Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sign Up To Offer Holyland Scattering Service

Providing a natural and spiritual way to create final closure, Holyland Ash Scattering can offer your client families a serene and sacred place of rest that will never be compromised.

Overlooking the Sea of Galilee, in the hills where Jesus lived and taught, Holyland Ash Scattering's dedicated memorial park in Israel is now registering funeral homes on their website at: 

Seeking new ideas that give them comfort, confidence and closure, approximately fifty percent of families whose loved one has been cremated will seek to scatter their ashes in a spiritual and meaningful way. Holyland Ash Scattering services include a secure package for shipping the cremains, the cost of transporting the ashes, and scattering service.

Client families will also be provided a personalized, keepsake video tribute of the scattering service, performed by a knowledgeable and experienced ash scattering professional as well as a tribute certificate of the service. The accompanying keepsake video is an ideal tribute to share with friends and other family members.

Funeral professionals seeking to learn more about ash scattering in the Holyland can contact the company direct to become a partner in providing a special, sensible and uniquely holy final resting place for their families departed loved ones.

About Holyland Ash Scattering 
A division of Ash Scattering Society LLC, Holyland Ash Scattering (HAS) specializes in scattering the cremated remains of loved ones in a private memorial garden in the Holyland in Israel. The company provides packaging for shipping remains, covers the cost of transporting the ashes, a professional scattering service and a personalized video tribute of the service, as well as a tribute certificate. Funeral professionals seeking more information about ash scattering, or that want to become a representative, can visit the company's website at call 888-720-1961.

Monday, July 2, 2012

What To Do With Unclaimed Cremated Remains

Whether it's in a basement, a storage closet, or lined up on a shelf, every funeral home has them - unclaimed cremated remains.

It's estimated that approximately one percent of cremated remains are not claimed. As the number of cremations performed each year increases, those numbers can start to add up. For funeral homes it can mean storing the remains in a climate-controlled room for decades.

There are many reasons cremated remains are not picked up. Before prepaid funerals, some families didn't have the money to pay the funeral home's bill and therefore were reluctant to come by the funeral home. Some families aren't especially close and no one family member wants to take responsibility for their relative. In some instances, the survivors simply don't know what to do with the remains, so they do nothing.

Holy Land Ash Scattering can assist in decreasing funeral home’s inventories of ashes and remove the liability of storing ashes indefinitely. Holyland Ash Scattering has developed a private memorial scattering garden in the Holyland. The company will take care of all of the details to arrange safe and secure shipping of the ashes to their office in Israel. The ashes will then be scattered in the most spiritual place in the world. Overlooking the Sea of Galilee, in the hills where Jesus lived and taught, their private memorial garden is a sacred place for a secure, final disposition for all time.

 To further commemorate the sacred scattering ceremony, the company professionally videotapes and preserves this event on DVD as well as a YouTube download, to give client families added piece of mind, and as keepsake to watch and share with friends and family. A handsome framed certificate of scattering is also included as an heirloom gift to give the family.

Funeral professionals seeking to learn more about ash scattering in the Holyland can contact the company direct to become a partner in providing a special, sensible and uniquely holy final resting place for their families departed loved ones.

About Holyland Ash Scattering 
A division of Ash Scattering Society LLC, Holyland Ash Scattering (HAS) specializes in scattering the cremated remains of loved ones in a private memorial garden in the Holyland in Israel. The company provides packaging for shipping remains, covers the cost of transporting the ashes, a professional scattering service and a personalized video tribute of the service, as well as a tribute certificate. Funeral professionals seeking more information about ash scattering, or that want to become a representative, can visit the company's website at or call 888-720-1961.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Things to Know About Scattering Ashes

Following the cremation of a loved one, there are many decisions to be made. The number one question is, "what will we do with the ashes"?

Industry statistics indicate that traditional funerals are no longer the norm and that more families are opting for cremation. In fact, studies show that the cremation rate in approaching 50 percent and continues to rise.

Of those families opting for cremation, approximately fifty percent will seek to scatter their ashes in a spiritual and meaningful way. However, concerns of violating laws and having their loved ones ashes potentially "trespassing" for all eternity raises some concerns with the bereaved.

While cremation ashes have been known to be scattered in a wide variety of places, not all of those places are legal. For example, it is illegal to scatter cremation ashes in most public parks - particularly national parks. And, likewise, it is usually illegal to scatter cremation ashes over an inland body of water - or any place that is less than 3 miles off shore.

As an option, Holyland Ash Scattering offers a natural and spiritual way to create final closure. Their private and dedicated memorial park in Israel overlooks the Sea of Galilee in the hills where Jesus lived and taught. This serene and sacred place of rest will never be compromised.

Client families are provided a personalized, keepsake video tribute of the scattering service, performed by a knowledgeable and experienced ash scattering professional as well as a tribute certificate of the service. The accompanying keepsake video is an ideal tribute to share with friends and other family members.

Funeral professionals seeking to learn more about ash scattering in the Holyland can contact the company direct to become a partner in providing a special, sensible and uniquely holy final resting place for their families departed loved ones.  

About Holyland Ash Scattering
A division of Ash Scattering Society LLC, Holyland Ash Scattering (HAS) specializes in scattering the cremated remains of loved ones in a private memorial garden in the Holyland in Israel. The company provides packaging for shipping remains, covers the cost of transporting the ashes, a professional scattering service and a personalized video tribute of the service, as well as a tribute certificate. Funeral professionals seeking more information about ash scattering, or that want to become a representative, can visit the company's website at call 888-720-1961.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ash Scattering Society Launches Holyland Ash Scattering

Holyland Ash Scattering, a division of Ash Scattering Society LLC, the leading provider of ash scattering services partners with Funeral Directors to offer a unique option of returning ashes to the earth in Holy Land.

Scattering Garden
Arlington, VT, May 29, 2012 -  Holyland Ash Scattering was started in response to the public’s desire to have their sacred earthly remains scattered to the four winds. The company has now made it possible for funeral homes to profit by offering professional scattering services. A new website will help guide and educate families. Funeral Directors struggling with declining revenues due to the rise of cremation, now have a unique opportunity to help those that they serve by offering a very  special scattering service. Holyland Ash Scattering has developed a private memorial scattering garden in the Holyland. They will take care of all of the details to arrange safe and secure shipping of the ashes to their office in Israel. The ashes will then be scattered in the most spiritual place in the world. Overlooking the Sea of Galilee, in the hills where Jesus lived and taught, their private memorial garden is a sacred place for a secure, final disposition for all time. To further commemorate the sacred scattering ceremony, the company professionally videotapes and preserves this event on DVD as well as a You Tube download, to give  your client families added piece of mind,  and as keepsake to watch and share with friends and family. A handsome framed certificate of scattering is also included as an heirloom gift from your funeral home.
    Scattering Garden
  • Cremation is increasing at an alarming rate, reducing funeral service revenues. Partnering with Holyland Ash Scattering is one way to help reclaim some of your lost revenue while distinguishing your funeral home and your product offerings.
  • Many families are choosing cremation and more than half of them are considering scattering. You can assist them in providing a professional scattering service that will make the event more meaningful and spiritual, while taking away the burden of trying to figure out the perfect sendoff.
  • Baby Boomers are seeking new and innovative ways to memorialize their lives and passing. They have already embraced scattering as their preferred choice. Now you can offer them the option of being returned to the earth in this special place that marks the birth of civilization.
Our Memorial Scattering Garden
Ash Scattering Society LLC has over twenty years experience working in the funeral service industry. We understand the shrinking margins that funeral home’s face today. We know today’s client families demand up to date options. General Manager Jeff Staab say’s we have developed this service based on 3 core principles:
  1. 1. Comfort: Funeral Directors can provide added comfort to their client families by offering the best possible option for scattering their loved one’s ashes, utilizing the most professional and caring people to perform the service.
  2. 2. Confidence: Often client families are not comfortable handling the scattering of ashes. Plagued by the desire to do it right and not knowing the options is the main reason so many put it off indefinitely. As a result the liability of storing ashes often falls on the funeral home. Offering a professional service will help give families the confidence they need, knowing they made the best choice.
  3. 3. Closure: Making the choice to use a professional scattering service and returning their loved ones to their spiritual roots will provide the much needed closure for client families. Eliminating the need for second guessing and guilt about doing the right thing is a gift that Funeral Directors can give their client families.
The Process:
  • Holy Land Ash Scattering  partners with Funeral Directors in offering the best scattering options to their client families and compensates them well for their recommendation.
  • Holy Land Ash Scattering takes care of shipping the ashes and then performs a dignified scattering ceremony in our own private memorial park in the hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee; an area rich in history & spirituality.
  • Holy Land Ash Scattering will also assist in decreasing funeral home’s inventories of ashes. The families you have served in the past can now be given an option. Remove your funeral home from the liability of storing ashes indefinitely. Even if they do not choose our service, you have opened the door to discuss other options and hopefully get them out from under your roof!.
Who We Are:
  • Ash Scattering Society LLC is the industry leader in Ash Scattering worldwide. They are the most trusted, professional and experienced service provider in the funeral service industry.
  • They use  proven marketing strategies and apply them to funeral service for an optimal outcome. They make it easy for funeral professionals and supply all the needed professional marketing materials and documents to offer their services. Services are very affordable to client families and provide a new and needed stream of revenue to Funeral Directors.
  • Their first brand is the Holyland. This was the obvious first choice due to the high percentage of the Christian market who embrace this sacred location. They will be launching other unique brands/locations, utilizing both sea and sky scattering services. Future brands will include sports venues, golf courses and women centric locations. All brands will be professionally managed with a focus on quality, integrity and trust.
Providing client families with cremation choices is what you do. Partnering with Ash Scattering Society LLC gives you the ability to offer families the best scattering option available. By scattering in the Holy Land, families are able to have comfort, confidence and closure knowing that they have assisted their loved ones to complete their journey on earth and return to their spiritual roots to rest undisturbed for all eternity.
For more information visit: or contact or call 888-720-1961

