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Survive and Thrive: A Tribute to CANA’s Oldest Members

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Updated: Monday, December 10, 2018
Survive and Thrive: A Tribute to CANA’s Oldest Members

 

With the opening of The History of Cremation Exhibit at the National Museum of Funeral History (and the holidays making us a bit introspective and nostalgic), we’ve had a renewed sense of interest in the history of the cremation movement—and therefore the history of the Cremation Association. And we thought we’d take the time to celebrate some of the establishments that had representatives at the first convention in Detroit in 1913 remain part of CANA today. (While not all have maintained continuous membership for all of the association’s 105-year existence, their memberships are current now, at a time when cremation education and information are in high demand.)

In early 1913, Dr. Hugo Erichsen sent invitations to every crematory in existence, and even to some strong advocates who were not affiliated with crematories. An advertisement in Modern Cemetery Magazine “proposed to establish a national organization and discuss various questions of practical import relating to the best methods of advertising, management of crematoria, etc.” which became CANA.

Erichsen’s invitation brought fourteen representatives from ten of the fifty-or-so crematories in operation at the time. Along the way, several established crematories added their names to the roster of the association and they too have given their continued support for cremation. We share seven stories of these earliest delegates, and current CANA members, below.

The Buffalo Cremation Company

The Buffalo Cremation CompanyBuffalo, New York

The Buffalo Cremation Company completed its “Crematory Temple” just after its first cremation took place on December 27, 1885. The engineer for the crematory came to the U.S. from Italy to oversee the construction. The temple was unlike any structure built in the U.S. at the time. In fact, it would be a couple more years before a complete cremation facility was completed at the Missouri Crematory at St. Louis.

The delegate for the Buffalo Cremation Company was George Metcalfe. Endeared to many and known as “Uncle George,” Metcalfe was in attendance at all but one Cremation Association convention from its inception to his death in 1934. At present, the crematory is still in operation as the Forest Lawn Buffalo Cremation Company under Joseph Dispenza and his capable staff.

 

The US Cremation Company

The US Cremation CompanyMiddle Village, New York

The US Cremation Company completed their more utilitarian structure housing only the cremation apparatus, and conducted their first cremation on December 4, 1885. Their membership in the association came after the first meeting, their delegate, William Berendsohn, serving as our third president from 1918-1920. The crematory is now operated as the Fresh Pond Crematory and is managed by memorialization advocate Joseph Di Troia, a second-generation operator.

 

The Cincinnati Cremation Company

The Cincinnati Cremation Company, Hillside ChapelCincinnati, Ohio

After the US Cremation Company and the Buffalo Cremation Company, the Cincinnati Cremation Company operates the third-oldest operating crematory in our country. The cremation furnace was completed and their first cremation took place June 22, 1887. Their chapel was added in 1888. Additionally, they sent a delegate to the first meeting of the Cremation Association, A.T. Roever, and, in 1915, he was elected Secretary – a post he held for almost a decade. Later, R. Herbert Heil operated the Cincinnati Cremation Company, and served as president of the Cremation Association from 1947-1949. Today, the Catchen family own and operate the crematory and columbarium as the Hillside Chapel of the Cincinnati Cremation Company.

 

Crematorium, Limited

Outremont, Québec

In Canada, the first crematory in operation was the Crematorium, Limited, operated on the grounds of the Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal, Quebec. Construction on the crematory here was begun in 1900, and it completed its first cremation in 1901. Their delegate to the first Cremation Association meeting was W. Ormiston Roy, who was the first to confirm his attendance after Dr. Erichsen’s invitation to the 1913 meeting in Detroit. He served as our president from 1920-1922. Mount Royal Cemetery has now assumed control of Crematorium, Inc.’s operations, and it is still a sought-after and popular cremation services provider.

 

Flanner & Buchanan

Flanner & BuchananIndianapolis, Indiana

In 1904, the leading Indianapolis undertaking firm Flanner & Buchanan decided their establishment was incomplete without the appropriate facilities for serving families who desired cremation. The nearest crematories were more than 100 miles away, and at least one of the active members of their ownership, Charles Buchanan, was a cremationist. At the time, their firm was one of just a handful of funeral directors that owned a crematory. They became active in the Cremation Association, Charles Buchanan being present at the first meeting, then serving as president from 1922-1925.

Additionally, Frank Bates Flanner, while not an officer of the Cremation Association, made many presentations at conventions and wrote many informational pamphlets for better relations between funeral directors and crematories, which had been an antagonistic relationship even in those early days. While the original building and even the second building have long been razed, Flanner Buchanan is still thriving as a leading funeral services provider in Indianapolis and surrounding areas.

