June 2007


Bryan Chandler, owner of Chandler Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Ohio, has been a long time reader of Final Embrace.  In fact, his kind words about our podcasts got me started on the interviews and other features you’ll find today on our Podcast Page.

Bryan runs one of the “new breed” of funeral homes.  Not content to simply offer the same funeral service to every client, Bryan is constantly learning new techniques and improving on old ones.

In his first contribution to the BE OUR GUEST series, Bryan shows us how to make inexpensive memorial candles.  As a value-added free gift to a client family, a memorial candle can generate other sales and impress other members of your community.

Bryan’s got even more coming our way.  Look for more “On A Shoestring” features and other great articles that detail his experiences in the industry.  He’s also started his own blog, Chandler’s Corner, where he’ll share even more with his readers by “offering simple advice for funeral directors.”

The video above is a commercial Bryan made for his local news media.  And while the copy (the words being spoken) is not revolutionary, the staging of the commercial is, as it shows real people in the funeral home doing real things.  Too often, pictures and video used to advertise funeral homes are filled with nothing but empty rooms and empty chairs.  But an empty chair cannot sell “we take care of people” or “our services celebrate a person’s life” because people have a hard time imaging items or people in an empty space.

I’m preparing a longer article about this strange funeral home phenomenon, but until then, notice how Bryan’s commercial skillfully shows the steps to plan a funeral and the amenities his firm offers.

Thanks for joining us, Bryan.  Your perspective is invaluable. 


Shoestring            candle1.jpg

If you’ve read a trade journal or visited a funeral convention lately you’ve probably seen Memorial Candles available at several price points. 

If you aren’t using these by now you should start today.  No, you should start yesterday! 

Several companies are offering these customizable candles.  Most cost around $12 to $40 a candle, but you’ll still have to do the customization.  And while the ones available commercially are nice quality and simple to use, I’m going to show you how to make your own on a Shoestring budget.

Purchase a case of candles from the Root Candle Company (ask to speak with Lorie).  These clear candles are special as they are thick walled so as not to melt the label we will use later. 

Next, purchase Avery Sticker Project Paper Labels from any office store or big box store.  All that’s left is your creativity use any program such as MS Word, MS Publisher or any of the other programs available.  I prefer The Print Shop 21 to create label for my funeral home.

I used to merge a background with the deceased picture in front but recently I have been just using photos of the deceased to create the entire label.  Once your creation is finished, print the label out on your color inkjet printer and attach to the candle. 

candle3.jpg  candle2.jpg

I also add a small clear mailing label to the back that has the funeral home name and address on it, in case anyone forgets where they purchased the candle and to encourage reorders. 

Typically I set the first free candle on the register stand and light it during visitation.  I sell extra candles to the family for $10 a piece. 

After all costs, the Shoestring budget candle costs less than half what some companies are charging and everything is done in house, which I like. If you have any questions or would like me to forward you some templates feel free to contact me. 



chandler.jpgBryan Chandler is the owner/operator of Chandler Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Caldwell, Ohio.  One of the “new breed” of funeral providers, Bryan serves up practical advice, gives away Shoestring Budget tips and offers simple advice for funeral directors on his blog at Chandler’s Corner.  Bryan can be reached at 740-732-1311.


I haven’t had a chance to play the new game “Funeral Quest” because their server is too busy, but reviews claim that the object of the game is to “win” by convincing clients to spend as much as possible on funeral services and merchandise.

According to the website:

Players use guilt and sympathy as sales tactics to convince the bereaved to spend as much as possible on a funeral service.  It’s not just morbid, it’s also funny. Players will sell items such as a casket cell-phone (in case of premature burial), a box of extra-strength tissues, or a casket air freshener among scores of other humorous items.

You can watch an introductory video here.

The game rewards players who sell some absurd items using either a soft sell or hard sell, depending upon a customer’s mood.  Players are encouraged not to stop pushing product until the customer’s mood changes from “numb” or “shocked” to “irked,” “angry” or “pissed.”

I hope I don’t have to remind you that these tactics would destroy any real world funeral home.

In fact, I’d challenge anyone to stay open longer than a month using this strategy.

Anyone who’s seen Discovery Health Channel is familiar with Dr. G.  She’s the no-nonsense medical examiner from Florida’s District 9.

She handles cases for Orange and Osceola Counties in Central Florida, smack dab in the middle of my backyard.

Even without her own show, Dr. G. (Jan C. Garavaglia, MD) would be widely admired in our region for bringing peace and stability to a ME’s office that had seen scandal and was in need of direction.

