At Homesteaders, we are blessed to work with exceptional funeral professionals – business owners, pre-need counselors and partners who are committed to offering value and compassionate service to their client families.
We feature many of our customers’ stories from funeral service throughout the year in our monthly digital newsletter. As we approach the last few days of 2016, we wanted to take a moment to share some of our favorite excerpts from this last year. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!
A Hands-on Approach to Giving Back
Despite owning and managing three funeral homes in eastern Oklahoma, Steve and Ruth Harkins still find time to roll up their sleeves and give back to their community. On one particularly cold and windy Saturday morning, they donned their warmest coats, hats and gloves and made their way to the local cemetery. The county cemetery had sustained heavy damage during an ice storm earlier in the month, and the caretaker had organized a cleanup day to clear away the debris.
When Steve and Ruth arrived, they were surprised to find that only one other resident had come to help. The three of them worked all morning, clearing away fallen tree branches and collecting piles of dead leaves and pine needles. Afterward, the man turned to Steve and said, “If you care this much about the cemetery, that’s all I need to know.”
Since then, the Harkinses have buried five members of the gentleman’s family.
A Gift for Grieving Parents
Early one afternoon, Scott Janssen received a call from Nome, Alaska – about 1,000 miles north of his Anchorage location. Two people were on the other line – the parents of a young girl who’d been killed in a tragic car accident that morning. They asked Scott if he would have enough time to prepare their little girl for a funeral the next day.
Scott immediately agreed, and they put their daughter on the 6:30 p.m. flight out of Nome. She landed in Anchorage around 8:30 that evening, and Scott worked through the night to address the damages left by the accident and prepare her for the next day’s viewing.
As you can imagine, the restoration work was extensive. “When I finished, the dress the family had placed on her for transport wasn’t in any condition to be put back on. So, around 3 a.m. I called my wife, Debbie, and explained the situation. At the time, our oldest daughter was also four years old. So Debbie took a brand new dress she had just purchased for Angela and brought it down to the funeral home.”
Scott dressed the little girl and placed her in the casket before returning her to the airport early that morning. “She was on the first flight back to Nome and made it in plenty of time for her family to hold the funeral and viewing at 2 o’clock that afternoon.” When her parents saw their little girl looking like herself again, they were overcome with appreciation for what Scott and Debbie had done for their family.
Special recognition for Veterans
Like many funeral professionals, the staff at Munden Funeral Home collects old American flags from community members to ensure they are retired with dignity. Before the flags are respectfully disposed of, the funeral home’s pre-need counselors carefully cut out the stars and affix them to cards for Veterans.
Whenever they serve military families at their funeral home, they offer a card as a token of gratitude. “I’ve been really taken aback by the emotional response I get from Veterans and their families when I thank them for their service and present them with a star,” Pre-need Counselor Nick McFerran reflected. “It’s a very meaningful moment for everyone in the room and usually ends up with some tears.”
The response from their community has been overwhelmingly positive. The staff has since set up a station at the funeral home to collect the tattered flags and often have several on-hand waiting to be retired. Since ceremonial burning is the recommended method of disposition for American flags, they offer Veterans the option to be draped in a retired flag prior to cremation. “It’s just one more way we can show our gratitude to our Veterans,” Nick observed.
A Creative Approach to Community Outreach
Amy Puckett has always been active in her community, sponsoring local sports teams, supporting the school district and volunteering her time. Each year, she offers a free, homemade Thanksgiving meal to anyone in need over the holidays.
This year, Amy cooked for more than 150 people, going through 15 pounds of stuffing and more than 80 pounds of potatoes. “We usually serve anywhere between 100 and 175 people. Some of them come to the Rogersville Senior Center to eat, and others have their meals delivered right to their door,” she explained. “We have a lot of help – many people who volunteer have lost loved ones. Helping serve meals gives them something else to do – something else to focus on – to get them through the holiday.”
It’s evident in talking with Amy that she is passionate about her community and each family she serves. Though she noted that she and her staff put forth 100% of their effort for every service, one funeral in particular stands out. “There was a little girl who passed away from an auto immune disease a few years ago. All her classmates were there – the chapel was half full with 10 and 11-year-old kids – and we didn’t know where to put them. So, we decided to put them on the floor at the front, sitting cross-legged like they were listening to their teacher read a book.”
As the morning went on, more and more parents started moving toward the front to sit and comfort their children. By the end of the service, half of the attendees were sitting on the floor up front, celebrating the short life of this little girl who meant so much to their community.
“It was a really beautiful sight to see our community support that little girl’s family,” Amy recalled. “If something like that has to happen to families in my community, I want to be there to help them through it.”
What are your favorite stories from this year? Feel free to share them in the comments below!
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