Thursday, May 3, 2012

How to Get Around the House in Your Golden Years

Chair lifts are helpful mobility devices used to transport elderly or disabled people go up and down staircases in a comfortable seated position. Depending upon the type of staircase, there are two types of chair lifts for stairs for residential and commercial buildings. A curved chair lift and a straight one. There are, however, certain factors which make the cost of curved chair lifts more expensive than ones for a straight flight of stairs.

While straight chair lifts are meant for a straight flight of stairs, they usually do not need any structural modification to install them. Chair lifts for stairs that have bends, half landings, corners or turns would need to have a curved chair lift installed. This type of installation would be custom-designed to fit the staircase and therefore involve complex manufacturing processes. Lifts for curved staircases are custom-designed to fit the shape of the staircase, and therefore involves complex manufacturing processes.

The most common stair lift design is chair that glides up and down a rail. There are also specialized lifts for wheelchairs and "perching" models with tall, narrow seats for users with knee problems or narrow staircases.

Chair lifts can cost between $3,000 and $15,000 installed. Some state and government programs may be available to help cover some costs. Your new chair lift may also be eligible for a tax deduction if it was medically necessary and will improve the value of the house.

Chair Lift Suppliers
Finding the right supplier for your chair lift will be essential in a successful install. The company should be able to offer their professional guidance for the proper chair lift for your home or commercial facility. An established company will have factory-trained experts examine your site, usually - free of charge. They can also help install the lift for the lowest possible cost. Reliable suppliers offer durable and flexible models of curved chair lifts along with excellent technical support and maintenance service. If you haven't already considered Stannah stair lifts, you should add them to the list of possibilities. This family owned company has a wide selection range and has been in business for over 100 years.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Solar Array Means Savings for Arizona Cemetery

A 30 kilowatt-hour solar array is being installed to provide electrical power to the Southern Arizona Veterans' Memorial Cemetery.

The $170,000 project, with funds provided by the federal and state governments as part of an ongoing "green" program, is expected to be in full operation by the first of April.

Cemetery Administrator Joe Larson said the solar array, being installed by Phoenix-based Sky Renewable Energy, will mean the cemetery's budget of between $1,400 to $1,500 a month for electricity will be saved.

"The grant money came through the Arizona Department of Administration," Larson said.

The amount of power which will be provided will be sufficient for daily operations and none will be sold back to the electrical provider, which is the Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Co-op, he said, adding on days where not enough power is generated by the solar array SSVEC will be the backup source.

Mark Hardison, the company's foreman for the job, said there will be 126 panels on three separate arrays which will fulfill the cemetery's electrical needs.

The amount of power — 30kwh — is enough to provide electricity to five homes, Hardison said.

The project, which began about a month ago, includes a number of specialized equipment as part of the system which will convert alternating current to direct current.

Working with him is one other man, Broc Matthew, who is an apprentice with the company.

Each of the arrays tilt at 30 degrees "to receive the maximum sunshine," Hardison said.

The system is spaced so no shade from one part of the three arrays interferes with another set of panels, thereby degrading the amount of power generated, he said.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Better Business Bureau Offers Advice for Navigating Funeral Process

At an average cost of $7,000, funerals are one of the more expensive purchases consumers ever make.

During such an emotionally-charged time, it can be easy to spend more than might be necessary. The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) offers the following advice for navigating the funeral process.

Most funeral providers offer a variety of package plans that include products and services that are most commonly sold. However, it’s important to remember that no package is obligatory and it’s important to take the time, even though the time to make these decisions may be short, to find the individual products and services that best serve the needs of you and your loved ones. The “Funeral Rule,” enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, requires funeral directors to give you itemized prices in person and, if asked, over the phone.

As outlined by the Funeral Rule:

  • You have the right to choose the funeral goods and services that you want (with some exceptions).
  • The funeral provider must state this “Rule” in writing on the general price list.
  • If state or local law requires you to buy any particular item, the funeral provider must disclose it on the price list, with a reference to the specific law.
  • The funeral provider may not refuse, or charge a fee, to handle a casket that you bought elsewhere.
  • A funeral provider who offers cremations must make alternative containers available.

One way to reduce stress during a time of grief is pre-planning. The National Funeral Directors Association offers a “Bill of Rights for Funeral Preplanning” ( that its members follow. You do not have to prepay for a funeral in order to preplan one, although there may be financial benefits to doing so.

The BBB has Business Reviews on more than 1,350 funeral homes and mortuary service providers across North America, available for free at

For more consumer tips you can trust, visit

The mission of the Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Air Force Admits More Ashes Sent to Landfill Than First Believed

The Air Force confirmed today that as many as 274 sets of cremated partial remains were disposed of in a Virginia landfill, significantly more than had been originally acknowledged when the now-discontinued practice was first reported a month ago.

“We regret any additional grief the past practice may have caused,” said Lt. Gen. Darrell Jones, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services.

Jones briefed reporters after today’s Washington Post article that detailed 274 instances prior to 2008 when the ashes of partial remains were disposed of in a southern Virginia landfill.

The Air Force Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware cremates any partial remains that might emerge after a family has taken possession of their loved one’s body. Jones described the partial remains as usually consisting of small pieces of soft tissue or bone fragments. Families are provided with a form where they can choose to not be notified if such remains emerge and agree to the military disposing of such remains.

From 2003 to 2008, the mortuary would send additional partial remains to a funeral home that would then send them to a contractor for cremation. The ashes would then be disposed of in a southern Virginia landfill. When presented with the forms, families were not told that the disposition meant that the ashes would ultimately be sent to a landfill.

In June 2008, the new head of the mortuary reviewed the practices at Dover and concluded that disposing cremated partial remains at sea was a more fitting option. The “retirement at sea” has since become standard practice for the mortuary.

Asked if the practice prior to 2008 was disrespectful, Jones answered, “It is certainly not the way we would have done it. Looking back, that’s why in 2008 when we saw that practice we changed that practice.”

Jones said 14 urns containing the ashes of partial remains have been taken out to sea aboard a Navy ship for “retirement at sea.” The urns are made of salt so they will dissolve in water. After the briefing, Jones said the 14 urns were all taken out to sea in January 2011 in a group retirement at sea.

The Air Force has established a hotline since the practices at the Dover Mortuary have been in the news. So far, it has received nine calls and only one that dealt specifically with the issue of the ashes being placed at the landfill.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Problems Cast Shadows of Doubt on Solar Project

One of California's showcase solar energy projects, under construction in the desert east of Los Angeles, is being threatened by a deadly outbreak of distemper among kit foxes and the discovery of a prehistoric human settlement on the work site.

The $1 billion Genesis Solar Energy Project has been expedited by state and federal regulatory agencies that are eager to demonstrate that the nation can build solar plants quickly to ease dependence on fossil fuels and curb global warming.

