Monday, October 31, 2011

Eternal Image Launches STAR TREK Cremation Caskets

Eternal Image, Inc., a public company engaged in the design, manufacturing and marketing of officially licensed, Brand-name memorial products, today announced that it has launched its line of STAR TREK(TM) cremation caskets.

"Our Star Trek cremation caskets provide customers with a complete package for their loved one's cremation service," said Nick Popravsky, VP of Sales & Marketing for the Company. "We will soon be announcing the availability of a new Star Trek cremation urn that will provide the perfect complement to this cremation casket line."

Crafted from fiberboard and cloth, the official STAR TREK cremation caskets offer a new and previously unavailable option for families of STAR TREK fans that have arranged a traditional viewing.

The Company has three cremation casket models to choose from: Star Fleet Delta, Federation of Planets and Klingon. Consumers can view photos of these caskets as well as obtain ordering information by visiting the following link:


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Perfect Memorials Unveils New Adoration Pet Cremation Urn Series

Perfect Memorials, the largest provider of memorial products in the world, today introduced a new line of pet urns handcrafted in timeless designs in warm natural wood.

"We are proud to launch our line of Adoration Pet Cremation Urns, providing our customers with even more affordable choices when looking for pet urns. Every urn is hand crafted in wood with several different styles available. Our new line of pet urns will complement any home environment," says Ryan Graf, President of Perfect Memorials.

The Adoration Pet Cremation Urn Series are crafted from a green composite wood that provides greater resistance to warping and cracking over time, and also feature a felt lined interior and bottom. Unlike many competing products, each pet urn uses real glass as opposed to acrylic for the photo frame.

Perfect Memorials has positioned itself as the leader of affordable memorial products. Both the Heart or Oval Adoration Pet Cremation Urn and Best Friends Adoration Companion Pet Cremation Urn can be ordered for only $54.95 each including free shipping and no sales tax.

Other pet urns include the Protecting Paws Adoration Cremation Urn and the Heart Adoration Pet Cremation Urn.

The majority of pet urns provided by Perfect Memorials can be engraved directly on the front, further helping commemorate the memory of a loved one with a poem or sentiment.

To help families that are not sure what cremation urn to use, Perfect Memorials has implemented the Urn Finder. This tool assists families in browsing through thousands of cremation urns to identify an urn that meets specific characteristics such as price, materials or color.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thief Steals Cremation Ashes From Parked Car

Police were searching for a thief who stole cremated remains from a parked SUV just hours before the victim could transport her mother's ashes to the East Coast.

The burglar broke into the sport utility vehicle in the parking lot of the Westfield Promenade shopping center in Woodland Hills early Monday evening and took two bags of luggage and a black canvas carry-on, Los Angeles Police Department officials said in a statement.

The ashes were in the black bag.

The two pieces of luggage were recovered Tuesday afternoon, but some items that had been inside were missing, police said. The black bag was nowhere to be found.

An LAPD spokesman said detectives were seeking tips and did not have any suspects.

The victim told police she was going to take the ashes to the East Coast for spreading.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Funeral Director Loses License, But Not for Leaving Decomposing Body in Hearse for 9 Days

A North Carolina judge declined to discipline a funeral director who left a Carrboro woman's decomposing body in the back of a parked hearse for nine days because the man had exhausted all his legal options for properly dealing with the body.

But the judge suspended David B. Lawson's license to operate as of 5 p.m. today because of other issues that arose during the investigation of his handling of Linda Walton's body.

"You're out of business," administrative law judge Don Overby told Lawson after a four-hour hearing.

Walton was a 37-year-old woman who lived alone in a Carrboro apartment when she died in early August 2010. When she was found in the uncooled apartment, officials estimated that she had been dead for about a week, most likely the result of illness.

Carrboro police called Lawson, one of the funeral directors in their rotation, to come pick her up. He told the judge Wednesday that he tried repeatedly to treat Walton's body while he tried to locate her next of kin, but that it was too late for the embalming process when he got the body and that he could do little to suppress the putrid odor.

