officials, neighbors and friends.
This letter is to thank you for partnering with Richards-Wilbert,
Inc. on this most important occasion to provide a Veteran
Triune vault for Sgt. Scott. Please know that the impact of our
generosity is not lost on the family or with the funeral home. It
was very much appreciated. Mrs. Scott was overwhelmed by
the generosity of so many, for the return of her son.
Carl Barker is General Manager
for Richards-Wilbert, Inc.
in Roanoke Valley, VA.
Over the past few years, I have been
asked, “What do y’all teach at that
college?” And, I have heard statements
such as, “these students don’t want to
work and can’t embalm.” As for what
we teach at Gupton-Jones College, there
is a very involved process of curriculum
development for funeral service education.
The American Board of Funeral Service
Education (ABFSE), which is the
accrediting body for all mortuary colleges,
is responsible for developing the
curriculum taught in mortuary colleges.
The ABFSE is comprised of
representatives from the 58 accredited
mortuary colleges, the National Funeral
Directors Association, The National
Funeral Directors and Morticians
Association, the International Cemetery,
Cremation, and Funeral Association, and
appointed public members. The ABFSE
has a Curriculum Committee comprised
of 12 members representing NFDA,
NFD&MA, ICCFA, and the educators.
Every year the Curriculum Committee
meets and reviews several of the 21
subject outlines. These 21 outlines,
approximately 1,700 pages in total, are
on a five-year rotation for review.
In looking at the current curriculum for
funeral service education, approximately
25 percent of the required curriculum is
devoted to the Sciences, including
Embalming, Restorative Art, Chemistry,
Microbiology, Pathology, and Anatomy.
There is also a minimum of 10 embalming
clinicals that must be completed by each
student. Another 25 percent of the
curriculum is assigned to Business
Management courses which include
Accounting, Computers, Small Business
Management, and Funeral Home
Management and Directing. The next
area is the Social Sciences, which
includes Grief Psychology and Counseling,
Sociology, History of Funeral Service
and Communication Skills comprising
approximately 15 percent of the
curriculum. The last area of the required
funeral service curriculum covers Legal,
Ethical, and Regulatory Compliance.
This area comprises approximately 10
percent of the curriculum and includes
Business Law, Funeral Service Law, and
Ethics. Since the minimum requirement
for program completion is an Associate’s
Degree, there is a requirement that at
least 25 percent of the total credits must
be in general education, non-technical
courses as well. Each instructor has the
autonomy to include more information
than found in the curriculum based on
geographic location, cultural norms, or
trends within the profession.
In April 2010, the ABFSE Curriculum Committee decided that since all the outlines had been reviewed in the last five years that they would review the curriculum in its entirety as to how it meets the needs of today’s funeral professional. Representatives from the member organizations, the colleges and the current student body met in Cypress, CA. Based on the feedback this committee received from the students and the Expectation Survey authored by NFDA, mortuary colleges seem to be accomplishing their task of educating students for
positions within the profession. The
group did discuss updating the
curriculum to include more of the
alternatives to a traditional service and
disposition. Cremation is already
covered in the curriculum under Law
and Funeral Directing, but other
alternatives and merchandising options
could be added. The goal of mortuary
science education is to equip students
with the basic knowledge and skills to
enter the profession. The educators then
rely on the practitioners to mentor and
further develop the intern’s skills.
As to the statement that students don’t
want to work, this may be a generational
concern that is beyond the role of the
college. I promise, that at Gupton-Jones
College we inform students that funeral
service is 24/7 and that death does not
take a holiday. We stress the need to
complete more than the minimally
required embalming cases for more
experience. Faculty at Pierce Colleges
talks about the need for good
communication skills and for providing
families with every option available. We
discuss proper dress, punctuality, and
going above what is expected. As
licensed funeral professionals ourselves,
the instructors at Pierce Colleges know
that we have a responsibility to the
student and to the profession. The
future of funeral service depends on
having qualified, compassionate funeral
service personnel willing to go beyond
the minimum expectations. Each of the
Pierce Colleges: Gupton-Jones College,
Mid-America College, and Dallas
Institute, are collectively striving to
accomplish this goal and we are always
willing to make adjustments when and
where necessary to improve the quality
of education available to students of the
funeral service profession.