Instead, the project is providing a cautionary example of how the rush to harness solar power in the desert can go wrong _ possibly costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and dealing an embarrassing blow to the Obama administration's solar initiative.

Genesis had hoped to be among the first of 12 approved solar farms to start operating in Southern California deserts. To do so, it had to meet certain deadlines to receive federal assistance. The 250-megwatt plant, being built on federal Bureau of Land Management land 25 miles west of Blythe, is backed by an $825 million Department of Energy loan guarantee.

Native Americans, including the leaders of a nearby reservation, are trying to have Genesis delayed or even scuttled because they say the distemper outbreak and discovery of a possible Native American cremation site show that accelerated procedures approved by state and federal regulators failed to protect wildlife and irreplaceable cultural resources.

The problems threaten the entire project, said Michael O'Sullivan, senior vice president of development for Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources, one of the largest renewable energy suppliers in North America and the builder of Genesis. The project is to start producing power by 2014. If too many acres are deemed off-limits to construction, "the project could become uneconomical," O'Sullivan said.

Plans for Genesis call for parabolic-trough solar thermal technology to create enough energy to power 187,500 homes. But last fall, as crews began installing pylons and support arms for parabolic mirrors across 1,950 acres of land leveled by earthmovers, the company ran into unexpected environmental and cultural obstacles _ the kind that critics say could probably have been avoided by more rigorous research and planning.

"The issues facing Genesis underline the notion that if you do something quick and dirty, you are going to wind up with big mistakes and unintended consequences," said Lisa Belenky, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.

Kit foxes became an issue at the site in late August, when two animals died. At the time, biologists assumed the foxes succumbed to dehydration in an area where summer temperatures soar to 118 degrees. On Oct. 5, Genesis crews discovered another fox carcass and sent it to state Fish and Game veterinarians for a necropsy.

At the time, the company was using "passive hazing" strategies approved by state and federal biologists to force kit foxes off the land before grading operations began in November. To scatter the kit foxes, workers removed sources of food and cover, sprinkled urine from coyotes _ a primary fox predator _ around den entrances, and used shovels and axes to excavate about 20 dens that had been unoccupied for at least three consecutive days.

By early November, only three active dens remained, but the foxes using them wouldn't budge, raising the risk of construction delays. The California Energy Commission, which has jurisdiction over the project, scrapped the three-day timetable and said the company could destroy dens that had been vacant for 24 hours.

Five days after making that change, the results of the necropsy came back. The fox found Oct. 5 had died of the first case of distemper ever recorded among desert kit foxes. Ultimately, at least seven kit foxes died.

Deana Clifford, state wildlife veterinarian for the California Department of Fish and Game, said she isn't certain the outbreak is connected to Genesis, "but we know that habitat disturbance causes stress, and when animals succumb to stress they become more susceptible to disease."

State and federal biologists are now trying to prevent the disease from spreading beyond the site. To discourage displaced kit foxes from re-entering the area, electric wires have been installed along the top of waist-high fences originally intended to keep desert tortoises relocated by NextEra from trying to return to their former burrows.

Evidence of a human settlement is of even greater concern to the company. Earthmovers on Nov. 17 churned up grinding stones lying on a bed of charcoal _ possible evidence of an ancient cremation site. In a subsequent meeting with Colorado River Indian Tribes, a federally recognized reservation just east of the work site, Bureau of Land Management officials described the discovery as "unprecedented," tribal leaders said.

The remains are protected by the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Work has been halted on 400 acres, or one-fifth of the project's total area, while state and federal archaeologists conduct a detailed assessment.

The discovery did not come as a complete surprise. In 2010 testimony before the state energy commission, archaeologist David S. Whitley warned that Ford Dry Lake, at the southern end of the Genesis site, had been a gathering place for prehistoric people who cremated their dead. Based on surface evidence, at least three locations within the Genesis project area appeared "to represent lake shore village sites that have the potential to contain burials/cemeteries," Whitley said.

To avoid the old lake shore area, NextEra reconfigured the project, moving it about two miles north.

However, the company did not follow customary methods for searching the new site for human remains. Instead of using established but costly and time-consuming procedures, NextEra opted for a new, less exacting search method developed by the state energy commission and the BLM to expedite Genesis and three other desert solar projects.

The energy commission outlined the new method in a Dec. 3, 2009, letter that included a warning: If the search found nothing, but artifacts were discovered later, during construction, the project could be suspended while an exhaustive investigation was performed.

That's what happened. NextEra's search involved digging more than 500 shovel test pits each up to 3 feet deep. It found nothing.

Now the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation is demanding that NextEra halt construction until its own experts can investigate. Eldred Enas, chairman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, said in a letter to the federal government last month that the discovery of a nestled pair of metates _ stones used to grind acorns, pinion nuts and other staples _ atop a bed of charcoal indicates that it was a cremation site that is "too sacred to disturb."

Separately, a nearby group of Native Americans called La Cuna de Aztlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle is preparing a legal challenge based on the kit foxes and the possible cremation site. Cory Briggs, an attorney representing La Cuna Aztlan, said NextEra received an early warning: "This is the wrong place to build. Instead, they put their foot on the gas pedal in order to get this thing approved and deal with problems later."

The company and regulatory agencies are studying options, which could range from avoiding locations known to contain significant Native American remains to a formal archaeological excavation.

In an interview, NextEra officials acknowledged that in a worst-case scenario, they could decide that they cannot meet the conditions of the company's power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and close down a project that is expected to create 800 construction jobs.

If that were to happen, 80 percent of the project's outstanding loans would be covered by the federal government, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management would begin shopping for another renewable energy company that was interested in leasing the property. If there were no takers, the scarred land would be restored with reclamation bond funds, BLM officials said.

Looking ahead, Roger Johnson, deputy director of siting with the state energy commission, said lessons learned from the Genesis project will be included in other high-priority solar facilities.

Jeffrey Lovich, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said the challenges facing NextEra are messy reminders of the fact that "peer-reviewed scientific studies to help us tease out the impacts of solar energy development" on the California desert do not exist.

"So there will be very likely be additional surprises as we move forward," Lovich said.


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Police: Man Removed Cremated Remains, Sold Urns

Police arrested a Harrison man accused of stealing items – including human remains – from a mortuary chapel where he worked.

Officers said 26-year-old Alan Smith stole downspouts, an air conditioner, copper wiring and about 20 bronze urns Thursday from Hillside Chapel in Clifton.

"What's the sickest you've ever been, and your stomach is rolling the next morning? You get my drift? My stomach's been rolling ever since I found this," said Hillside Chapel owner Don Catchen.

Investigators said about half the urns contained cremated human remains, which officers said were removed before the urns were sold to a local scrap yard.

Those ashes have been found and identified. Catchen said they were still in their original individual plastic bags, but had been hidden on a shelf.

Seventeen of the urns were new, valued at more than $20,000 total.

"In 49 years of being a funeral director, this is one of the most devastating things that's ever occurred to me," he said.

The three abandoned bags of remains were still marked with their identities, Catchen said. They had been cremated in the 1960s and 1970s.

Catchen said police told him that a scrapyard refused to take the stolen urns the first time Smith tried to sell them. Police said Smith then stole a letterhead, forged permission and dented the urns to make them appear like trash.

Police said Smith cut up the urns before selling them, and officers said the scrap yard did nothing wrong when purchasing the items.

"As far as we can tell, the person who made the purchase had no knowledge bought the metal that it was an urn," said Kristen Shircliff, of Cincinnati police.

Smith was charged Tuesday with one count each of theft, vandalism and desecration.

The investigation is ongoing, and police anticipate additional charges.

Catchen said he will contact the families of the removed remains once he accounts for all of those missing.

"We will be coming up here and opening every one of these to be sure if there's any missing out of them," Catchen said.

A judge Wednesday set Smith's bond at $20,000. His attorney didn't immediately return a call. Smith's case will go before a grand jury to determine what charges, if any, he would be tried on.

Catchen said he had fired Smith in late January over attendance problems and other issues. Later, he found the three bags of ashes and then noticed that urns were missing from the crematory.

He said he would consult records to replace the urns with the specific style they were originally in. They came from an older room – the people had died several decades ago – where the urns with remains are kept in "niches," or cubes that have locked doors.

