Cemetery Issues


Batesville makes caskets, right? They’ve been making them for a while. They make a lot of them. They have lots of customers and they have an impressive distribution system in place.

According to Ryan Thogmartin from Connecting Directors, Batesville has just bought the intellectual rights to Goria Corporation, a company that, until the sale, made molded vaults from what I suspect is some type of plastic or polycarbonate or other rigid but lightweight material.  Here’s the letter from the Goria website that describes the sale:

To our valued customers and supporters:

For the past five years, Goria Corporation has been pleased to produce and sell our patented Eonian™ and Endurance™ burial vaults to funeral service providers across the country. During this time, we’ve gotten to know many funeral directors who appreciate our revolutionary products and share our commitment to delivering value to families.

My purpose in writing today is to advise you of a change in our business. Effective November 16, 2009. Goria sold the molds and intellectual property rights on which our vaults are produced. Goria has closed its burial vault business and have ceased all manufacturing operations and will no longer be a supplier of burial vaults. For a number of reasons, we felt the time was appropriate and are confident we made the right decision in choosing the reputable organization we sold too.

On behalf of my family and our staff, we appreciate your business and are thankful for the support you have given us.If you have questions about our selling the molds, patent rights or closing our burial vault business, please feel free to contact Pierre Goria at info@goriacorp.com or call 336-697-0189 ext. 301.

I met Pierre a few years ago at an expo and he was excited about using rotational molding of plastic to transform the way vaults are made and sold.  Because of the lower weight, he was able to create his vaults in one factory and ship them across the country for a reasonable cost, making competition with concrete vault companies possible and profitable.

So let’s get back to the part where Batesville spends some cash to buy his molds and intellectual property.  See, his company makes a lot more than vaults.  So he didn’t sell them everything, just the vault part of the business.

Does it mean he no longer wanted to make vaults?  Does it mean that no one else will make these kinds of vaults?  Not necessarily, on either count.

Now, I haven’t spoken to Pierre, but I know how excited he was about his product and how convinced he was that funeral homes would see the benefits of his kind of vault.  And I know that if Batesville is serious about shifting the industry toward a mass-produced, centrally-manufactured vault, selling his intellectual property was a great way to get the product into the marketplace in a big, big way.

From a businessperson’s view, he made a great move.  Batesville has the resources to push the product in a much-greater way that he ever could have.  They have the means to compensate him for his hard work to create the product and begin marketing it.  Even better, he still owns his original company.

Ryan Thogmartin brings us a great perspective from the vault world when he states:

Maybe the story interests me more because I am also in the burial vault business, but regardless, if Batesville decides to take on burial vaults they could make a big impact on the burial vault world. Just think of the ramifications, if Batesville switched all their customers over to using their burial vault?

What do you think the impact could be?

Well, Ryan, I think it’s going to have a big impact.  I doubt that Batesville would have spent cash to acquire this knowledge if it didn’t intend to use it to create a product line. 

Yes, sometimes companies buy a product to kill it, but Goria wasn’t competing with Batesville because Batesville doesn’t make vaults.  Yet.

In fact, if Batesville had never intended to enter the vault world, they would have little reason to even know that Goria existed.

In my estimation, Batesville either wanted to get into the vault business and decided that buying the intellectual property outright was easier that fighting a protracted patent battle later or saw this as an easy way to add a product to their already-impressive distribution network.

So yes, Ryan, I think the vault business is in for a big shakeup.  Most affected, I think, will be vault companies who sell a large amount of product to the corporates, as they will be the easiest for Batesville to convert in large numbers.  Batesville clearly already has a wide-reaching relationship with management at the corporations, so convincing them to make the switch won’t be hard.

But what about all the unafilliated firms?  How will Batesville convince them? 

First, maybe Batesville doesn’t need to convert that many to create a viable product line.  I’m sure that the business from SCI alone would make it highly attractive to launch the product.