Neither Lawson nor police could find any relatives of Walton's, and an out-of-state friend Lawson finally reached would not accept responsibility for the body.

Lawson couldn't have Walton cremated or buried without authorization from next of kind or an official with the Orange County Department of Social Services, who he said would not return his calls. The state medical examiner's office refused to take the body because no autopsy was required, and no medical school in the state will take a body more than 10 days after death.

Lawson had sent Walton's body to a crematory for cold storage, but the odor was overwhelming and they brought her back the next day. Lawson said a worker from the crematory left Walton's body in the back of an older-model hearse parked on Lawson's property while Lawson was out on a call.

There she remained until police, responding to complaints from neighbors about the smell, found her on Aug. 20. Each day while her body lay in the hearse, the temperature outside topped 90 degrees.

"I had nowhere else to take it," Lawson told the judge. "I had no choice."

The state Board of Funeral Service launched an investigation into the incident. After that began, the board received a number of complaints from people who said Lawson owed them money. They said they had pre-paid for funeral services, but changed their minds about letting Lawson handle the services, and asked for their money back. In several cases, Lawson still has not returned the money.

Lawson was not licensed to sell so-called "pre-need" services, which are regulated by state law and audited by the Board of Funeral Service.

The board found that Lawson had sold the contracts when he wasn't licensed to do so; had not used the required contract forms or filed copies of the contracts with the board as required by law, and had misappropriated the money for the services, which the law says must be set aside in a trust account or insurance policy.

The board also found that Lawson had kept overpayments from insurance policies that he should have refunded after funeral costs had been paid.

The board's executive director, William Paul Harris, said those actions amounted to fraud. While the handling of Walton's body was disrespectful, the board found the fraud charges more egregious and wanted Lawson's licenses revoked over those.

In his ruling, Judge Overby agreed that what happened to Walton's body was unfortunate, but said the board itself was not helpful. When Lawson called the board for advice, Harris suggested Lawson ice the body down to slow the decomposition, and told Lawson he needed to apply more pressure to the Carrboro Police Department or the medical examiner's office.

"Have you ever tried that?" Overby asked Harris during the hearing.

Harris also told the judge that Lawson could have put the body in a sealed container at his own expense, or tried to find another crematory that would take it among the 100 or so in the state.

In announcing his ruling, Overby said, "I agree that leaving her in the back of the hearse was not a good thing to do but he had not other options.

"It was a problem without an answer," the judge said.

However, the judge found, the state had proved that Lawson was illegally selling pre-need services and that when customers asked for their money back, he couldn't give it to them.

Overby's suspension of Lawson's license is binding but temporary, pending a decision by the board after its Nov. 9 meeting. At that time, the board can decide whether to revoke Lawson's licenses or take some other action.

If the board revokes his license, Lawson could apply to have it reinstated.


Fiducial Acquires the Nation’s Leading Funeral Home Business Services Provider, Federated Funeral Directors of America

Two successful family owned businesses join forces. Fiducial, a family owned accounting firm with over 70 offices in the U.S., acquires the family owned Federated Funeral Directors of America of Springfield, Illinois, a leading funeral home business services provider. 

Mr. Christian Latouche, Founder and Chairman of Fiducial, is proud to announce the acquisition of Federated Funeral Directors of America of Springfield, Illinois; and its subsidiaries, Southeastern Funeral Directors Service and Funeral Management Service. Federated is currently the business services expert to the funeral home industry with over 1,300 funeral home clients. This acquisition joins two successful family owned businesses to form a strong, comprehensive source of services for small businesses.

Yves Morard-Lacroix, Executive Vice President of Fiducial and John Rodenburg, President of Federated Funeral Directors of America, signed an agreement Thursday, October 20th, formalizing the acquisition of Federated Funeral Directors of America by Fiducial.

The acquisition of Federated Funeral Directors of America of Springfield, Illinois is a natural fit for Fiducial. Federated serves the funeral services community on a national level and Fiducial serves the small business community with nationally connected local points of service. Both companies share a specialized focus on serving small and independent businesses.