Police said they are still investigating, but they charged Smith after an interview in which he was asked about the missing urns. Police didn't immediately say how much he allegedly sold the urns for or where.

Catchen said he's never had such a problem at the crematory, which dates to the 19th century and houses remains of more than 11,000 people. He said a complete inventory will be done to make sure no other remains have been disturbed.

"My stomach's been churning and rolling ever since (he found the bags of ashes)," he said. He said he has been trying to track down the next of kin of the three people to let them know what happened.

The case was mentioned by Cincinnati council members Wednesday before they voted 5-4 for new rules requiring licenses, criminal background checks and a two-day wait to get paid for scrap metal sellers.

"How low can you go, to actually take the urns of someone's loved ones?" said councilman Cecil Thomas. "It just goes to show we're on the right track to make it difficult for individuals to unload those kinds of items."


Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Life for The City of The Dead

The Springvale Cemetery hopes its history and gardens will attract more than the bereaved.
The Garden of No Distant Place at Springvale Botanical Cemetery

THE first legal cremation in Victoria was a rudimentary affair. It was held at Springvale Botanical Cemetery in 1905 when the body of Edward Davies, a retired customs officer, was laid on a pile of wood, doused with kerosene and then set alight. The service was presided over by a Church of England priest.

A rock in the cemetery (called the Necropolis, meaning ''the city of the dead'', until 2006) marks the site of his cremation, which was made possible in 1903 after the state government of the day passed the Cremation Act.

Davies' remains were interred near the grave of seven-month-old Clarence Reardon, who died of whooping cough and whose burial was the first at Springvale on March 20, 1902, a year after the cemetery was laid out in the shape of the Union Jack in a show of patriotism for Federation and the death that year of Queen Victoria.
The rock and Clarence's grave will be highlighted on a tour of the cemetery on Friday to be led by Celestina Sagazio, historian and manager of cultural heritage at the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust.

Other significant sites include the war cemetery laid out like Australian burial sites in France and the American military cemetery, once the resting place of about 38 servicemen who died in the region during World War II (and whose remains were exhumed in 1945 and sent back to America for reburial).

One was the infamous Edward Leonski, who strangled three Melbourne women and was hanged on November 9, 1942. All that's left of this cemetery is a flagpole with an eagle on top, an American flag at half mast and two rudimentary crosses, a helmet hanging off one, in the middle of an expanse of lawn.

Like cemeteries the world over, including Pere Lachaise in Paris, which counts among its famous dead Jim Morrison, lead singer of the Doors, Springvale has people of renown. Among them are Laddislaus Kossak, a mounted policeman at the Eureka Stockade, Liberal Party leader Sir Billy Snedden, Country Party leader Sir John ''Black Jack'' McEwen, Phar Lap's strapper, Tommy Woodcock, jockey Scobie Breasley, actor Charles ''Bud'' Tingwell, society florist Kevin O'Neill, governor-general Sir Zelman Cowen, Collingwood premiership player Darren ''Pants'' Millane, Richmond player Jack Dyer and Australian cricket captain in the Bodyline era, William Woodfull.

Springvale was the only Victorian cemetery to have a dedicated railway line and station that was used to transport coffins, passengers and staff from Melbourne to the cemetery. Mortuary and visitors' trains were a regular sight from 1904 but the line was closed in 1951. A rock with a commemorative plaque marks the site.

The name was changed from the Necropolis in 2006 to reflect the growing botanical significance of the cemetery, which features original plantings of two bunya bunya pines, oaks, palms and gums. A red river gum, believed to be about 400 years old, may have lost most of its limbs but the huge trunk remains with a healthy covering of leaf growth. It's an awe-inspiring sight.

A large variety of native and ornamental trees, shrubs and 30,000 roses, plus the Garden of No Distant Place, can be found in the 169-hectare site and many will be pointed out on the tour.

Dr Sagazio, who takes night tours on Halloween through Melbourne General Cemetery (she was terrified at first) believes cemeteries are public assets and should be used in the same way as parks and gardens.

''Few realise how significant and beautiful Springvale Cemetery is. The stories of the people who are in here are very important. The fear of death and the fear of walking through a cemetery shouldn't stop people from having the experience of enjoying the bird life, the wildlife, the thousands of roses, trees and shrubs. We want to encourage people to see cemeteries as wonderful places which are full of history and beautiful gardens.''


Who’s Dying to be Green?

In a town where people buy electricity from renewable resources, ride bikes or drive hybrid cars, and are agitating for a ban on plastic grocery bags, surprisingly few are opting for environmentally friendly burials.

“We’re getting very few requests,” said Ryan Phelps, the owner of Hood Mortuary in Durango. “People aren’t as concerned about greenness as following their family’s wishes.”

The definition of a green burial is one that has as little impact on the environment as possible. Generally, the body is wrapped in a shroud or placed in a cardboard or other quickly biodegradable container. Embalming is discouraged. Simple wooden crosses and chiseled rocks, as opposed to granite tombstones, are used to mark the grave site. And in the greenest cemeteries or preserves, no watering, weeding or mowing takes place.

“We should talk in shades of green,” Phelps said. “The only truly green burial is to leave the body where the person dies and cover it in rocks. Almost any other type of burial has at least some kind of carbon footprint.”

Transporting a body to the burial location requires use of gasoline, and unless the family digs a grave by hand, a backhoe also requires fuel, he said.

The Centre for Natural Burial, a nonprofit that promotes the concept, says cremation uses fewer resources than burial with a decomposition-proof casket and liner. But it does require maintaining a heat of 1,400 to 2,100 degrees for about two hours and releases some particulates into the air. Hood’s crematory uses natural gas, one of the more abundant natural resources.

Cremation has become the most popular way to handle a loved one’s remains locally, Phelps said, with about 70 percent of the families he serves choosing cremation over the more traditional casket.

That’s the exact opposite of national trends, where 71 percent are choosing burial with caskets, and only 29 percent are requesting cremation, according to information on the National Funeral Directors Association’s website.

And even though Colorado ranks No. 9 in the top 10 states where cremation is a choice, that 70 percent is higher than Colorado’s average of 61 percent.

“Everyone thought green burials would be the next cremation,” Phelps said. “The funeral industry pre-emptively advertised and publicized a lot of information about it five or 10 years ago. But I’m only seeing two to three a year, if that.”

A return to the Old West

Phelps said what he calls “frontier” burials are particularly popular with families who have small private cemeteries on their own land.

“There’s nothing new about them,” he said. “Families today are choosing the simpler burial, not just in regard to greenness, but because they want to do everything themselves.”

The only restrictions under Colorado law are that a death certificate must be filed before burial can occur, and if it takes more than 24 hours, the body must be refrigerated or embalmed. Burial is not allowed on private property within the Durango city limits, but may take place anywhere on one’s own property in the county where it’s not prohibited by municipalities or homeowners associations. The GPS coordinates of the location of a private grave must be registered with the county clerk within 30 days, a new requirement passed by the Colorado Legislature in 2010.

“We’re seeing a lot of families who want to bury the same day,” Phelps said. “We had one family that was having a hard time getting the death certificate signed. We ran around and got the signatures in about 30 minutes.”

Noble Whitley, the owner of Trail’s End Pine Box Coffins based in Bayfield, is finding people are really responding to his simple pine boxes, with about half choosing ones with no finish or a simple stain. Most people select wooden or horseshoe handles rather than the more biodegradable rope handles.

“I also work in fire mitigation,” he said. “And when I see a dead tree that’s been standing there awhile, I know that will be some beautiful wood.”

Many of the trees are dead because of the pine bark beetle infestation.

“I just can’t see cutting down good living trees when there are plenty of dead ones,” Whitley said. “Our motto is ‘Live green and die green.’”

What does the future hold?

When the world’s population passed the 7 billion mark at the end of 2011, most concerns were about how to feed those billions and protect the environment at the same time. What no one seems to have examined yet is what will happen in the next 70 years or so, when those 7 billion are going to die, and the world will have to make some tough decisions about what to do with billions of bodies.

How much arable land can be dedicated to cemeteries? How much natural gas and wood will be needed for cremation? What about the resulting air pollution?

“Probably the most environmentally sensitive method is Resomation,” Phelps said. “It uses a hot lye solution and high pressure to dissolve the soft body tissue and break down the body into its chemical components, so what’s left is a few bone fragments. Colorado has already passed legislation allowing it and regulating it.”

