Latest Event Updates

Gut and Gumption – Young Professionals Have It All

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This article originally appeared in the winter issue of the Independent magazine.

Since 2016, OGR’s Young Professionals group has been meeting every spring for its annual event, but last fall they came together for the first time for a study group. OGR study groups consist of five to ten people who gather in a participant’s funeral home for “ongoing study of successful business practices.” Study group participants usually tour the host funeral home and provide constructive feedback on what they see. They also spend a day and a half exchanging ideas and working through challenges they’re facing.

OGR firm Lakeside Memorial Funeral Home hosted the first young professional study group this past September. Seven OGR firms sent staff members to attend, so we sat down with a few to hear more about their experience.

2018 YP study group at Lakeside Memorial Funeral Home in Hamburg, NY
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What Families Appreciate About Funeral Service

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Learning what families appreciate about your service is an important part of your funeral home business. Positive feedback can help you figure out what not to change about your funeral home and what families appreciate most. Good feedback can also lead to return business and referrals.

Each year, OGR awards the Exemplary Service Award to three funeral homes who have received positive family feedback through the Family Contact Program. This year, OGR asked the winners to share what their clients appreciate most about their funeral homes’ services.   

  1. Families Appreciate Respect and Professionalism.
Shown: Louis G. Aloia, Rosemarie A. Aloia, Andrea R. Gilkes of Aloia Funeral Home

2019 Exemplary Service Winner
Aloia Funeral Home, Inc. of Garfield, NJ

In owner Louis Aloia’s words, “According to the Family Contact surveys, the families we serve most appreciate our attention to detail. Our staff arrives at all removals in a suit and tie, no matter what time it is.  We receive many phone calls from families who can’t believe the respect they were shown.  Families also mention how much they appreciate our integrity in handling business affairs.” Aloia Funeral Home strives to show respect and professionalism to every family they serve and families notice.

Takeaway: Paying attention to even the smallest detail and finding ways to incorporate professionalism into each step can go a long way with families and show you care about their experience. You may not choose to wear a suit for a removal, but find other ways to demonstrate respect and assure families that they are putting their loved one in the right hands. 

2. Families Appreciate Time and Space

Shown: Roger Richie, Suzanne Hayes, Dan Heaman, Frank Heckler of John L. Ziegenhein & Sons Funeral Homes

2019 Exemplary Service Winner
John L. Ziegenhein & Sons Funeral Homes of St. Louis, MO

Owner Roger Richie explains, “Families appreciate that we educate them and offer options for them to make decisions without any pressure or expectations. We take time to complete the arrangements & services and to not rush clients through the funeral planning process. Our clients highly value the separate room we provide for each family’s food & beverages during the visitation—one equipped with a refrigerator and a microwave.”

Takeaway: We know that losing a loved one is an overwhelming experience. In order for families to make decisions and grieve without feeling rushed, they need time and space. Find ways to give families privacy and let them know that you are in tune with their needs

3. Families Appreciate Efforts to Honor Their Loved Ones

Shown: Kenneth McDonald, Stephen L. McDonald, Sr., Ann McDonald, Stephen L. McDonald, Jr. of McDonald Funeral Home, Inc.

2019 Exemplary Service Winner
McDonald Funeral Home, Inc. of Picayune, MS

Owner Steve McDonald notes the following: “People value the care and concern our staff shows through the planning process and appreciate having a service that honors their loved one in a meaningful way.”

Takeaway: Showing an entire life in one ceremony is an impossible task, but you can help a family honor their loved one by incorporating personal details that help reflect their love one’s life. Many families enjoy showcasing their loved ones’ hobbies or sharing memories of their loved ones through stories and pictures. Any detail that reminds a family of their loved one like a favorite flower, color or song is something that can be incorporated into the service and will be appreciated by them.

By Denise Rodriguez, OGR Family Contact Program Manager

Find out what families appreciate about your funeral home by joining the Family Contact Program. For more information or to sign up, visit or contact OGR’s Family Contact Manager at or 800-637-8030.

For Fans of Final Resting Places

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Who doesn’t love a good cemetery? Cemeteries offer nature, sculpture, and history rolled into one. Realizing that every person resting in a cemetery has a one-of-a-kind life story is an awe-inspiring thought. I always want to know more about how people lived their lives.