 

Fresno Crematory

Fresno CrematoryFresno, California

Fresno’s Chapel of the Light, established in 1914 as the Fresno Crematory, was begun by a reform society of cremationists in their city. After struggling with their ability to successfully operate a crematory, the trustees of the crematory approached Lawrence Moore, operator of the California Crematorium in Oakland, to take over their operations. He purchased a majority of the stock and became the owner in 1919.

On what was to be a brief assignment, Moore sent one of his employees, Herbert Hargrave, to operate the facility. He ended up staying in Fresno and quickly became involved in the Cremation Association. In 1925, he was elected Secretary and maintained that position until his retirement in 1979, with the exception of a two-year term as president from 1935-1937. He operated the Chapel of the Light from his initial assignment there until his death in 1981.

Herbert Hargrave’s son, Keith, worked with his father at the Chapel of the Light, serving his Cremation Association presidency from 1985-1986. He became involved in the crematory’s operations in 1955, assuming management responsibilities at his father’s retirement. He served as General Manager throughout acquisitions and the selling of the firm and was a mainstay in the company until his death in 2014.

 

Valhalla Crematory

St. Louis, Missouri

The second crematory constructed in St. Louis was completed in 1919 by the St. Louis Mausoleum and Crematory Company, a division of the National Securities Company in St. Louis, and on the grounds of the Valhalla Cemetery on St. Charles Rock Road. Their involvement in the Cremation Association was begun by Robert J. Guthrie, who served as treasurer of the Association from 1925-1932 when he was elected president. Just two years later his death ushered in a new branch of his family. Having no children of his own, Guthrie left the operations of the Valhalla Chapel to his niece’s husband, Mr. Clifford F. Zell, Sr.

The Zell family have been some of the most influential cremationists in American history. Their facility in St. Louis was a blending of the east and west coast ideas of cremation and inurnment. In addition to Mr. Guthrie, their family produced three past-presidents of the Cremation Association, Cliff Zell, Sr., Cliff Zell, Jr., and the first-ever female president of any funeral service or cemetery organization, Genevieve “Jinger” Zell, wife of Cliff Zell, Jr. Valhalla is still under the operation of the Zell family.


It would take pages upon pages to list the crematories in the country and their respective individuals that have been active in our Association since our beginning in 1913. Suffice it to say that all have served in countless capacities—from leading the association as officers and board members to faithfully paying dues each year—and each have contributed in their own ways to the growth and success of our association and of the cremation movement in North America. Past, present, and future, our association’s membership continues to be the guiding force of cremation in America.

 


This post is excerpted from an article of the same name originally published in The Cremationist Volume 52, Issue 1. Since then, we’ve celebrated our 100th Convention, our 105th Anniversary, and the opening of the first History of Cremation Exhibit at the National Museum of Funeral History. It’s been a busy two years and we’re grateful for the continued leadership and support of our members both old and new. Thank you for all you do for the association, the profession, and your communities – it just wouldn’t be the same without you.

Happy Holidays from CANA.

 


How to Donate to the History of Cremation Exhibit
Financial or artifact contributions are what make the History of Cremation Exhibit possible. Please consider donating to the History of Cremation Exhibit today.


Jason Engler Jason Ryan Engler is a licensed funeral director and is known as the Cremation Historian. His interest in the funeral profession came at an early age in his life and his intrigue with the practice of cremation memorialization has put him on a journey of appreciating the beauty of the torch over the spade. Not only is Jason a practicing funeral director, he is also a speaker for local, state, and national associations. He also serves as the Cremation Historian for both the National Museum of Funeral History and the Cremation Association of North America. Mr. Engler’s articles have appeared in regional and national funeral and cremation trade journals including “The Dead Beat,” “The Cremationist of North America,” and “Funeral Business Advisor.” Additionally, he is author of the book "Body to the Purifying Flame: A History of the Missouri Crematory, St. Louis, Missouri."

Tags:  cemetery  history 

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Collaborating to Promote Memorialization, Ritual, and Service

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Collaborating to Promote Memorialization, Ritual, and Service

 

Mitch Rose, CEO of The Woodlawn Cemetery, was inaugurated as President of CANA in July at our 100th Convention. Mitch has many plans for his term as president, primarily focusing on cremation memorialization and the ways our industry can work together, learn, and share what we know.

The following is an excerpt from a past issue of The Cremationist about the ways that funeral homes and cemeteries can come together to inform the public on the options and benefits of memorializing cremated remains.