Resomation, a trademarked process also known as alkaline hydrolysis, sterilizes the body fluids so they may be washed down the drain. The alkalinity actually helps balance highly acidic sewage. As of 2007, only about 1,000 bodies in the U.S. had gone through Resomation.

“I know people don’t like the idea of washing their loved ones down the drain, but 30 years ago, most people didn’t like the thought of their loved ones blowing away with the wind when ashes were scattered,” Phelps said. “I prefer to think of this as sending them to swim with the trout in the river.”


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Meeting Clients’ Needs is Top Mission for Local Crematorium

Cremation isn’t for everybody, but some experts predict that as many as half of all deaths will result in cremation by 2025. Clarence Boston, founder and owner of Triad Cremation Society, says the Triad already has a higher cremation rate than average and he expects it to grow. For example, his research of state and local data indicates Guilford County’s cremation rate is about 35 percent, compared with 30 percent statewide. His firm alone performed more than 1,000 cremations in 2011

What is Triad Cremation Society? A full-service crematorium. Since it’s licensed as a funeral home, it is able to ...


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Meeting Those Final Bills

LIKE many western nations, Australia has an ageing population. This has fuelled the growth of products and services pitched at senior Australians - like funeral plans and funeral insurance, which are openly marketed these days, something that was unthinkable not all that long ago.
Paul Clitheroe

No one likes to think or talk about their own death but, if you feel inclined to do so, it can make sense to discuss your final wishes with family members. Letting them know the type of funeral you'd like or your preference for burial versus cremation for instance, means your family don't have to make more difficult decisions at a time of extreme grief.

It is also important to think about how these final bills will be met because funerals don't come cheap.

On average, a funeral costs somewhere between $4,000 and $7,000, and footing the bill can be a challenge. Life insurance payouts may take a few weeks to be finalised, and probate (when the court validates a person's will) can take even longer. It means your family could be left funding the expense and the reality is that for many people this can be very challenging.

In some circumstances, family members may be eligible for a financial helping hand from government organisations like Centrelink and the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). However this assistance is generally only available if the deceased was a recipient of Centrelink or DVA support payments.

This being the case it's not surprising that a range of different funding options are being marketed to cover funeral expenses. It may seem a morbid topic but as with any financial product, it pays to be aware of the upsides as well as the pitfalls before committing your cash.

One option is prepaid funerals. These let you choose the type of funeral you would like, and either pay for it in full in advance, or pay it off over a period of time. Some states require prepaid funerals to be registered with the department of consumer affairs or fair trading. So check with the relevant department in your state or territory to ensure you're dealing with a legitimate organisation.

An alternative is funeral bonds. These offer a tax free investment that can only be accessed after your death. It can be an appealing option for retirees as money invested in prepaid funeral plans or funeral bonds is usually excluded from the age pension assets test.

Another option is funeral insurance. The idea is that you sign up to a policy, making monthly payments to cover funeral costs up to an agreed value. The younger you are, the lower the premiums, however it is important to check that after years of paying premiums you don't end up paying more than a funeral could cost.

With some insurers, a male aged 46 can expect to pay premiums of $11 each month to purchase funeral cover worth $5,000. For a 66-year old man, the premiums can be around $40 per month.

No matter what sort of financial product you use, be sure to tell someone you trust, such as your executor, that you have made plans. There's not much point in paying for funeral insurance if no one knows you have a policy in place.


Monday, March 26, 2012

My Big Fat Green Funeral

At the end of your life, what will be your final act? How do you want to be remembered?

So help me, God, do not bury me in a casket from Costco. I don’t even want a casket. I wish to be buried at sea. Splish, splash, I’ll be taking an eternal bath.

In Cuba, they practice another technique, whereby graveyard space is reduced, reused, and recycled. The unembalmed body is placed inside an aboveground vault that is tightly sealed -- but not too tightly, because eventually it will be reopened.

When a new body moves into the vault, the old, decomposed remains are stored in a box in the corner. That way, the entire family’s remains are kept together.

That system sounds pretty eco-friendly to me. But the funeral industry in this country would not appreciate it, because its profits would dramatically decrease.

Natural burials tend to cost much less than modern, materials-intensive burials. A typical, modern funeral will run a family about $10,000. By comparison, at the Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery in Gainesville, the rate for burial is $2000.

A green or natural funeral should be the right of every individual. After all, every other living thing that dies away from human contact has a natural burial. Dead whales sink, dead trees fall, and living decomposers recycle them. That’s the circle of life. The decomposers get us, too, but we tend to slow down the process with formaldehyde.

You don’t have to be embalmed. You don’t have to purchase a casket. You don’t have to use a funeral home.

Religion dictates how a deceased human body must be handled, and these traditions must be respected. Interestingly, they tend to be much greener than industrialized methods. Traditionally, Jews and Muslims practice quick burials, thereby avoiding the need for unnatural preservation. They also tend to dispense with caskets. It’s just a body, wrapped in a shroud, put into a hole in the ground. Simple and pure.

Viewers of the HBO series Six Feet Under will recall the natural burial of Nate. Despite running a funeral home, Nate preferred to go low-tech. His final resting place was underneath a tree.

But how natural is natural? The Green Burial Council website ( defines it as “a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that furthers legitimate ecological aims such as the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat.”

The council offers a free online burial planner. This document complements a living will, which itself is a good idea.

Cremation, which conserves space, falls into the questionable category. The process is energy-intensive and produces large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps levels of pollution will be reduced in the future with better practices.

A new form of low-energy, liquid cremation pioneered in Europe was brought to the U.S. this past year by the Anderson-McQueen Family Tribute Center in St. Petersburg. Called resomation, the process uses a large boiler and additives to separate liquids from solids. The fact that it uses large amounts of water, however, could be considered wasteful.

For people choosing cremation, you can go low-tech and scatter the ashes by hand, or you can go high-tech and travel to almost any place on earth (and in the future, surely outer space). For those who prefer inner space, or the ocean, one of the most spectacular choices exists right here in Miami. Located just outside state waters, roughly three miles off Key Biscayne, is the Neptune Society’s Memorial Reef.

Memorial Reef is the world’s largest artificial reef, and an underwater cemetery. It has giant lions and pearly gates and benches for fish. Cremated remains are mixed in concrete and attached to the existing structure. Eventually it will cover 16 acres and house the remains of more than 100,000 people. This diving site is open to the public.

A company with a similar concept is Eternal Reefs, based in Georgia. The company’s main business is manufacturing reef structures, so concrete reef balls with cremated remains are placed in various artificial reef locations.

Even if you opt for a modern burial, try to minimize your impact on the earth. Request green options, and pick a cemetery that has been certified or that offers green practices. Choose an urn or casket that is relatively biodegradable, or make your own. To offset the impact of a burial, purchase some trees and make a donation to a conservation organization.

A natural funeral is an American tradition. Before the Civil War, when Americans were not embalmed, home viewings of the dead and do-it-yourself burials were common.

Don’t wait to make this choice. Write down today what you want to happen at your funeral, because, if you don’t, tomorrow you might be forced into a casket from Costco.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cemeteries May Soon Allow Both Human, Pet Burials

You can bury your husband. You can bury your dog.

You just can’t bury them together.

But that soon might change.

Standing Rock Cemetery in Kent, Ohio, is planning to allow pet burials on the property beginning in the spring.

The decision to co-mingle pets and humans in the same cemetery has attracted plenty of attention since it became public on Tuesday. Most cemeteries nationwide provide plots for one or the other.

Kingwood Memorial Park cemetery in Lewis Center had planned to create a separate area for pets a few years ago.

“The bond between pets and people is greater than ever,” said Randy Schoedinger, chief executive officer of Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Service in central Ohio, which used to operate Kingwood.

Jack Lee Harris, general manager of Kingwood, said the company currently managing the cemetery has no plans to add a pet section.

The idea has been discussed at Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus as well, but general manager Linda Burkey said at least one trustee always opposes it.

Some cemeteries are becoming more flexible.

Jefferson Memorial Cemetery in Pittsburgh allows people to be buried near or in the same plot as their pets in their Garden of Faithful Friends.

“We are in the burying business, and if people wish to bury their pet, shouldn’t we provide that service?” said Harry Neel, president of Jefferson Memorial.

The cost to bury people there is $925 for the plot and $1,195 for the service. Burying a pet in its own plot costs $350 to $1,410, depending on the animal’s size.

