Recommended Reading

My favorite blog, Boing Boing, featured the collection of Hayden Peters, who runs a site called Art of Mourning.

In an interview with Collectors Weekly, Historian and Collector Hayden Peters charts the evolution of mourning jewelry from the 16th century through its most prolific period during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Here’s an excerpt from their interview:

Collectors Weekly:  So, just to be clear, is mourning jewelry considered a type of funeralia?

This Victorian hairwork bracelet featured a weave that stretched to fit the wearer. The clasp is neo-Rococo.
This Victorian hairwork bracelet featured a weave that stretched to fit the wearer. The clasp is neo-Rococo.

Peters:  Yes. Some pieces are obviously made with the funeral in mind. In the 16th century, it wasn’t unheard of to leave an allocation in your will for the construction of mourning jewelry to be given to the loved ones at the funeral. To me that’s funeralia. That’s an accessory of mourning and part of the pomp and showiness of the funeral itself.

There were other things, though, that may be considered mourning but not funeralia. For example, I don’t consider the neoclassical stuff to be real funeralia, but it all falls under that umbrella. Funeralia, itself, is another world. You have the actual cemetery, the burial, and God knows what. It has so many facets. I think the jewelry fits in there in some way.

Read the full interview here.

Check out Peters’ site, the Art of Mourning, here.


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 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.

Our friends at Failblog call this a “breaking news fail”:

epic fail pictures

Wanna waste a few hours of your time?  Check out all the hilarious stuff at

As part of my work as a consultant to other funeral industry vendors, I often spend several hours discussing the specifics of how they will set up their booth, interact with prospective customers and act during the show.

In fact, I’ve written several articles about this, most of which boil down to “wake up and realize how important your trade show hours can be!”

I started out on the blog writing about Common Convention Mistakes.  Then I talked specifically about booth setup in Convention Tip: Get Away From the Table.

Having trouble getting people to stop at your booth?  Maybe you need to read my post,  2008 NFDA Convention: The Tired, The Hungry and The Bored, to see if your attitude needs an adjustment.

Finally, I cautioned exhibitors not to stuff their face, in the post, Hey, Vendors. Stop Telling Me How Hungry You Are.

Want to know how we make our conventions successful?  Read 2008 NFDA Convention: How Final Embrace Averaged 36 Sales a Day.

Other good reading?  Try these:
How Many People Will you Meet at the NFDA Convention?
NFDA Is Making Changes for 2009 Convention (And I’m Concerned)

Next week, I’ll talk about some specifics for the upcoming NFDA convention.  And I’ll tell you about a few opportunities for vendors to interact with Final Embrace and maybe, just maybe, improve your visibility to funeral directors all across the country.

Our friends at Connecting Directors have invested in some important changes that will make the site easier to read and more feature-filled for visitors.  Here’s a word from site founder, Ryan Thogmartin:

Pushing forward as the leader in funeral industry news and articles has rebuilt their website to incorporate the most advanced forms of online publication and social networking features. Members will be impressed with the ease of navigation and high end graphics that make a visit to the site a truly enjoyable experience.
Just on the homepage itself, members will have access to over 24 different articles! is providing the most up-to-date and relevant funeral industry news and information found anywhere on the web.

Updated multiple times a day, has added more features to encourage members to interact with the site and each other. Since the site is update so frequently members will receive a “Daily Updates” email with a link to new articles that were published that day. With the addition of an online “Polling” system, is able to receive feed back from members regarding funeral industry topics.

With their new site is bringing the first only source of social networking to the funeral industry. These social networking features include private messaging, extended profiles, the ability for members to create sub groups within the site, and also allowing members to “friend” each other just like the worlds largest social networking site Facebook. Also added to the mix of new features is a new and improved Discussion Board (Forum).

Because of the addition of these powerful social networking features current members of will have to re-register on the site.

Thank you for reading and we look forward to seeing you at the new site!!

Ryan Thogmartin – Founder and CEO

I’m not a huge fan of the celebrity obituary.  They usually tell us very little that Entertainment Tonight, the Enquirer and other publications of even “dubious-er” reputations, haven’t already revealed as they painstakingly rip every shred of humanity away from the carcass of a living American celebrity.

So imagine my surprise when the article by music industry writer Bob Lefsetz refuses to distill Jackson’s history through the typical “he was born on _____ in ______ to parents _______ and _______” filter, instead focusing on the nature of his celebrity, how he went from a talented little boy to an adult oddity – or so it seemed to many of us – and our own complicity in the transformation.

His article starts with the sentence, “He missed his childhood and now he’s gonna miss his old age.”

It’s a fascinating description of his journey, an essay on the musical miracles he performed and the heights of stardom from which he eventually, some might say inevitably, fell.  BE WARNED – Bob’s second sentence contains a very harsh expletive, but it reinforces the first statement and leads into the story.  And while I think he could have done without the f-bomb, it reminds us that this is a raw essay by someone trying to figure out what Michael’s life – and now, his death – means to music and to music listeners.

Read his great article here.


Meet “Concha” Rodriguez, a Chicago funeral director who uses her teenage experience as a gang member and her current occupation to “scare straight” gangbangers in area schools.

Read the full interview and “600 words” story here.

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