Patty S. Hutcheson
is President for
College of Funeral
Each year in the United States, millions
of women conceive children. For the
majority of the new, expectant mothers,
the pregnancy will be planned and fulfilled
through the birth of a healthy infant. But
for the unfortunate women, conception
will not terminate in the happiness of a
healthy infant, but rather in the sadness
over the death of the infant.
As funeral directors one of our greatest
challenges as professionals is to help
ease this time of great pain and loss for
the grieving parents.
All of us at one time or another has lost
a friend or family member that we were
very close to. The loss may have
happened suddenly or we may have
expected their death. Whatever the
circumstances, the death of an infant is
usually unanticipated and therefore very
upsetting for the mother and father.
Often times when an infant dies, the mother
is left recuperating in the hospital for
several days and unable to contribute to
making the funeral arrangements or attend
the funeral due to her stay in the hospital.
With adult funerals, it is common to have
the body lie in state for two or three
days. Yet with a stillborn or newborn
infant, we seem to treat the call as if the
parents have requested an immediate
burial with no viewing. Although some
parents do request an immediate burial,
many more parents wish to have a full
ceremony with viewing.
I realize that many embalmers have the
belief that embalming a stillborn or newborn
infant is extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Not to mention that some funeral homes
look upon an infant death call as nothing
more than a public service to their
community with a loss of revenue.
Therefore, embalmers do as little as
possible in preparation of the infant or
stillborn. Unfortunately in these cases, it
is the grieving parents who lose the most.
The most elementary method of
preparation is to wrap the infant in
cotton and saturate the cotton wrap
with cavity fluid. This method will result
in extreme drying and wrinkling of the
skin. As professionals, this method
cannot be viewed as an acceptable
means of preservation.
To prepare and preserve an infant so
that viewing is not only possible, but a
positive experience for the family, I have
found that injecting the stillborn from the
right common carotid artery not only to
be the easiest method, but it also produces
unsurpassed preservation results if the
vascular system has been developed.
As a reference the infant carotid artery is
similar in size to an adult’s radial artery.
To ease in the locating of the vessels, it
helps to place the infant’s back across a
small head block. This expands the area
between the head and the chest and
permits an open area to locate vessels.
A 1/16” cannula works best for the
injection. Drainage can be eased with
the aid of a standard groove director in
place of a drain tube.
Once the vessels have been located the
baby should be removed from the head
block and placed directly on the
preparation table. I have found a small
sponge works well in slightly elevating
the head and keeping the body in a
stationary position while embalming.
Fluid mixture should be the embalmers
next concern, and care should be taken
in this area. I have had good results with
a mild mixture of Care 18 mixed 9
ounces per gallon. Pierce’s emulsion oil
based fluids allow for a stronger solution
without the fear of dehydrating the
infant’s delicate skin. One gallon of fluid
should be more than adequate amount
of fluid to preserve the infant’s body.
Once the injection of the fluid is
complete, the vessels should be tightly
tied off. The next step is to dry the
incision site with cotton and fill the
incision with a powdered incision sealer.
The incision site should be sutured tight
and form a neat closure. With the
possibility of parents wanting to hold the
baby one last time, it is very important to
ensure leak-free incision site. The use of
external glue should be used as an
added line of protection against leakage.
In closing, I urge every embalmer to
reconsider the value that viewing has not
only for adult funerals, but also infants.
Without viewing, there is not a need for
embalming, and thus no need for
For more information on this subject or
to have a Pierce Representative contact
you, email me at email@example.com or
call me at 800-527-6419.
Lance Ray is
President of Sales
and Marketing for
The perfect storm is an expression often
used to describe the circumstances
when a rare combination of events come
together and aggravate each other to
the point of yielding a greater level of
devastation. This situation was captured
in the motion picture titled “The Perfect
Storm” starring George Clooney and
Mark Wahlberg. You may recall the
fishing boat, Andrea Gail, was caught in
the middle of a confluence of weather
conditions, any one of which the crew
may have outmaneuvered, but the
combination proved overwhelming.