Both pets and humans must be buried in caskets or alternative containers.

The state of New York this spring is expected to issue rules that would allow people’s cremated remains to be buried in pet cemeteries.

“Society has changed and its attitude toward pets has changed,” said Vicki Hunsaker, a pet bereavement specialist for CSW Farms Crematorium & Memorial in western Franklin County. “A lot of pet owners consider the pet a family member.”

Retired Columbus Police Sgt. Earl W. Smith and his late wife, Wanda, felt that way about their golden retriever, Samantha.

The couple, who had no children, promised each other after Samantha died that they would bury her ashes with whoever died first.

Four years later, Mrs. Smith died, and her husband honored their promise, placing the dog’s ashes in his wife’s coffin.

“I take some comfort in the thought that they’re together,” he said.

Traditional funeral companies have realized that pets make good business.

Randy Schoedinger started Pet Services by Schoedinger in 1995 to handle pet cremations, burials and memorial services.

Woodyard Pet Services, an offshoot of O.R. Woodyard Funeral Home, offers individual cremation of pets as well as a Pet Memory Kit with a fur clipping, an engraved wooden urn, and an online tribute of the pet’s life.

That level of devotion to pets doesn’t surprise Tom Nicastro, whose Pet Heaven Cemetery on Rt. 40 in Reynoldsburg is the only pet cemetery in the Columbus area.

“I’ve had many people say they want to be buried with their pet — more than you’d think,” he said.

One man has bought a plot next to his dog’s plot where he’s asked that his own ashes be buried some day.

“We said that’s fine, but as far as full-body burial, I tell people I don’t want to compete with people cemeteries,” said Nicastro, who also operates a pet cemetery in Mansfield.

Nicastro has buried a horse, a monkey, white rats, birds and ferrets as well.

“It’s not just shoveling and a piece of dirt,” he said. “This was a member of a person’s family, and that’s the way we treat them.”


Saturday, March 24, 2012

'Dead Woman' Comes Alive

A woman, whom her family members and relatives thought had died, surprised them when she came 'alive'. In fact, her family had also made preparations to cremate her, and her relatives had even reached the cremation ground.

Mamu Devi, 60, of Hartan village of Yamunanagar district was brought to PGI in Chandigarh on Thursday in a critical condition as her kidney had failed.

On Saturday, the doctors told her kin including her husband, Mahender Kumar, son and some other relatives to take her home, as they could not do much to cure her now.

However, her relatives misunderstood what the doctors said and thought that they meant that Mamu had died, though the doctors had only said that there was no chance of her recovery.

As Mamu was unconscious, her family members presumed that she was dead, and rang up home, asking their relatives to arrange for a funeral. Following this the villagers made all the arrangements for the cremation, including arranging for the wood.

However, when Mamu was being taken to her village from Chandigarh, her kin saw some movement in her body, on reaching near Ambala. Elated with the development, they again rang up home informing that Mamu had come 'alive' and it was a "divine miracle." Receiving this information hundreds of relatives and villagers assembled to see the 'miracle' for themselves.

Mahender Kumar, Mamu's husband clarified, "Perhaps, we did not listen to the doctors carefully. Moreover, as she was unconscious and did not move for hours, we thought she as no more."

Later, Mamu was admitted to a private hospital in Yamunanagar.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Pet Haven Cemetery A Place for Animals to Rest in Peace

Small headstones inscribed with heartfelt tributes peek out from the damp, freshly mown lawn at Pet Haven pet cemetery.

Plastic bouquets of flowers, potted poinsettias, a small, artificial Christmas tree and tiny American flags are among the trinkets and tributes placed near the tiny grave sites.

Many are so old that time and blowing sand have nearly worn smooth the names like Little Joe, Smokey, Tiger, Mr. Pumpernickel, Jake and Walter.

A shaded patch of green in the desert north of Palm Springs, the cemetery run by the Stewart family since 1964 is the resting place for more than 1,000 animals. They are mostly dogs and cats, but there are a few birds, rabbits and monkeys, and one pot-bellied pig.

It's also a place of celebrities, where the pets that belonged to President Gerald Ford and his family, Liberace and Michael Landon are buried.

But even in a place known for its boundless, even obsessive love of animals, the pet cemetery business isn't what it once was. The recession has turned pet burials into an unjustifiable luxury for some. Cremation and inurnment, rare a decade ago, is now common.

“We did 100 a year at the peak — seven to 10 years ago,” said Charles Stewart Jr., 61, who took over running the cemetery about five years ago after his father moved to Indiana and his brother passed away. “Now, we only do one a month.”

The cost to bury an animal is $895, which includes the burial site, a handmade pine casket, a headstone and perpetual care.

Pet Haven's monthly water bill runs about $400, and after paying gardeners and covering other costs, the Stewarts are losing money on the cemetery.

But no matter. The family made a commitment.

“My father and I love animals,” Stewart said. “It's not a money-making proposition, and it was never intended to be.”

Charles Stewart Sr., 88, who started the cemetery, comes out during the winter to check on the operation.

“It was running down a little bit, but we're trying to get it back in shape,” the elder Stewart said.

'Truly golden lady'

The entrance off Dillon Road is framed by an old whitewashed wooden sign, “Pet Cemetery” hand-painted in black letters, partly obscured by the withered fronds of an old palm tree.

A long sidewalk leads to a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi, where the patron saint of animals, a bouquet of faux pink tulips at his feet, stands watch.

At the center of the cemetery is a tall monument made of rough-edged bricks laid long ago, bearing statues of praying angels.

Buried along the monument's border are the cremated remains of pets, including two thoroughbred horses named Boy Doctor and Doctor Brut.

Markers range from simple stones bearing only the animal's name, to larger, more elaborate ones with photos, long inscriptions and sometimes the owner's name.

Nee-Na is a Good Girl
Edie Huff

Tom Boots, Esq.
Our Brave Boy

Five of Liberace's dogs are buried side-by-side, but the markers are so worn that most are unreadable. But still legible on each is the owner's farewell: “Love, Lee.”

President Ford's much-photographed presidential pet — a golden retriever named Liberty — is buried under a sprawling carob tree, next to one of her offspring, Misty.

The faded inscription on the headstone reads: “Liberty — Truly golden lady for our family — The Ford's”

The 8-month-old puppy was given to the president by his daughter Susan and new White House photographer David Hume Kennerly in the fall of 1974.

Halle Fetty of La Quinta has buried two dogs at the cemetery.

Her parents' black lab, Duffy, was hit by a car in 1989. Duffy's companion, a Yorkshire terrier named Baby, died in 1998.

Fetty is an infrequent visitor to the cemetery, but at home she has the cremated remains of three of her own dogs.

She's now thinking of having them interred with the remains of Duffy and Baby.

“I don't think I was ready to let go,” she said of her holding onto the ashes of her pets for so long.

She still recalls the special treatment Baby received when she was buried.

“When Baby passed away, she had a beat-up fabric Frisbee we brought to the cemetery,” Fetty said.

Fetty thought she would lay the toy on top of the little casket.

“But the man at the cemetery said, ‘Do you want me to put it in the box with her?' and he opened the lid of the box, lifted her head up and put it under her head and shoulders,” Fetty said.

The emotion of the experience has remained through the years.

“That's why I want the ashes of my other dogs buried there,” she said.

$150 for cremation

The remains of animals who died in the care of veterinarians were typically cremated and discarded unless owners made arrangements to have them buried.

Only over the past 20 years has the practice of keeping a pet's ashes become commonplace.

“It really started catching on 10 to 12 years ago,” said Michael Nicodemus, vice president of cremation operations at Hollomon-Brown Funeral Home/Lynnhaven Crematory in Virginia Beach, Va.

Nicodemus is president of the Cremation Association of North America.

“It was available earlier, but just like cremation is to humans, people were reluctant because they didn't know enough about the cremation process,” he said. “Just like they used to bury grandma, that's how they buried their pets. Now people are more educated.”

Wiefels Cremation & Funeral Service in Palm Springs began performing pet cremations in 2009 with a separate business, Pet Cremation Center by Wiefels.

“When we started out, they kind of dribbled in,” said Wiefels president Mark Matthews. “We got to be excited when it was one a day. Now it's 10 times what it was.”

Matthews said the company performs 2,000 to 3,000 pet cremations a year.

