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Young Funeral Directors Committee Speaks at CCMS

Guest Column By Young Funeral Directors Committee Member Erika Unzner, Rutherford Funeral Homes

The Young Funeral Directors Committee members visited the 4th quarter students at Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science on July 9, 2008. The purpose of our visit was to prepare the students for their introduction into the funeral profession. The schooling prepares the graduates with the basic knowledge of the business but experience provides far more than what school can ever teach. Our hope was that our experiences could show the passion and commitment that drives the profession. What is done one day may not be anything close to what is done the next day. We wanted to discuss the importance of professionalism, how our profession is questioned every day and how we feel the funeral profession needs to be represented.

Members in attendance were Sean Gillen, CFSP, Chair, Amanda Crates, Rick Kaufhold, CFSP, Rebekah Manofsky, Jill Pugh and me. We feel we provided the students with a great representation of funeral directors.

We discussed what it's like being first generation funeral directors and learning to sculpt life around service to families in the community. We also had funeral directors talk about their lives growing up in funeral service and how their life was altered prior to their decision to become a funeral director. Deciding to enter the funeral profession should be looked at as a calling and not as an inheritance. If funeral service is just a job then it becomes more difficult to be happy in everyday life. Leaving your child's birthday party because someone has died would not be as easy to cope with as it would when you know you were meant to be there at that specific time and place for that family in need.

Professionalism was a big topic by many who spoke. Discussing how our appearance means a lot to a family, when we are dressed in a suit to take a loved one to their final resting place is a sign of respect for the decedent. Having hot pink nails and hair may deter our families and make them question our reliability. Showing our commitment to the funeral profession through our dress and our actions in everyday life gives our families reassurance during their time of need. The family may not thank us for not having pink hair but they will be more comfortable with us throughout the whole process.

We discussed flexibility in our profession and knowing one day we could be meeting with a family and doing paperwork and the next day we could be picking through the cigarette butts in the ash tray. We may have to go on a call at 3 a.m. but the next day we may have the ability to sleep in. Flexibility also allows us many times to readjust our schedule around what is going on in our favor.

Terminology with our families is very important. We don't want our families to walk away feeling as if they have just left the used car salesman. It was brought up that sales terms can help us to put a family at ease. Some people are better with words than others and learning to add words to our vocabulary may be beneficial to our families.

We talked about interviewing and to expect the unexpected. The interviewing process is a much different process in the funeral profession and how one funeral home owner/manager interviews may be completely different than the next.

The question and answer session at the end led our committee to have hope for the generations coming out of CCMS and their desire and commitment to providing quality service to the families of the future.

Thank you to Karen Giles, new President of CCMS, David Tackett, Dean of CCMS and the students for allowing us to share our experiences and passion with you.

Also in July, the Young Funeral Directors Committee discussed these issues with students at the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science.

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