John Rodenburg, President of Federated says, “This acquisition will allow me to devote more time to help our clients rather than focusing on management. We are a very client centered organization with close client relationships. We believe that Fiducial will continue this tradition.” Federated was started in 1925 by Rodenburg’s grandfather and has grown into the country’s premier funeral services business provider. Federated Funeral Directors of America handles everything from comprehensive accounting services and funeral business consulting to succession planning and collection services.

The focus on small businesses and the all encompassing nature of Federated’s business model is a natural fit for Fiducial’s full-service, local business model. Fiducial’s success is due to their belief that for small, independent business to remain competitive, they should have access to the same comprehensive services and expert advice that big businesses have. Fiducial strives to provide those services.

Yves Morard-Lacroix, Executive Vice President of Fiducial Inc. says, “We have a great respect for what Federated has built. John Rodenburg, along with 200 caring, dedicated and extremely knowledgeable staff members, built something unique. They built an organization with great heart, which provides excellent service, and helps build, sustain, and support funeral homes all across the U.S. These are just some of the qualities and characteristics we respect and admire about Federated. These are also qualities that are very important to us at Fiducial.”

Morard-Lacroix continues, “Fiducial is built upon the idea that small and independent businesses do best when they are served by local experts in their industry. Giving local experts the resources of a national firm is at Fiducial’s foundation. This is one reason the joining of Fiducial and Federated makes such good sense. It’s going to be a great combination that will continue Federated’s legacy and add new services to over 1,300 clients.”

Fiducial is a provider of services to small businesses and their owners throughout the United States. Fiducial established operations in the U.S. in 1999 and has grown to approximately 70 locations around the country comprised of both company stores and franchise offices.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Families Forgoing Funerals, Putting Cemeteries in Bind

They're choosing cremations over burials to cut costs

After a decade of hospitalizations from diabetes and heart disease, Debra Franzel had a frank talk with her niece, Deanna Franzel. A Medicaid patient, she wanted cremation and no fanfare over her passing.

"We had discussed very openly what her wishes were," said Deanna Franzel, 30, of Caro. "She said, 'I don't want anybody to pay for a funeral. No funeral, no showing, no viewing.' "

When Debra Franzel, 53, died in April, the Cremation Society of Michigan picked up her body and took it to a crematorium.

The cost, Deanna Franzel said, was around $250.

If her aunt hadn't been ill for so long or had more money, her choice about her funeral arrangements might have been different, Deanna Franzel said.

"She did it because she didn't want to be a burden to anybody," Franzel said. "People don't want to burden a family with headstones and funeral costs. There are also spiritual and cultural diversities. People have to do what's comfortable for them."

Driven in part by tight finances, more families are choosing cremation over traditional funerals, forcing operators to rethink how they do business. Falling burial rates and rising cremations are putting the pinch on cemeteries.

Blame the high cost of dying.

A full funeral and burial can top $10,000. A no-frills cremation can be less than $1,000. It's a vicious cycle for cemeteries as the economy remains sluggish and stigmas against cremation ease.

Some cemeteries have raised prices more than 15 percent this summer alone, said Phil Douma, executive director of the Michigan Funeral Directors Association.

"There's no question in the minds of funeral directors that these escalating burial fees certainly play a factor in the rising cremation rates," Douma said. "It's a major, major issue with the cemetery industry, both private and municipal. Opening and closing the graves are an integral part of the business plan, and it's really affecting the industry."

Canton Township, for example, had to hike rates at its three cemeteries last year from $300 a burial to $1,200.

"We tried to keep costs down but we did the analysis," said township engineer Tom Casari. The township only handles about seven services a year but has to do the same cemetery maintenance it did when burial rates were higher.

In 1990, nearly 80 percent of people who died in Michigan were buried. In 2010, about 50 percent received a burial. The cremation rate during that period more than doubled, from 17 percent to more than 40 percent.