The basic cost is $150 and includes cremation, a plastic urn, a paw print, a lock of fur and a copy of “Rainbow Bridge,” a poem about the loss of a pet.

'Why don't you start a pet cemetery?'

Charles Stewart Sr. and his family moved to Palm Springs in 1958. They ran a boarding kennel and grooming business on Dillon Road, just west of Palm Drive.

“Then people started asking me, ‘Why don't you start a pet cemetery,'?” Stewart said.

There was no place in the desert to bury pets, yet he knew bereaved owners wanted a more dignified way to remember them.

“The people were burying them in the dump or in their yards,” he said.

It took more than a year, 1,000 signatures, the approval of the Riverside County planning department and the board of supervisors, but by 1964, the cemetery had been established.

He said it took about $10,000 to buy the land and start the cemetery. He leveled the land, poured the concrete sidewalks, built the brick monument and worked dirt and grass seed into the sand.

Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City even donated the squares of sod that had been dug out for burials.

“The first pet we buried for $65,” the elder Stewart said. “The first 15 years we supported it, then it started paying for itself, breaking even.”

Buried in pine casket

Stewart Jr. said when the the pets are placed in the ground, they're situated so they're facing west, “Toward the setting sun.”

“All of our animals, just like President Abe Lincoln, are buried in a handmade pine casket. If it's good enough for President Lincoln, it's good enough for our babies,” said Stewart, who makes the caskets.

The animals, tucked in a blanket, are often accompanied to the grave with a favorite item, placed by their owners.

Although it's an ongoing financial struggle, the Stewarts are stalwart in their dedication and commitment to the cemetery and to the people they serve.

“This is a debt of honor,” Stewart Jr. said. “We're constantly doing work, maintaining the property. We've carried on the tradition of love.”


Thursday, March 22, 2012

BBB Advises Consumers To Shop Around, Ask Questions Before Buying Funeral Services

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is advising consumers to ask lots of questions and consider several providers before buying or planning funeral services.
Americans spend billions on funerals every year, but the funeral or burial services don’t have to be costly. A funeral can be a simple internment or an elaborate affair with music, speakers, customized caskets and refreshments for mourners. Family, religious or personal preferences are important, but cost and convenience should be considered as well.

“Many families are forced to make decisions about funerals under stress,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB President and CEO. “By educating themselves about the process and taking time to ask questions and compare costs, families can avoid overspending. They’re more likely to get the kind of service they want, too.”
The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule gives consumers a number of rights, including the right to receive written price lists, explanations of cemetery or legal requirements and the choice of using a container other than a casket for cremation. Some cemeteries have their own requirements, which must be explained fully before you make a purchase.

The BBB offers the following tips for avoiding funeral scams:
  • Be an informed consumer. Call and shop around before making a purchase. Funeral homes are required to provide detailed price lists over the phone or in writing. Ask if lower priced items are included on the price list.
  • Contact the BBB for a Business Review of any funeral home, cremation service, cemetery or other provider you may be considering. Check whether the funeral services director or embalmer is licensed. Reviews are available at or by calling 314-645-3300.
  • Be alert for unsupported claims. Sellers who claim to have a product or service that will preserve human remains over the long term are misleading you. Funeral providers cannot determine how long a casket will preserve a body, so keep that in mind when deciding whether to purchase the more expensive “sealed” or “protective” casket. A casket is not legally required for a direct cremation.
  • Cemetery plots or niches in a mausoleum are sold more like a perpetual lease than a real estate deed. The rights of use should be spelled out in the contract. Ask if there are additional fees for vaults, opening the grave or perpetual care. Ask whether the cemetery has an endowment to provide for upkeep over time.
  • Research funeral home service fees. The Federal Trade Commission’s Web site at has information on charges that are prohibited under the Funeral Rule.
  • Embalming is not required if you choose direct cremation or immediate burial.
  • Resist high-priced sales pitches from funeral industry vendors. They should treat you with compassion; not pressure you.
  • Consult a friend or family member. Take along a friend or relative when you visit the funeral home. Someone who is not as emotionally invested as you are can assist with difficult decisions.
  • Require all proposed plans and purchases to be put in writing. Compare the posted prices and any oral promises with those listed in the contract. The contract should itemize all prices and specify any future costs. Check the contract for any restrictions.
  • Carefully read contracts and purchase agreements before signing. Ask if the agreements you sign can be voided, taken back or transferred to other funeral homes.
  • Prepaying for a funeral has advantages as well as risks. If you choose to prepay, carefully research your options and know your rights. You can always make plans in advance, without prepaying, and you may be better off putting money for a funeral in a savings account. Be sure to share your specific wishes with those close to you. 


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Embalming: Preserving Life in The Time of Death

The death of a loved one can be a difficult time for many, and a funeral can be especially difficult for some people to deal with.
Stephanie Dubois/ Rep Staff Serenity Funeral Service Funeral Director
and Embalmer Quinn Furey

Although it can be hard, dealing with death is part of a normal day for local embalmers and funeral directors.

Considered to be a morbid profession by some, embalmers are a necessary part of society and play a major role in the preservation of a body after death, said one Leduc embalmer.

“I think the healthiest point of view you can have is this is a role that needs filling and this is a role in society that has to happen,” said Quinn Furey, an embalmer and funeral director with Serenity Funeral Services in Leduc, who said many people are unaware of what happens to the deceased during the embalming, cremation or burial process.

The embalming procedure, which is not mandatory and depends on the family’s wishes, is one which dates back to the Egyptian dynasty where Egyptians would prepare their dead for the afterlife. Although the process has changed substantially since then, the preservation of the body so family members can view it as part of their grief is still an important part of the method.

According to Furey, the enshrining process can be described as “the preserving of the human body through the use of chemicals and also retards micro-organism growth.” One of the main issues with a deceased person is the risk of bacteria growth, which can release harmful microorganisms into the air, and is why embalmers use chemicals such as formaldehyde to stop the body’s tissue from decomposing.

The three, main steps to embalming

Considered to be a somewhat lengthy process, embalming a dead body has three main priorities: sanitation, preservation and restoration, , Furey said.

The first step requires the mortician to remove all bacteria from the body by using chemicals.

Furey said tuberculosis is one of the biggest concerns when dealing with sanitation, because it is a bacteria that presents itself in the lungs and still manifests after the person is deceased.

Called vascular embalming, Furey said the funeral home relies on the body’s arteries to flush out the blood and circulate the chemicals used in order to maintain the body’s tissues. Using a special machine to pump the liquid, the mortician first creates an incision to a major artery and inserts the liquids through the major artery.

“Basically what we are doing is pushing the blood out. We inject in the artery and then we open up the vein. We use it because it is the closest to the heart and it’s a major distributor. We can inject [the fluids] in any major artery and we will do that if an area gets plugged,” said the local funeral director.

The fluids used not only contain formaldehyde, but also water, dyes to pigment the skin as well as other embalming agents.

“Most of the colour in Caucasian skin is blood showing through the skin. When someone passes, the blood settles to the lowest point and the tissue gets a greyest colour, so we have a few different dyes to help.”

After inserting the enshrining liquid, the embalmer then does what is called ‘aspiration.’

The practice sees the major organs such as the stomach and lungs punctured and filled with a special liquid, which stops bacteria growth.

After the fluids are injected, the body is then prepared for the viewing process. The embalmer first sets the features of the deceased, which includes closing the eyes and wiring the jaw shut. The person’s face is then shaved, they are dressed in the clothing chosen by the family and are placed in the casket.

Once the body is placed, the deceased person then has makeup applied by an embalmer in preparation for the viewing.

“One of hardest parts is lips on men because the lips go grey usually. There is quite a bit of blood vessels so one of the harder things, oddly enough, is to get the lip colour right,” said Furey.

After the viewing, depending on the family’s wishes, some people choose to have their loved ones’ ashes cremated.

Although the Leduc funeral home does not do the cremation at their local office, their affiliate branch does take care of the deceased. Furey said the cremation process generally takes about three to four hours, depending on the size of the person and the box they are cremated in.

Resembling the concept of an oven, the crematorium burns the deceased person and the closed container they are placed in at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. The ashes are then collected by using a series of brushes and are placed into a metal bin with spinning blades.

Although it is mostly bone marrow that remains as somewhat larger pieces, Furey said the ashes are put through the machine to become fine ash, with all metal removed prior.

The remains are then placed into a special heavy-duty plastic bag, which is then put into the urn or container of choice of the family members.