The first thing that I think of with cremation memorialization is the old adage that the consumer who is interested in cremation memorialization doesn’t necessarily know what they want, but they do know what they don’t like, and in order to determine what they don’t like, they need to see it. So it’s important that the cemetery has a wide product offering to be able to show the consumer what those choices are and then to get a sense of what best suits their needs.

Lessons from a Glass-Front Niche Project

To widen our product offerings at The Woodlawn, we started doing some retrofitting. We found corners, interior mausoleums, and blank walls where we could put in niche banks. We added curved, glass-front feature niches. We held an internal sales contest and had the counselors themselves design what would go inside behind the glass front, bringing in memorabilia, picking an urn, etc. We were able to leave one of the sample designs there when the inventory went up, so people could see it, like a pre-furnished condo model. They looked at it and it gave them ideas.

We picked the center, heart-level niches and priced them like we would a heart-level or eye-level mausoleum. This equated to the price of a single crypt, which at first we thought was pretty expensive. But we discovered very quickly, by bringing the consumer to that site, that these niches were what people wanted. They saw other items—niches with lower prices at higher elevations—at a price point that was very inexpensive.

But when they saw the more expensive glass-front, heart-level niches, those sold first. That helped us discover that your expectation of what somebody else is willing to spend is a very dangerous thing. Never put your wallet in somebody else’s hands.

Funeral Home Relations are Key

We developed photographs of the sample glass-front niche I described above, including the memorabilia. These photographs were brought to local funeral homes and we spoke to them about what I think is one of the most important things about the death care industry—the fact that funeral homes and cemeteries are really in this together, especially when it comes to serving the cremation customer.

By offering glass-front niches, what we were able to do is demonstrate the value of memorialization, meaning those cremated remains are going to have a final resting place. Placing them behind glass absolutely changed the rules for the funeral home in terms of the urn. So we essentially took all our urns off the marketplace. We don’t compete with funeral homes on urns.

By working together, the funeral home and the cemetery reinforce the idea of memorialization. This is critical in the era of cremation, where many cremated remains end up at home. You build relationships with the funeral director so the funeral home and the cemetery realize they’re in it together, and an interesting thing happens. By talking about memorialization, the funeral director is also able to promote the idea of ritual and services. If you’re going to place cremated remains in a chosen urn, the probability that there will be a ceremony—of any kind—is increased, because you’ve created value to permanence. Permanence in memorialization infers the same thing as what happens in a funeral service. You create permanent memories of a final tribute to somebody who has passed. I think those interlocking relationships are critical as we continue to move into the era of cremation-minded families.

Staff Buy-In

If you’re going to open a cremation garden, you want to make sure you have buy-in from your staff. Nothing is worse than investing in a particular inventory of additional niches or a mausoleum, and then your staff isn’t enthusiastic about it or isn’t showing it at the level of frequency that you want them to.

People are creatures of habit, so if your sales agents are more oriented to selling the top level of the mausoleum, or they always seem to show a particular ground burial area, it’s important to break that up a little bit. For The Woodlawn staff, doing this exercise of filling the glass-front niches with memorabilia was fun, it was interesting—it was amazing what we ended up seeing. And it gave them buy-in into representing that product to the families. We do a lot of in-house training with our staff. Some of them have participated in coming to programs like the CANA cremation symposium, where they’re exposed to great speakers who can recharge them and create more enthusiasm. Even more important is the access to networking with their peers, because the challenges we face are pretty similar across the board.

Careful Planning and Thoughtful Design

The amount of space you need to develop cremation inurnment rites is probably the best news about cremation. It’s so small, and the amount of volume you can get into a relatively small area provides a great opportunity. That said, I have seen many cemetery sections for cremation that, unfortunately, over-capitalized on that density. The rites themselves were relatively restricted in overall size, but the proximity of each and every one of them was so close that the end effect, once burials were made and inscriptions were added, was a very condensed, almost cluttered look.

I think it’s important to make sure that you don’t overpopulate the size of your cremation garden – it’s a small area that will accommodate a large amount of cremated remains. That can be a very dangerous mistake and one that you have to watch out for before you get excited about how many cremation rites you can get in. The return on investment of an inventory development is certainly driven by the amount of units you’re getting into the confining space you’re developing – “If you want to maximize your return, put more units in! – but this can create a much denser environment. Aesthetically, that may not be as pleasing to the eye as it may appear to be on your financials. Be careful not to clutter the design. Be cognizant about how it will end up looking.