And once the product is launched and used in some funeral homes, others will try it out.  If Batesville can deliver a similar level of customer service, I think smaller vault companies have reason for concern.

But that brings us to the biggest issue facing any business:  how good is your customer service? 

Someone can always create a cheaper product, copy your product features or create a better product.  And that may convince some folks to switch.  But for a repeat purchase, such as vaults or urns or caskets, the delivery experience and customer service are very, very important.

Batesville deals with funeral homes now.  What happens when they have to learn to deliver to cemeteries?  How will they interact with cemetery staff?  In smaller cemeteries, who will handle the opening and closing?  Will they sign up a bunch of small vault companies to sell their product?  Can Batesville handle the customer service for so many new customers, like the cemeteries who will be in line to buy their vaults?

There are a lot of questions still to be answered.  And to be fair, I rushed this post out with very little preparation, so you’re getting my “stream of consciousness” ramblings here.

It will be interesting to see how Batesville rolls out their line of vaults, which I think is inevitable.  Even more interesting will be the reaction of current vault sellers.

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Some great folks (Robert Wright and Marcelo Metayer) have created a blog to document the history and continuing “life” of the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The site features beautiful photographs and fascinating stories about the lives commemorated inside the gates of Argentina’s most famous cemetery.

Why so famous?  Most American visitors stop by the grave of Eva Peron (EVITA) and leave without knowing how many other interesting and influential people are buried there.

Father Fahy, Recoleta Cemetery

Check out their fascinating blog (in English), called Afterlife, by clicking here.

Late afternoon, Recoleta Cemetery

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 Charity Begins at Home 

For those of you who subscribe to American Cemetery, the July issue contains an article I wrote on a local firm, Santa Cruz Memorial.  

The heart driven marketing strategy of the firm is a grand model for others to follow. Using local media as much as they can for free advertising through articles and photo opportunities, the President of the firm seeks out those in the community who need assistance, and joyfully gives it to them. These acts of kindness are then the focus of media attention.  

Take a look at the article – or, if you don’t subscribe, write me at kimstacey@sbcglobal.net, and I’ll send you a copy.

The model used by Santa Cruz Memorial to keep their firm “top of mind” with people in the community is one we can all live with.

Kim Stacey, of marketingfuneralservices.com, has dedicated her career to supporting and empowering funeral service professionals by writing responsive advertising and informational copy. She can be reached most easily at kimstacey@sbcglobal.net, or 831-338-0220. Living in the small coastal town of Boulder Creek, California, she’s in the Pacific Time zone.

When a new Gothic church was erected in the middle of the Sedlec Monastery Cemetery in Czech Republic, thousands of previous burials were disrupted.  In 1511 A.D., a half-blind monk was charged with sorting bones from the abolished graves in a small underground chapel designated as an ossuary.

After a renovation of the chapel, a reorganization of the bones of 40,000+ bodies was undertaken by a Czech wood-carver named František RINT in 1870.

Among the most interesting arrangements is a large chandelier which contains at least one of every bone in the human body.

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Visit the official webpage of the Sedlec Ossuary by clicking here.

Candace Craw-Goldman is our latest Guest Blogger.  Her blog, In Repose, supports folks experiencing or reminicing about the death of a loved one or friend. 

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Besides running her ranch and raising two teenagers, Candace (photograph above by Jennifer Wensel) runs InRepose.com, an online memorial site with some fascinating features.  Check it out.

 In this post, Candace discusses “Tomatoes to Die For.”: 

My friends John and Jo Dwyer are farmers at Angel Valley Organic Farm. They grow the most amazing tasty organic vegetables. Their pinnacle, their superstar veggie, the elite of the elite of the vegetables they grow are absolutely their organic heirloom tomatoes.

