Death + Popular Culture Funeral Industry

Florida Elects Tea Party Funeral Director

Outspoken Fla. Democratic Rep. Grayson Unseated
Mike Schneider and Bill Kaczor, The Washington Post (November 02, 2010)

Buried deep in this Washington Post article on the November elections is the following factoid: one of the newly elected Republican Congressmen from Florida is also a Funeral Director. Representative-elect Steve Southerland is part of the Southerland Family Funeral Home in northern Florida.

I need to check and see how many funeral directors have served over the years in both the House and Senate. I’ve been poking around but I can’t find a single source on this one. Now that I’m interested, however, I must know. I will find out and report back.


southerland_profileIt’s worth noting that Representative-elect Southerland was also a Tea Party backed candidate (according to various news accounts), although I have not seen any official Tea Party literature on the American funeral industry.

The National Funeral Directors Association takes a decidedly non-partisan approach with the candidates that it supports and every year funeral directors from all over America arrive in Washington, DC to meet with elected officials.

The Death Reference Desk will keep an eye on Representative Southerland.

We want to know what kind of death he brings to the table.

Funeral Industry

Three Feet of Snow Does Not Stop Funeral Directors

Funeral Directors’ Challenge: Death Waits for No Snowstorm
William Wan, The Washington Post (February 12, 2010)

This is a classic news article about two kinds of hot topics: funeral directors and freakish weather events. You put these two things together and WHAMMO, you’re king of the world.

So right now in Washington, DC (which is still digging out from under three feet of snow) local funeral directors are working working working because people keep dying. Indeed, mortality rates tend to go up during heavy snow storms because of accidents and strenuous shoveling. Meanwhile, cold weather and snow forces some cemeteries to close, which in turn forces families (and therefore funeral directors) to scramble when it comes to interment, calling around to find open graveyards or, alternatively, storage facilities until the snow clears. Funeral directors may work around the clock, sleeping at work among the dead–on couches, not in the caskets.

My father the funeral director did all these things (and more) during snow storms in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. It is just part of being a funeral director: you never stop working because death doesn’t stop.

Death + the Law Death Ethics Funeral Industry

Ambulance Chasing: Not Just for Lawyers!

Guatemalan Funeral Homes Compete for Corpses
Associated Press (November 29, 2009)

With its excess of murders and dearth of death practitioner regulation, Guatemala is home to “mobile morticians,” chasing ambulances and staking out city morgues to be the first to pounce on mostly low-income, grieving relatives. They’ve even earned a deathly moniker: “calaqueros,” or skullmongers, as seen holding the umbrella below, patiently waiting for a wallet to arrive.

Waiting for the relatives (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Not only will they track you down in disturbing, often offensive ways, including paying the police to tip them off, skullmongers set up shop wherever possible, including auto body shops: caskets sold up front, corpses disemboweled and embalmed in back among the engine blocks.

This seems to drive costs down (at least?)… but back-alley embalming can’t be far behind. See the AP story (linked at top) for a number of additional photos.

Funeral Industry

The Art of the Death Business

Jason Boone snoops around the 2008 National Funeral Directors Convention, offering a glimpse into death industry gadgets, gimmicks and personalities. Aired on Current TV, this video short includes a number of flyby alternative burial and creative memorializing products and perspectives on the profession from young funeral directors.

Contributed to January 22, 2009.