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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.

Distributing Grief Info: How to Share All You Know

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This post is Part 2 of a series on providing grief information to families (see Part 1 here). The original article appeared in the 2017 spring issue of OGR’Independent magazine

Your funeral home may offer a number of grief resources to families, but are you distributing the information in a way that reaches the most people? Below are some ideas for providing grief information as a way to market your expertise, build relationships, and engender trust even before a pre-need or at-need situation.  Read the rest of this entry »

Funeral Etiquette: Taking Photographs at Funerals

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should-you-take-photographs-at-a-funeral-add-headingEarlier this year, we wrote about families hiring a professional photographer to take photos at their loved one’s funeral and the ways it might benefit families in mourning. Families have control over a professional’s work and distribution of the images; however, they often lack that control when non-professionals, even those with good intentions, take photos at funerals. Sharing funeral photos can cause distress for the deceased’s loved ones, particularly when they post images on sites such as Facebook and Instagram. The news is frequently filled with people coming under fire for taking casket selfies. Just last week, the daughter of rap music star Shawty Lo publicly criticized fans for posting images of her father in his casket on social media sites after they were asked not to take photos.

The issue of photography at funerals isn’t likely to fade away. How is your funeral home responding? Does your funeral home have a policy on photography?  Are you steering the families you serve in the right direction and communicating best practices?  Read the rest of this entry »

10 Things I’ve Learned from Working with Funeral Directors

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9-1 10 Things Funeral Service Smith
Here’s a typical conversation that I have when I’m out with friends, meeting new people.

“What do you do?” asks someone who doesn’t really care but feels obligated to engage me in conversation.

“I work for a trade association that works with independently owned funeral homes. I’m a meeting planner.” I respond to cut to the chase.

“Oh! So you plan funerals? Do you embalm bodies?” returns the individual who now has a stronger interest in hearing what I have to say and obviously wasn’t listening.

“No. But I know quite a few people who do. Why? Do you need a discount on an urn?”

The asker typically turns pale and isn’t sure where to go from there.

So goes many a conversation at cocktail parties and other events when I have the opportunity to interact with anyone who doesn’t work in funeral service. It’s made me stop and think about what funeral directors face when they share their story with others.

Since I joined OGR’s staff four years ago, I’ve learned quite a bit about funeral service professionals and have found that they have a pretty challenging job. They work long, irregular hours around strange smells, extreme emotions, and lots of paperwork. They respond to phone calls in the middle of the night, often miss holidays with their families, and care for dead bodies. They maintain composure and professionalism in the midst of family conflict, inclement weather, and national tragedies. A lot of what they do is behind the scenes, unseen and unheard.  Read the rest of this entry »

Grieving Online – No Apologies Needed

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Everyone has those Facebook friends who overshare every aspect of their lives – from what they had for breakfast that morning to their thoughts on last night’s political debate. It’s easy to grow weary of those who overshare.

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There’s an etiquette that’s slowly developed around being a good online friend (read more 14 Do’s and Don’ts; Essential Facebook Etiquette) and approaching online interactions with care, but the lines are still blurred when someone has experienced loss.  Read the rest of this entry »

Reasons for Funeral Homes NOT to be on Facebook

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3-16 Rodriguez FacebookIn speaking with funeral directors, OGR has discovered that many are unsure if their funeral home should be on Facebook (read 4 Lies About a Funeral Home Facebook Page).  Amidst the pros and cons of such a decision lies the ultimate question. What is your purpose for being on Facebook? Identifying your social media mission can help with determining whether your firm should have a presence online.

It’s generally easier to come up with reasons not to do something than to come up with reasons to take action. While this blog isn’t meant to be a comprehensive look at having an online presence, it does briefly touch on pros and cons for being online.

Below are a few reasons why a Facebook page won’t work for your business, but also a few reasons for why it might … Read the rest of this entry »

How Can Facebook Interaction Impact My Funeral Home?

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OGR Vander Plaat FH
Vander Plaat Funeral Home in Wyckoff, NJ              Firm of OGR President Bill Brock

When people drive by your funeral home, what do you want them to remember about that brief encounter? At the very least, most owners want to be remembered for something positive like the pink rose bushes that were planted or the beautiful gold doors that were installed. Why? Because your building is a physical representation of your business, and the way you represent your business matters.

But, as many of us know, there are many other ways that people are able to gather a first impression of your funeral home and because of the internet, people are more likely to have their first encounter with your business online. The same way you control what people see when they drive by your place of business is the same way you can have control of what people see when they encounter your business online.  Read the rest of this entry »