Happy New Year! We finished up our trade show travel for 2018 in November at the Mid-Atlantic Cemetery Conference - thanks to all who stopped by and visited with us. Dave also attended the NFDA show last month in Salt Lake City for our company's third year in a row. There was some nice coverage from the Salt Lake Tribune about one of the speakers who talked to attendees about helping families after a suicide.
The most notable story that I kept seeing come up had to do with the demographic shifts of funeral directors in training. The American Board of Funeral Education Service released their numbers for 2017, and they reported that 65% of graduates from funeral director schools in the U.S. were female. That's the most women graduates the organization has ever recorded. The Associated Press visited the State University of New York Canton program (where 60 of the 75 students are women) and interviewed the students about the impact of those changes and the challenges that still remain.
Even more writing was done by The Guardian, where they went to the oldest mortuary school in New York City - the American Academy McAllister Institute - and visited with the next generation of funeral directors (again, lots of women). It is some excellent reporting that covers the increase of women funeral directors, the actual work done in mortuary school, the shift towards personalization in memorials, the rise of cremation, the challenges of servicing low-income families, and gender discrimination.
Elsewhere in the news, I came across a review of a painting show in New York City that features several works depicting the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel in Manhattan (the venue for a number of high-profile celebrity funerals). All the works depict the exterior of the funeral home in different seasons and from angles. The review casts a wide net, but is pretty thoughtful overall.
And finally, we wrote about the Urban Death Project (the composting burial ground) nearly three years ago when it was still in its fundraising stage. The project has continued to develop, and it has moved closer to becoming a reality in the Seattle area. Now called Recompose, it is slowly clearing hurdles to becoming a sanctioned final disposition. The project faced a few major questions and chief among them was whether the resulting compostable material would meet local and federal standards for pathogens and harmful chemicals. They decided they needed to test the method and the resulting compost. Soil science professor Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, who led the research trial at Washington State University, was pleased with the results:
That material, she explained, passed — and sometimes exceeded — state and federal safety requirements for pathogens and metals that could be dangerous to humans and nearby plants. The key to its success: thermophilic microorganisms (“thermophilic” means “heat-loving”) that quickly raised the temperature of the process, efficiently decomposing the body in its bed of carefully calibrated plant matter.
“I was very happy we met all the safety requirements we were looking for in terms of high temperature, low bacteria, low metals content, low odor,” Carpenter-Boggs said. “The material itself was just very pleasant.”
The legality of it is still an open question, but so far there are 6 Democrat and Republicans in the state legislature who have co-signed a bill to expand the definition of final disposition which would allow for people to be buried this way. You can read the rest of the story at the Seattle Times.
As usual, thanks for reading! Hope that everyone had a restful holiday break.