An entertaining way to learn about who’s behind some of those markers is to watch a series of YouTube vlogs entitled “Hollywood Graveyard.”  Its host, Arthur Dark, does an admirable job of noting the beauty of cemeteries as he presents facts about their notable inhabitants. Most of the graves he visits are those of famous people many adults will recognize: Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Rivers, and so on. Others are celebrities from years gone by whose fame faded long ago. Ironically, it’s the people I’ve never heard of who often have the most interesting stories.

For instance, I’d never heard the name Ub Iwerks even though I was quite familiar with his contributions to the entertainment industry.  Mr. Iwerks was Walt Disney’s right-hand man for many years. In addition to contributing to the creation of dozens of beloved animated characters, he is also credited with illustrating Mickey Mouse as we know and love him today.

Then there’s the even lesser-known Tamara De Treaux, an actress who stood 2’7” tall. Her diminutive stature kept her from being a leading lady but it didn’t stop her from becoming part of movie history. She was the person inside the costume of “E.T.”

Even familiar people can have unfamiliar backgrounds. Baby Boomers may remember Julie London and Bobby Troup as the married couple who starred in the 1970s television series “Emergency.”  Prior to their stint as television stars, Julie recorded over 20 albums of pop and jazz standards which are now mainstays on online music sites and top radio stations. Her husband had a no less impressive career as a jazz composer and musician, writing the standards “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66” and “Girl Talk.”  

While cemeteries are historically the most common site for final resting places, today we have other options. Online tribute sites can tell a detailed story about a person’s life through photographs, videos, stories, and mementos. QR codes linked to memorial websites can be attached to urns. Social media platforms offer conversion of people’s profiles into memorial sites.

Still, a physical location, whether it be an earth burial, urn or scattering garden, suggests a permanent connection. There’s something sad about having nowhere to go to pay tribute to people like former Beatle George Harrison, actor Christopher Reeves and John F. Kennedy, Jr. whose cremated remains were scattered in places unknown or inaccessible.

We don’t have to be famous to have input about how—and where–we’ll be remembered. Many helpful tools are available through the Have the Talk of a Lifetime program that make it easy and even fun to give this information to others. After all, sharing stories with young people, passing along cherished recipes or noting accomplishments that made us proud may be the most enduring way to keep memories of us alive.

By Mark Allen, CEO & Executive Director
This post was originally written for the Have the Talk of a Lifetime blog.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Kindness: Member Spotlight

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Periodically, we’ll highlight one of OGR’s Golden Rule Funeral Homes and the amazing work they’re doing in their communities. This week’s spotlight is on John L. Ziegenhein & Sons (JLZ) in St. Louis, MO. The original article was featured in 2018 Fall edition of OGR’s magazine The Independent

John L. Ziegenhein & Sons, St. Louis, MO

John L. Ziegenhein, Sr., and his four brothers opened a new funeral home in South St. Louis in 1900— Ziegenhein Brothers Undertaking. In 1931, when John wanted to bring his wife and sons into the business, he started his own funeral home, John L. Ziegenhein & Sons (JLZ), at its present location in St. Louis City, MO. In 1995 a second location was opened in St. Louis County about 12 miles south of the original. After the passing of the last member of the Ziegenhein family, ownership was transferred to longtime employees. Roger Richie took ownership in 2006.

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Halloween Event at a Cemetery – Irreverent or Honorable?

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10.30 Halloween Event at a Cemetery ImageThis October, two Halloween events were scheduled to be held in cemeteries  – one was canceled due to community complaints and backlash; another was a success with record-breaking attendance.

What was the difference? Is it okay to host an event during Halloween at a cemetery or funeral home? Or is it irreverent? Read the rest of this entry »

Guidelines for Helping those Grieving Pregnancy & Infant Loss

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This week’s post is taken from information shared by Christine Scott, Executive Director of Western New York Perinatal Bereavement Network, Inc. (WNYPBN). To learn more call 716-626-6363 or visit their website.

October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, making it an important month for remembering babies who have been lost in pregnancy or SIDS. Knowing how to respond to a friend or family member who has experienced a pregnancy or infant loss can be hard. See guidelines below for helping those in grief.  Read the rest of this entry »

Pop Culture, Celebrities Deaths, and Suicide

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September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. We’re doing a series of posts this month to encourage conversation around what many have seen to be a taboo subject.

sad-659422_1920Death is an uncomfortable subject and death by suicide even more so. When someone takes his/her life, family members and loved ones oftentimes feel shame and disgrace. The cause of death may be hidden, and loved ones may be reticent to share their feelings surrounding the death. Too often the feelings of shame and stigma prevent them from talking openly. Read the rest of this entry »