Williams River Services has come to it’s “pivot point“. “Although some discount “The Pivot” as an overused buzzword, for a startup, pivoting can mean the difference between becoming the next success story and joining the deadpool.” So says Nicholas Thomas the Director of Business Development at Docudesk Corporation.
Two years in and we are continuing to think of the future. In the business’s beginning, we identified our customer and offered services they needed. They needed an ally to help them though the first meeting. We assisted in making arrangements and explaining pricing and options. Our business is driven by helping the customer get what they need at a fair price.
In the last year, WRS helped families all over the state of Vermont. We provided cremation and burial services as well as brokerage and estate sale services. Our presentations at conventions and group workshops have helped to educate the public on everything end of life. Our Death Cafes have made the conversations approachable and relaxed. We have published a Green Burial Guide and are currently working on our first book “Do you want fries with that?” The Dumbing Down of the American Funeral Industry; I am hoping to have this released by the end of the year.
Most often, Williams River Services has advised families making arrangements for the first time and that are unfamiliar with the process. Many folks have come to us who have an idea of what they want but are not sure how to get it at a fair price. They didn’t want to be sold a lot of costly options they don’t need. We have been proud to help — providing what you want, where you want it, at a price that is affordable.
Regretfully, we have decided to end our cremation and burial services. As we move forward, our resources will be redirected toward our green services, estate and brokerage services. With this focus, it is our intention to continue to assist families in the ways they most need. After 20 years as a funeral director, I have a huge amount of information about the funeral industry. In fact, I have been on both sides of the table. I will continue to use this information and my experiences to help the consumer. Like any other broker, I am only interested in you getting what you want at a fair price.
I will work on this new focus and you will begin to see blog posts reflecting new pricing and services. If I have served your family here in Vermont, I will provide advice and guidance free of charge. New families should not be hesitant to contact us; prices are negotiable. Consider Williams River Services your advocate. Having someone on your side who knows the business only makes sense. Contact us with questions.
Tag Archives: mark j kenney
The idea of death cafes were developed by Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz and were meant to get folks together, put them in a comfortable environment and let them talk freely about death. There isn’t a physical cafe for this purpose; these “cafes” can be held anywhere. I have been doing similar meetings in the area with groups at senior centers, housing projects, and local groups and organizations.
I feel the reason these are becoming so popular is because folks really do want to talk about death. They want to know about the mechanics of death and are interested in what happens to their loved one after they die. My meetings are not formal presentations but simply discussions. I have found that after the first 10 minutes, no question is off limits. Once folks are together and comfortable, even with an uncomfortable subject, they are more open when they are with groups of friends.
If your church group or other affiliation would like to learn more about meeting like this, or if you, yourself, would like to meet at a “death cafe,” please call me.
Let’s clear the air. I have been writing this blog for more than a year, often talking about how the funeral industry is falling apart and people are finding value in other services. I want it to be a clear that when I say “funeral industry” I mean the corporate conglomerates that took over the funeral world back in the 60s and 70s.
There is a huge difference between the local and corporate operations. My experience in the “industry” started after a few years in a family business. While I was doing my schooling, I worked part-time at a family business in Lowell, MA. In the family business, I saw a funeral director who cared about serving his neighbor and friends. He went to church with them; he served in rotary and was on the local school board. When I took my first job with a corporate funeral home, things were quite different.
I worked about 60-80 hours a week. I saw 3-4 families a day and embalmed at least that many later the same day. I never came to know any of those families. I was working for Lowen; the company had come to the Cape in the late 80s. They bought a group of 11 funeral homes, which was more than half of all the funeral business on Cape Cod at the time. Everything was about the money. On the days I didn’t make arrangements with families, I was conducting services for families someone else had met days before.
When I came to Vermont things were much different. I joined the company Keystone; work was enjoyable again. Money was a factor but was not the be-all and end-all. We needed to get paid but we would not turn anyone away. As time went on Keystone, whose owners has previously worked for SCI, started to change. They were now being traded on the Toronto stock exchange. Keystone now had stock holders. Money and spending were of ought most importance. Rumors within the company said that Keystone was getting ready to sell to SCI. This had happened while I worked at Lowen. We were squeezed at the end, trying to make the company as attractive as possible to SCI. Lowen and Keystone had been quietly consumed by SCI.
Business is business. SCI is governed by stockholders. Stockholders only care about the bottom line. SCI continues to show record profits and grow by buying small clusters of family owned businesses.
There are many local funeral homes who still believe in doing the right thing. Here in Vermont and across the country there are family-owned businesses who are not interested in huge profits. They are interested in serving their neighbors and friends. We all need to get paid for what we do, but the continued price gouging by corporate entities makes all funeral businesses look like thieves.