"The cemeteries that are municipal owned don't have the extra funds any more to do the maintenance, and they depend on the burial fees," said Tony Benhart, manager of the Crystal Springs Cemetery in Benton Harbor. The fee for a cremation ceremony can be a quarter of that for a burial, he said.

Michigan has about 4,200 cemeteries, including about 125 privately owned burial grounds, according to the state cemetery commission.

Almost 600 are owned by religious organizations. Another 350 are abandoned or obliterated, and there are five Native American and five national cemeteries in the state. The rest are owned by municipalities.

Michigan is in the upper middle of the pack of states when it comes to cremation rates; 19 have higher rates than Michigan. Nevada is the highest at 65 percent and Alabama is the lowest at fewer than 10 percent.

Patrick Lynch of Lynch and Sons Funeral Directors in Clawson said cost is a factor in the growing popularity of cremation. But a bigger factor is the way we perceive the concept of "home," Lynch said.

"People are not as grounded to a place as they were a generation ago," said Lynch, who is president of the National Funeral Directors Association. "Today, people move around like it's nothing. Someone doesn't necessarily call Detroit home just because they're born there. Because of that, people are disinclined to buy cemetery property."

Cremation, he said, allows people to be as mobile in death as they were in life.

Another option that's gaining market share is a "green" funeral. Green funerals eschew embalming fluid and non-biodegradable caskets and can be cheaper than a traditional funeral, said Adam Martin, owner of Martin Funeral Cremation & Tribute Services, which has locations in Genesee and Tuscola counties.

A green funeral costs about $1,000 to $1,500 less than a traditional one, Martin said.

"It's just something that we want to let people know is available and out there," he said. "We like to focus on what the family wants to do. It's just sort of looking outside the box to help people."

At Glen Eden Memorial Park, a religious cemetery in Livonia, officials have shifted services over the years to better serve those who choose cremation.

"I would say in the last 20 years, we have certainly kept our ear to our customers' needs and what they wanted," said Tom Habitz, general manager of Glen Eden. "We can do a couple of different things. We can bury the ashes in an existing grave. We can take up to four cremations in one grave or three cremations and one traditional bury." The Livonia cemetery handles about 550 burials and about 200 cremations a year. Like other cemeteries in Michigan, Glen Eden faces rising costs for gas, insurance and equipment.

"One thing that a lot of people have difficulty with in the general public is they don't understand the final aspect of the cemetery," Habitz said. "We have a one-time fee but we have to maintain that grave or that mausoleum forever."


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Living Green - Dying Green

As some Chicagoans prepare Halloween costumes portraying the dead, death-industry professionals are gathered in Chicago to discuss business strategies regarding the dearly departed.

The National Funeral Directors Association International Convention and Expo opened Sunday and runs through Wednesday at McCormick Place. The group is holding its convention in conjunction with the Wheeling-based Cremation Association of North America for the first time, bringing together two seemingly competing sectors of the disposition industry.

Among the issues up for discussion are the rise of "green" funerals, which can include biodegradable caskets, organic or locally grown flowers, and burial without embalmment.

"As consumers, they make choices to live more environmentally friendly lifestyles, and they're also starting to look at ways that they can make their funerals 'green,'" said Jessica Koth, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin-based National Funeral Directors Association.

Another trend is that more families are opting for cremation, often as a more cost-effective alternative to traditional burials. The Cremation Association estimates that more than 44 percent of those who die in the United States in 2015 will be cremated, according to a 2008 report.

Another topic up for discussion at the convention is alkaline hydrolysis, an emerging technique that uses water, chemicals and heat to accelerate natural decomposition, Koth said. The process, which is legal in only a small number of states, serves as an alternative to cremation, with less use of fossil fuels.

"There are so many alternatives available that funeral directors and cremationists need to know how to respond to that," said Mark Matthews, president of the Cremation Association. "But we're not sure how the consumer is going to react to it."

As at most conventions, organizers have planned several social outings.

