Clinton Chronicle staff writer
The funeral business in St.Johns is seeing a few more people choosing cremation as a burial option, although traditional funeral services are still preferred. There are over two and a half million funerals per year and cost an average of $6,560, according to statistics from the National Funeral Directors Association.
Arranging funeral services involves more steps aside from paying however. Smith Family Funeral Homes in St.Johns provides assistance in planning funerals. Sarah Bartlett, a funeral director at St.Johns’ Smith Funeral Homes, said although many families have pre-arranged funerals, the funeral home staff can help arrange funeral services for those without prior plans.
“In the event that the person didn’t have any pre-arranged funeral plans, that makes more decisions for the family at that time,” said Bartlett. “At that point we start from scratch and discuss their options, pricing and what to expect at that point.”
Some of the options the family-owned funeral home offers include a video tribute program, customized memorial folders and memorial picture boards. Funeral service packages are also provided. Bartlett said the traditional and memorial service packages are the most common among customers.
“Our traditional funeral services are the most popular and those usually include some sort of a visitation, usually a day or a day and a half for family and friends, and a service either at our chapel or at the person’s church and then burial,” said Bartlett. “Following that, we offer several options that include cremation, viewing with cremation to follow, all the way to direct cremation.”
Cremation rates have increased around 2 percent each year, reaching a rate of 42 percent by 2011, according to NFDA statistics. Cremation is a popular option for many planning funerals, which has led to a 4.6 percent decrease in burial casket establishments, according to burial casket manufacturing statistics by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Smith Funeral Homes however, still provides the option of renting caskets for customers that choose cremation. Angela Vancore, a six-year employee and funeral director, said rental casket services are also provided.
“Cremation itself has gone up but there is still the action of having a visitation and a funeral service with cremation to follow,” said Vancore. “We would use a rental casket and still have the visitation and funeral, and everything would happen either at the church or funeral home.”
Vancore said that the person would go to the crematory instead of going in procession to the cemetery after the visitation.
The preparations and options a funeral home provides is important, as well as the staff. Bartlett and Vancore both said that empathy, compassion and good communication skills are essential for the job.
Vancore stated that employees should also be knowledgeable about many things.
“You have to have some sort of interest in science and biology to do the preparation work and things,” said Vancore. “You should have some basic knowledge of psychology to understand people.”