But her show, “Dr. G.:  Medical Examiner,” featured on the Discovery Health Channel, has turned her into a national phenomenon.

And sometime during the last few months, one of our beautiful quilted cot covers was captured by the show’s cameras.

The episode, “Deadly Destination,” features the case of an elderly man who was found dead in his home.  Since he had several medical issues that could lead to his death and no visible signs of foul play, the medical examiner released the body to a local funeral home.

Later, when the family realized that the elderly man’s car was not in the garage, Dr. G. asked the firm to return the body to the ME’s office.

And while I could recap the whole story here, the important part (to me, at least!) is that the funeral home that handled the arrangements uses one of our beautiful quilted covers.

Furthermore, there’s about a four second clip that shows a cot, covered with our Hometown Green cover, being loaded into a Chrysler minivan.


The episode re-airs on the Discovery Health Channel on the following dates:

July 27, 2007 at 9:00 PM
July 28, 2007 at 12:00 AM
July 28, 2007 at 7:00 PM
July 29, 2007 at 2:00 AM 

Hiroyasu Imura, 69 who lives in the Mie Prefecture in Japan, might be a typical funeral consumer.

He’s married.  He retired as an insurance examiner.  He and his wife moved to a retirement property near the mountains.

Like many others, Imura enjoys monuments and beloved national architecture, including the Himeji Castle from the Hyogo Prefecture.

Courtesy of Tokai Subculture Site

 And like many of the people you serve every day, Imura has a few private obsessions.

For example:  he’s spent the last 19 years building a scale replica of his favorite castle in his backyard.  That’s right – they pictures above and below are actually Mr. Imura’s scale replica.

Courtesy of Japan Probe

Stories like this remind me that every human life has facets that, while often private, give dimension and meaning to existence.

It is our job as funeral professionals to coax these stories from our clients.  To build a tribute that fits the person being honored. 

It is also our job to remember this important lesson (every life has value) when we handle the more mundane tasks of our profession:  processing cremated remains, handling an unattended indigent burial, removing a body from the medical examiner’s office.

These are the times when our actions help to shape who WE are. 

So invest in your own good nature.  Be a kind person, even when no one’s looking.

“Obsession” Courtesy of Visual Artist Ann Spark

I’ve been (unsuccessfully) trying to slow the pace of this blog so I don’t get burnt out.

So far, it hasn’t worked.

My biggest concern is that I’ll run out of ideas.

Luckily, that hasn’t happened.  So far.

But we’re still actively seeking contributors.  In fact, whenever we find someone who’s willing to contribute their own perspective, I reward them with a contribution of my own.  For our “guest consumer” Candace Craw-Goldman of In Repose, I pen a new column called “Ask Our Funeral Professional.”

For our “guest copywriter” Kim Stacey, I slip one of her business cards and a copy of “5 Ways to Improve Your Yellow Page Ad” in each order for our quilted cot covers.  I also gently remind my readers that Kim offers free ad review consultations.  Call her at to get her opinion and some valuable advice that will improve your advertising.

Thomas Poolton of Colors of Honor got his print into our booth at the IFDF Convention by complimenting my writing (I’m a sucker for a nice review) and sending us a sample to display.

Don Shell of the Life Story Network (an amazing group of funeral homes) scored his bosses a free quilted mortuary cot cover by reminding us that funerals aren’t about the casket.  (Don, if you’re reading this, call me at 321-287-0628 to find out how to get that free cover.  I just need someone to pick out one of our georgeous patterns.)

And who’s to say that we couldn’t “scratch your back” if you decide to contribute to this great funeral resource?

Please, help me curb my addiction.  If I can get one contribution a day, I can cut my research and writing time to 23 hours a day!

I’ve been reading this really cool website for a few weeks.  I’ve even been listening to some of the podcasts (and learning a lot from Ron).

Then it occured to me:  I’ve never told my readers about it!

This was hammered home by a comment that Ron Nastie of The Final Taxi made on the site.  He was very complimentary about the work we’re doing here.

So here’s where I tell all my readers about the great work being done by Ron and his partner, Jeff.

The Final Taxi covers the “final rides” of the famous and the infamous.

Part obituary and part life story, each “Final Taxi” installment reveals interesting facts about the subject.

Recent guests on The Final Taxi include:

Charles Nelson Reilly
Mr. Wizard (Don Herbert)
Joseph di Reda
and many more…

Along with the website and the great podcasts, Ron writes a blog about topics related to death and dying.

An often humorous take on our field of interest, The Final Taxi is a great read.  Check it out!

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