Shop local. Know your options. Know who you are doing business with and be an educated consumer. Corporate funeral companies want you to know nothing when you walk in their door. That is why I started Williams River services.
Call me if you have any questions. 802-353-0021.
Yes, I’m shameless… every chance I get, I want to remind you to shop local. Know who you are doing business with. Buy Valentine’s gifts for your loved one or care for them in their last days and in death with the help of your local community businesses.
Social media is huge in all aspects and types of business today. The article below was posted on Connecting Directors. Ryan Thogmartin is founder and CEO of Connecting Directors and Disrupt Media Groups. Mr. Thogmartin has his hand on the pulse of the industry.
Thogmartin says “ Please watch the video below (it’s less than 1 minute long) and replace the words “business” and “people” with “funeral homes” and “funeral directors”. This is no joke, its the truth, the real deal, the way it is, the end of the road” …etc. Mr. Thogmartin nails it here.
Gary Vaynerchuk is the expert in the video. The show is called Morning Joe on MSNBC.
At the end of the article there is a test for your Facebook page to see how you stack up against others in the industry. I took the test and realized that all of my social media outlets should be cleaned up and better organized. I will do this because this is the direction of the funeral industry, not just any business.
I am glad that there are hard workers like Thogmartin out there telling it like it is. The industry has to change or it will be replaced.
I think I forgot how to do this…..
It has been a few weeks since I have blogged here. I have spent the last week in Fluville. You remember Fluville. Located between the Muscle Ache Mountains and Dry Heave Lake. It was a tuff one this year but I’m still here. I hope that you don’t have to take the trip, but if you do, rest and push the fluids.
Back to business. From what I am reading this will be must see TV…..
CNBC’s “Death: It’s a Living” Premieres on Thursday, January 31st at 9pm ET/PT and from the many clips promoting the show on Youtube it appears that the funeral profession is going to be portrayed as a group of greedy money grabbers…again.
If you get a chance give it a look.
As I continue to do research for my book, I find mind-boggling facts. I also am finding that there are some incredible stories of how people get to the point of thinking about their final arrangements.
This is a six-minute trailer about a man who is planning his death due to cancer. As the time draws near he weighs his options and chooses a natural earth burial. He points out that cremation is not an option for him due to the fact that it causes pollution and is not 100% natural. His plans are natural, green, and extremely well planned out. He likes the idea he has control over what is going to happen in the end. He calls it the ultimate gift, which he can give back to the earth.
He has a friend build a casket from a recycled chicken coop. He even goes so far as to try it out to make sure he fits. He will be laid to rest in a burial preserve intentionally designed to be sustainable. As you can see in the video, the preserve is breathtaking.
The video points out that there are two kinds of burial services going on in America today. The first is the traditional funeral home burial with embalming, visitation, etc., etc. The second is a green burial, chosen by the folks who are willing to do what ever it takes to honor the dead without any of the trappings of conventional funerals. “Ninety-seven percent of the world has found a way to have natural burials without embalming.” He points out “and nobody is dropping dead from attending visitations or helping care for the dead.”
I feel it is a well-crafted myth (the need for embalming and conventional visitation hours etc., etc.) that the funeral industry has brain washed consumers to think. In the movie, it is refreshing to see someone embrace their mortality and exercise their choices. These folks have been planning this over a period of months. Much time and research have gone into their end of life decisions.
If this is something that interests you, please start planning now. Remember: natural, green funerals are easy, inexpensive and can be more meaningful to families.
Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got. Art Buchwald
It has happened. Things have been busy. I knew, sooner or later, I was not going to be able to be in two places at once.
A family in the Burlington area called. It’s a long way away, but I wanted to help. Shortly after arriving at the home, the phone rang again. I talked with a young lady whose mom had just passed. Mom passed at home surrounded by her family. Mom and family were 3 hours away in the other direction. I explained my location and availability while being very sensitive to their situation at home.
First, Burlington… The family helped care for their loved one, gathering precious belongings for me to take along. We planned to be in contact in the morning. I gave them my web site and said they might find helpful information before our meeting but not to worry, we would review everything together.
After leaving, I spoke with the second family again. We talked for a few minutes about what they should do until I arrived. They were very understanding; it was helpful that a well-trained visiting nurse was at their home during Mom’s last moments. I assured the family everything would be fine and Mom was fine right where she was. She was in her bed, covered with her favorite blankets and holding her stuffed-animal dog, as she has been holding for the past few years.