"A lot of people that come are often the only people in their town who own a funeral home," Matthews said. "So they come to Chicago and they kind of get to let their hair down."


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cremation Revived as Grave Alternative

As Malta’s cemeteries become fuller the Health Ministry is considering the introduction of cremation as part of a policy to tackle the growing lack of burial space.

The demand for more graves is getting bigger every year.

“The policy aims at addressing the situation in which the demand for more graves is getting bigger every year, and thus considers various solutions and options available... which range from building other graves and adding grave sites to options such as a crematorium,” a ministry spokesman said.

Currently, cremation is not regulated by law since there are no crematoriums. However, bodies that were cremated abroad have been allowed a normal burial.

The Church does not oppose cremation but recommends that the ashes are buried and not kept in urns or scattered.

At the moment government cemeteries have more than 22,293 graves, 1,776 of which are common.

The bulk of the graves are at Santa Maria Addolorata Cemetery where there are 15,538 graves that include 14,329 privately owned and 1,209 common ones.

Until May this year there were 6,748 pending applications to buy graves with 4,029 of the applicants wanting a burial space at the Addolorata. Some applications have been pending for over a decade.

Over the past years the government has been looking at ways to solve the problem of the lack of burial space and come up with various proposals to extend the cemetery.

In 2006 former Health Minister Louis Deguara had announced that some 2,782 graves were to be developed. Three years later his successor, John Dalli, said the previous plans had been scrapped because they did not respect the architectural heritage of the Paola cemetery.

Mr Dalli, who is now an EU commissioner, announced a massive €33 million extension of 9,000 new graves at the Addolorata to be built over three years.

He said a piece of land had been identified for a crematorium but the government was not interested in actually developing or managing it and would leave this up to the private sector. Mr Dalli also said each new grave would be sold for about €8,000 – an increase of over €4,000 over prices still applicable today.

Despite these promises, no new graves have materialised as yet.

A ministry spokesman said the government was working on the policy to address the problem.

“In fact plans have been laid down for the extension of the Addolorata cemetery which will accommodate about 2,900 graves,” he said adding that it was not possible to give a timeframe for the completion of the policy.

Speaking in Parliament last week, Health Minister Joseph Cassar confirmed that the real cost of a new grave was €8,000 and this will be reflected in amendments to the price order regulating the price of graves at the Addolorata.

The minister said the extension of the Addolorata was still in its initial stage, with workers involved in site clearance.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dan Wheldon Dead at 33

10/16/11: IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon died after suffering severe injuries in a 15-car wreck at the Las Vegas Indy 300. He was 33 years old. The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner (including this year's event) was critically hurt when his car sailed over the top of another during a massive, fiery wreck on Lap 13.


Sue Mengers Dead at 79

10/16/11: Hollywood talent agent Sue Mengers died in her home in Beverly Hills after a long illness. Over her storied career she represented such Hollywood greats as, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, Barbra Streisand, Nick Nolte and Burt Reynolds to name a few. She was 79.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mikey Welsh Dead at 40

10/9/11: Former Weezer bassist Mikey Welsh died from a suspected drug overdose in a Chicago hotel room. He was 40 years old. In an odd twist, Welsh had predicted his death - down to the correct weekend - on Twitter weeks before. He had written that he had a dream about dying in a Chicago hotel room from a heart attack on that weekend.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Al Davis Dead at 82

10/8/11: Longtime owner of the Oakland Raiders football team died at 82. As commissioner of the American Football League in the '60s, he was instrumental in organizing the merger with the NFL that led to the current league as we know it today. Davis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Charles Napier Dead at 75

10/5/11: Character actor, Charles Napier, most well known for his roles in "Rambo", "The Blues Brothers" and the voice of "Duke" in "The Critic", died from, as of yet, unknown causes. He was 75.


Steve Jobs Dead at 56

10/5/11: Chairman and Co-Founder of Apple, died due to complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 56. Jobs was known for his keynote speeches that were given each year to update the loyal Apple followers, as well as his enlightening interview style.