I will never forget the first time I tasted one.  The most beautifully ripe Purple Prudence heirloom tomato. It was warm, room temperature and freshly harvested. It was so rich, so ripe, so amazingly fragrant and so red/purple it was almost black to my eyes.  I sliced a few and added fresh basil, extra virgin Italian olive oil, a splash of some good balsamic vinegar, and some very fresh mozzarella. A bit of salt and freshly ground pepper rounded out the meal and I grabbed my fork.

After one bite I closed my eyes and held my breath. Heaven! It was as if I had never really tasted a tomato before in my entire life. I promptly made myself another salad and ate until I was stuffed full. It was really one of the finest sensory experiences of my entire life. REALLY! I remember it so vividly.

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Those tomatoes were, to turn a phrase, to DIE for.

As promised on the blog yesterday, I will tell you now a bit now about an option the eco-friendly human has when considering their end-of-life choices especially if cremation is the preferred choice. One can now contact a company called Floramorial and have themselves turned into honest to goodness plant food.

“Cremation ash can now be used to grow trees and flowers. Floramorial soil was created to convert cremation ash into a planting medium to grow a decorative plant, bush or tree as a living memorial. Cremation ash is an inert, granular material like stone or sand that can now be transformed into plant food thanks to recent developments in horticultural science.This is an exciting new answer to the question, “What should I do with the ashes?

Well, what about TOMATOES?  Can the plant food feed the most beloved of all of the plants of summer? <Smirk>. I bet it could but it might leave, um, a bad taste in one’s mouth. I guess that is why the word “decorative” was used in the description. I already know the answer to the question.

I know John and Jo operate by very strict organic standards and I highly doubt that Floramorial’s product, would be accepted in their farm’s program.

But I remain curious anyway. If, just if, my family planted one of those fabulous Purple Prudence Heirloom Tomato plants in the backyard, and fed them Candace’s Floramorial Ashes plant food, what heavenly fruits would result?

As an admitted “foodie” I can think of few finer ways to go!

As your clients get larger, your equipment and the products you offer will need to grow.

From oversized caskets and heavier retort usage to reinforced stretchers and bigger vaults, funeral directors across the U.S. are dealing with obesity in new, previously undiscussed ways.

At Final Embrace, we’ve seen a greater call for quilted cot covers to fit the new oversized cots from Ferno and Junkin.  While one of our standard covers is generously sized to cover remains and the sides of a cot on a “normal” removal, larger folks require larger coverings.  If you’re interested, we can make any of our covers to fit a larger cot for a small fee.  Just ask!

Ferno-Washington has responded by creating the 24-Maxx, a 77″x25.5″ cot that can handle up to 1000 pounds.

Now, they’ve shrunk the cot to 77″x22.75″ to make the 24 MiniMAXX.  It still handles 1000 pounds, but can fit two-abreast in a removal vehicle.

How are you dealing with the “growing” population?

According to a Pentagon survey, there are 1,800 Wiccans in the armed forces.  The Wiccan faith is mentioned in official handbooks for military chaplains and noted on each Wiccan soldier’s dog tags.

But until this month, they could not have the symbol of their faith, the pentacle, engraved on their military headstone.  That space was reserved for crosses, the Star of David and 36 other approved religious symbols.


Here’s a picture of the pentacle that signifies the Wiccan faith.  Still unsure of what Wicca really is?  Here’s the Wikipedia definition.  The photo is used with permission from Elizabeth Winterbourne of Pagan-Wholesale, which owns the copyright.

On Friday, April 20, The Department of Veteran Affairs settled a lawsuit brought by family members of fallen soldiers who were professed Wiccans. 

From the New York Times article:

The group attributed the delay to religious discrimination. Many Americans do not consider Wicca a religion, or hold the mistaken belief that Wiccans are devil worshipers.

“The Wiccan families we represented were in no way asking for special treatment,” the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said at a news conference Monday. “They wanted precisely the same treatment that dozens of other religions already had received from the department, an acknowledgment that their spiritual beliefs were on par with those of everyone else.”