Today the perfect storm for the Funeral
Professional could be the cumulative
impact of the rising cost of caskets and
other funeral merchandise, the steady climb
in cremation, and a struggling national
economy. Any one of the aforementioned
challenges could negatively impact the
financial results of your funeral business but
the combination, over several years, can be
devastating. This is the first of a series to
discuss ways the Funeral Professional can
best weather the storm.
Annual price increases averaging 4% to
7% seem to be the norm for many
casket manufacturers. In fact, when was
the last year your price increase was
under 3%? I cannot remember either. To
make matters worse some manufacturers
have elected to move the annual increase
from January back to October. The
reality is some increases are necessary
to offset the rise in raw materials,
healthcare costs, petroleum products,
etc. while others are designed to achieve
targeted returns in a declining burial market.
With no end in sight Funeral Professionals
must be proactive in mitigating the
impact to their bottom-line.
Look for value over brand
The difficult truth for some is today’s
customer is more interested in the value
received from your funeral business than
the brand of casket. To deliver value, the
Funeral Professional must first seek
value from their suppliers. To me value is
the combination of quality products with
strong eye-appeal, competitive pricing,
and outstanding service.
You do not
have to sacrifice one to get the other.
One note about competitive pricing, it is
imperative you wade through the
discounts offered against inflated
published price lists and the potential of
a deferred rebate compared to the price
offered off-invoice at the time of the
purchase. Take the result that yields the
best value today helping your cash flow
and bank the savings yourself.
Consider multiple suppliers
Whenever negotiating a new purchasing
agreement I strive to have multiple “horses
in the race.” In my experience it tends to
keep everyone on their toes and yields the
best results. At the end of your evaluation
you may still pick one supplier or you
may elect a 60/40 split or you might offer
a corresponding “value alternative” for your top four selling caskets. The good
news is there are a number of qualified
manufacturers and independent casket
distributors anxious to earn your
business. To that point, avoid multi-year
agreements unless you receive multi-year
benefits (such as price protection) and
ensure the supplier earns your business
every day. Done professionally and with
respect to all parties, you cannot go
wrong with this approach.
Adjust the sales multiple,
or better yet the sale price,
to fit the specific situation
I have always struggled with the concept
that confines the casket price charged
the customer to an even multiple (such
as 2X) of the amount paid by your
funeral business. Seek the casket with
the best value as outlined above and set
a reasonable price based on your market
conditions regardless of the multiple. If
you have negotiated well, the multiple will
likely be higher than 2X generating greater
margins and yet the sale price will be
lower to the customer making you more
competitive in your market. In fact the more
aggressive suppliers have developed a
“casket calculator” spreadsheet to help
you achieve the optimum balance
between cost, margin, and sale price. All
you need to do is to bring your current
cost by model and an open mind.
Taking care of the customer at a time of
great need will always be paramount to
every funeral business. However, this is
best coupled with a sound business
approach to negotiating the cost of
merchandise to help ensure your
business is still serving the community
for years to come.
Don Robinson is
the Senior VP of
Inc. as well as the
Solve the puzzle for a chance at a $25 American
Express® Gift Card!
Print out your puzzle, complete and fax to:
708-865-1646. The first person to correctly
solve the puzzle and fax the solution will win.
The 100th correct fax will receive a $25 AMEX
Gift Card, too! And, to make it even more
interesting, we will draw a fax from all those sent
to receive a third $25 AMEX Gift Card. The
winners will be announced in our next edition of
the Updater. Good luck!
Updater Summer 2013
Puzzle Contest Winners!
Congratulations to the winners of the
Summer Updater Puzzle Contest:
Landis Price of Barr-Price Funeral
Home, Lexington, S.C. was the first to
fax in a completed, correct puzzle.
Jim Fullerton of Fullerton Funeral
Home, Mason City, Iowa was the
100th correct responder and
Suzanne Rodman of Meadowbrook
Memorial Gardens in Suffolk, VA was our
randomly-chosen winner. Each will receive
a $25 American Express® Gift card.
The Wilbert Updater is published for employees and
friends of Wilbert Funeral Services, Inc.
NO part of this publication may be reproduced, in
whole or in part, without written permission from
Wilbert Funeral Services, Inc.
News, comments, and story ideas can be sent to:
Editor – Wilbert Updater
2913 Gardner Road | Broadview, Illinois 60155
888.WILBERT (945-2378) | 708.865.1600