The ashes are then given to the family or prepared for the funeral.

The viewing: one of more important parts of grieving process

According to local funeral directors, the viewing portion of the funeral can be difficult for many but can be one of the most important steps in grieving over the loss of a loved one.

“I think death denial is rampant and it is something our culture has embraced fully because most people don’t know what happens in the funeral industry. Just because the viewing is unpleasant doesn’t mean it isn’t important,” said Furey.

One of the more difficult parts of being a funeral director, according to Leduc staff, is having to see the family during the committal portion of the funeral, which is when the casket is placed into the ground. Furey said most people are able to contain their grief during the majority of the funeral proceedings but this portion of the grieving ceremony is when many are unable to hold back.

“That seems to be where the family has held themselves together and that’s where they break. That can be the toughest part,” said Furey, adding seeing parents with a child who passed away is also a difficult moment. “I think the toughest times is when you see somebody who is my parents age and somebody my age is the deceased. There is a similarity between me and the deceased, which is difficult because then it becomes personal.”

Local embalmers agree that no matter how difficult death may be to some, it is an equalizer that everyone will encounter and that by understanding what happens after a person passes can help lessen the fear of death many have.

“I think many people believe talking or thinking about death is bad or morbid but most people I meet want to know more out of curiosity. I think it is a good thing that people are curious. The less it is demystified, the less fear there is.”


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Most Americans Are Clueless About “What To Do With The Ashes”

One of the most interesting yet unspoken topics involving Cremation is "what to do with the ashes?" There is no etiquette handbook that tells us what's right or inappropriate. We all just make convenient and sincere decisions.

Jill Larson, Senior Vice President, Smart Cremation, said, "After being in this business for many years, I can honestly say there is no right or common answer to what happens to the ashes of a loved one or friend. It is all a matter of circumstances. We know many families store ashes in hideaway places such as attics and closets and others who choose to have ashes displayed in expensive urns on mantels.

"Smart Cremation is often asked for suggestions. We usually explain what others have done but we don't force the issue. It is really a personal decision. Not everyone has the same circumstances or conditions. Some families have young children and don't want anything fragile displayed. Others don't want to look at constant reminders. Then there are others who devote a shrine to the ashes. It is important for these people to have a place of worship and respect."

Larson admits it is very difficult to predict who will do what because it is such a personal decision and often takes time for family members to decide on a final disposition for those ashes. With cremation, there is no rush. Families sometimes sit an urn on the mantel until something personal strikes them as appropriate (such as scattering ashes on a lake where the deceased used to vacation).

A growing number of folks are opting for a more dramatic choice that is getting a lot of attention from survivors." Ashes are now imbedded in necklaces, sculptures, diamond rings and vases at all price ranges. Some are even infusing ashes into their tattoos. It is all about mobility and the personal connection. People love feeling that they are very close to the departed. It eases the loss and pain.

Larson added, "We see more and more people making individual choices. Families and friends divide the ashes so there doesn't have to be a big group decision and now folks who want to be creative can let their imaginations run wild."

Larson said the topic of what to do with the ashes should be discussed more because an increasing number of Americans are choosing cremation over traditional burials. This topic is going to be explored in all kinds of areas. It is very exciting.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Cremation Delays Lead to Added Grief - Town Undertakers

BEREAVED families in Cheltenham are facing agonising delays before laying their loved ones to rest due to the installation of new equipment at the town crematorium.

Undertakers say work to bring two new cremators to the Bouncers Lane site means their clients are being forced to wait for two weeks to get an appointment for a cremation.

Martin Cocks, owner of WS Trenhaile funeral directors in Charlton Kings, said the delay – a week more than the normal waiting time – heightened the grief suffered by families at an already difficult time.

He criticised the borough council for carrying out the work in a month when the death rate was near its peak.

He said: "I realise what they are doing at the crematorium is important but I would question whether they should be doing the work at this time of year, which has a particularly high number of deaths.

"It is far quieter during the summer so it would have made much more sense to do it then.

"Our job is to look after our clients and their families and to make sure things are as smooth as possible for them at what can be a very traumatic time.

"But having to wait 14 days undoubtedly makes it more difficult for them."

Joy Mason, partner at Mason and Stokes funeral directors in Hewlett Road, said she had also noticed the delay.

"There has been a slight delay but we understand the work needs to go on to comply with regulations," she said.

"At this time of year there is always a longer delay in any case. It takes some time to get back to normal after the Christmas period and there are more deaths over the winter than at other times of the year."

The council claimed the average delay between death and cremation was 10 days – irrespective of the time of year.

However, funeral directors said they were normally able to secure a cremation appointment in half that time.

Robert Hainsworth, bereavement services manager at the council, said the authority had been in touch with undertakers across the town to let them know about the situation.

He said: "We are having two new cremators installed to replace the outdated cremators we currently have.

"The new cremators will be more energy efficient to reduce the council's carbon footprint and will be up and running by the end of February.

"It is a particularly difficult job as the building is Grade II listed and the contractors have to install the new cremators without changing the structure of the building.

"The staff are working extremely hard to keep the service running to avoid delays."


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Nearly Half of Californians Choose It

San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer has given his approval to plans by a Dominican parish to build a columbarium with 320 niches for the cremated remains of parishioners, the archdiocesan newspaper Catholic San Francisco reports.

The newspaper described the plans at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church as “a first for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and a sign of how things have changed from the past when the Catholic Church banned cremation except for extraordinary circumstances such as an outbreak of the plague.”

“A columbarium is a building or portion of a building where niches are placed to house cremated remains to honor and remember our deceased family and friends,” says the parish website.

“It is estimated that niche prices will vary from $4,200 to $15,200 depending upon location of the niche,” according to St. Dominic’s website. “This price is for up to 2 persons per niche. There will also be opening fees.”

“St. Dominic’s proposed columbarium is an example of how prevalent cremation has become, particularly in California, the state with the highest number of cremations in the country with 107,769 in 2009,” reported the Dec. 9 edition of Catholic San Francisco. “Forty-six percent of Californians chose cremation over whole body burial in 2009, according to the Cremation Association of North America. Nationally, cremations rose from 33 percent in 2004 to 38 percent in 2009, according to the association report.”

Some observers have concluded that the rise in cremation can be attributed in part to the bad economy. In an example provided in a Dec. 9 New York Times article on the subject, the family of a 54-year-old woman who died from cancer spent a total of $1600 when it opted for cremation -- compared to $10,000 to $16,000 for a traditional burial and funeral.

Archbishop Niederauer’s approval for the parish columbarium “was specific to the circumstances at St. Dominic, which is owned by the Dominican Order,” the archdiocesan newspaper reported. “In general, the archdiocese recommends burial or interment at Holy Cross or one of the other Catholic cemeteries in the archdiocese.”

“This is not a precedent,” the archbishop was quoted as saying by Catholic San Francisco. “If there are other parishes that want to proceed with this in the future, we need to approach those requests on a parish by parish basis, judging the situation individually.”

The niches in the columbarium at St. Dominic’s will be available only to registered parishioners. Holy Cross Cemetery -- the archdiocesan cemetery in Colma -- already provides for cremated remains either by traditional burial, above-ground indoor and outdoor marble niches, and glass-front niches in the cemetery’s All Saints Mausoleum.

Other dioceses in California also operate cemeteries designed to handle cremated remains. In the Oakland diocese, the Mausoleum at the Cathedral of Christ the Light includes 1850 niches for cremated remains, which can cost as little as $1500 or as much as $110,000. The mausoleum below the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles includes 4794 niches for urns containing cremated remains.

In the dioceses of San Jose, Orange and Sacramento, Catholic cemeteries provide burial, mausoleums and niches to handle cremated remains.

Permitting cremation is relatively new to the Church, which forbade it -- except in rare circumstances -- until 1963. In 1997, the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments further refined the Church’s position, authorizing local bishops to set their own policies on whether cremated remains may be present at funeral Masses. Canon law on the subject has also changed, with the 1983 edition lifting a ban on cremation that had been in the 1917 Code.

“While the Church favors traditional burial, it now allows cremation,” explains a section on the Sacramento diocesan website about cremation. “In the past the Church prohibited cremation because the practice had been associated with a denial of the Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead and the immortality of the soul. The Church removed this prohibition in 1963 and now forbids cremation only if it is done ‘for reasons that are contrary to Christian teaching.’”