A good way to do that is through renditions. Today, most of the major suppliers will readily offer prospective renditions. They’ll take a picture of a particular area, then they’ll take it back to their office and bring you back a Photoshopped design with these particular items in these particular places. Other vendors are using 3-D renditions such as SketchUp, where you’re actually able to move in a three-dimensional sense, where you can actually walk through the design—a virtual tour. There are many elements to consider with any construction, but in cremation memorialization they’re more important than ever. Certainly you have a manufacturer or supplier, many of which have design and build companies. There are benefits in using a design-build company in relation to one-stop-shop, cost, etc. You may also use an engineering consultant, because what looks good on paper may not necessarily translate physically into the known factors of your physical environment or your regulatory environment. But I think that often a final piece of that three-pronged approach to internal development is missed, and that’s an architect.

In the cemetery world, an architect might not come to your mind right away because you’re tending to use design- build, and perhaps an engineer or construction company. But the architects who we’ve found the most success with are those who don’t come from the cemetery industry, they come from the landscaping and building construction industry. What they bring to the table is a high level of awareness of space and spatial dimension to assess what it will feel like when people walk into this space. Is it going to feel like we put something in there that wasn’t there before? Or is it going to feel like what we have added was there all the time, and it’s a natural fit? I think it goes back to development of long-range planning strategies that will allow for the backfilling of interior portions of your construction. To be developed in the future, but with a retrofitted sensibility.

The tendency is, “I’ve been here x number of years, I know where these spaces are, let’s put up a niche bank, let’s get a design-build company, let’s just do it.” And I would advise everyone to really step back and realize that with long-term cemetery design— especially when it comes to cremation-minded families—creating an overly dense offering can really backfire. The independent-minded cremation consumer, who is questioning the need for a funeral home or wondering how to minimize the use of the funeral home in many cases, is not even assessing that a cemetery has to fit into this equation at all.

The Value of Ritual

These independent-minded consumers won’t come to the cemetery because they don’t see the need. Eighty percent of these cremated remains are not coming to the cemetery. But 100% of the families are using a funeral service provider. So the funeral home environment is always going to be there to serve those who have lost someone.

In the cemetery world, we have a bigger challenge to even get them to think that the cemetery is something they might even want to think about. To do that, funeral home relations are going to become increasingly important. The value of memorialization at a cemetery really does interlock with the value of some kind of ritual.

Ritual is a pretty broad word. It doesn’t have to be religious, it doesn’t have to be ceremonial, but the ritual of paying respect to the loss of life with the survivors is important. How that plays out is, of course, pretty wide open. It can be tough for the funeral service provider to explore new trends in this very traditional industry—an industry, very much like the church, that is bound by past conventions. With more and more unchurched families, we find that they bypass the whole piece. They can do everything online.

Adapting and Engaging

I’m optimistic because in the history of business and America if you aren’t willing to change and meet that consumer need or consumer preference, that’s okay. Someone else will. And they will take the market. So I’m not overly concerned about what people are changing or how quickly they’re changing. My real concern is how do I adapt my entrenched methodologies, restricted by my long, thirty-year career? How do I get out of the box and reintegrate tools that I personally may not even use, like social media? I have to recognize that others use it so it makes sense. The overhead of maintaining a cemetery is certainly difficult for an operator. But the value of a cemetery and its upkeep is really a reflection on the community. Your engagement with the community, especially now through social media, is really your only solution to keeping people engaged with the cemetery and keeping them open-minded about what you’re doing and what you’re offering.

At The Woodlawn, we’ve seen a gradual increase in memorialization, and, probably, a more dramatic increase in the average per sale. Because cremation-minded families mostly do not go to the cemetery and choose a memorialization, that’s even more reason to make sure that you have a wide range of offerings for the people who do come.

 


The full article appears in The Cremationist Vol. 51, Issue 1 as "Cemetery Memorialization in the Cemetery" — CANA Members can log in to see this and more articles from our quarterly publication. Not a member? Consider joining your business to access tools, techniques, statistics, and advice to help you understand how to grow the range of services and products you can offer, ensuring your business is a good fit for every member of your community – only $470!


Mitch Rose

Mitch Rose is currently Chief Executive Officer & President of The Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York and President of CANA. During his 30-year career in death care he has actively managed medium to large cemeteries, funeral homes, and crematories in the South, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic regions for Service Corporation International for 9 years and Carriage Services for 11 years. Mitch joined the executive team of The Woodlawn Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark, as Vice President in 2010. Mitch was a professor at the ICCFA University in Memphis for 8 years, and is also a proud member of the Historical Cemetery Alliance & the Cemetery Council.

Tags:  cemetery  memorialization  tips and tools 

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