Speaking with the visiting nurse, I half joked to crack the window and shut the door, to keep the room cool. She said she was already ahead of me and would be staying until I showed up. Upon arrival almost four hours later, everyone was in Mom’s bedroom. There were no tears but only relaxed faces telling stories about Mom, with Mom. They were all very happy she was still with them and that they had this extra time together. One by one, family members said their good-byes and went into the living room. When I met with the family the next day, they expressed appreciation for the four hours – for the time they got to spend with mom.
This made an impression on me – something I want to share with you. There are no laws that say your loved one has to be moved immediately after death. If your loved one has chosen to die at home, make sure Hospice and your funeral provider know what the family will want after the death. If you aren’t given options or if it seems like an inconvenience, talk to your local Visiting Nurses Association and find a new funeral provider. Take the time you need; you and your family will appreciate it.
As always, if there are any questions I can answer, please be in touch.
Another great article about saying good bye to high priced funeral services. The average cost in the US is +/- $10,000.00. That is just crazy!!!!! Look at the article and then visit our website. www.williamsriverservices.com
The article is in Money Magazine. It is a 3 part series and I will be happy to pass on the next 2 installments. Shop Mom and Pop. If you deal with a national chain, you will be paying for balloons and seed hearts that never worked.
More than $10,000.00 for a traditional burial? Are we as funeral consumers just plain crazy? This shouldn’t be one of the biggest expenses a family will face.
I have worked for a funeral home which over charged funeral consumers. I am happy to say through Williams River Services, I now work directly for the funeral consumer.
In the last few weeks I have been asked the question of green burials in Vermont. As of today, there are no green cemeteries in Vermont. The project in Bristol is moving forward but still does not have the “green stamp”. (2007 article by Kegan Harsha)
Public green cemetery’s are here and coming to an area near you soon. The idea of green burial space which has multiple uses works for everyone. ”A full-blown conservation cemetery is basically a nature preserve that has trails to walk through and it’s 100 percent green burial: No embalming, no concrete vaults, only natural grave markers,” says Theresa Purcell who runs the Full Circle Project, which advocates for natural burials.
Currently if you want green burial services in Vermont you can only use your own land. WRCS may have a compromise that works for everyone. There is a way to have a green burial at your local cemetery and still be operating by the law. The answer/compromise is the grave liner.
Here are the FACTS: There are no laws that say a body must be embalmed. There are also no laws that say a body must be placed in a casket before burial. The only restriction is a cement grave liner. That requirement is by the cemetery. Nobody can argue that cemeteries before liners/vaults were hard to maintain and not very welcoming. Grave liners are made with no man-made materials. Concrete is made of sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag, and water. Just earth.
I have recommended to families that the body be placed in a biodegradable casket or wrapped in linen and placed directly into the grave liner. At that point the family may choose to cover the body with earth, place the cover on the liner, and refill the remainder of the grave. The body is in direct contact with the earth. No chemicals, no wasted energy, and part of a natural preserve that folks will be using for years. Having served many Jewish families, this was a way for the family and Temple to satisfy all concerned about tradition.
Green burials are not for everyone. 200 hundred years ago it was commonplace. There was no choice. I think we have been subconsciously brain washed into thinking that green funerals can’t be done without major difficulty or expense. The amount of public green burial space is growing. Some will call it breaking with tradition, others will say were taking tradition back and once again getting what we need.
More people choose ‘green’ funerals
by Jon Collins, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — As environmental consciousness has grown in the country, some people like Theresa Purcell have questioned the practice of pumping dead bodies full of chemicals before they’re buried in thick, concrete vaults in the ground.
“People are unfamiliar with the embalming process. People just hear that if you’re going to be buried, you need a concrete vault but don’t actually question the reasons behind that,” said Purcell, who runs the Full Circle Project, which advocates for natural burials. “In the grand scheme of things, it’s a huge waste of resources.”
Purcell and her group promote a range of options, from wrapping a body in only a shroud to burial in a simple, biodegradable casket. She said traditional cemeteries are starting to offer services that are more environmentally friendly along with conventional services.
“A full-blown conservation cemetery is basically a nature preserve that has trails to walk through and it’s 100 percent green burial: No embalming, no concrete vaults, only natural grave markers,” Purcell said. “More existing cemeteries are starting to set aside an acre for green burial or just mixing them in with the other headstones.”
There are no hard numbers regarding how many green cemeteries exist in the United States. But Joshua Slocum, who runs the national Funeral Consumers Alliance, said when he joined the organization a decade ago, there were only two commercially run green cemeteries. Now he knows of about 60.
In Minnesota, a couple options have emerged in recent years for people who want a green burial.
One of those is Prairie Oaks Memorial Eco Gardens, which Tony Webber and a business partner just opened in Inver Grove Heights. Plans for the three-acre cemetery include space for about 1,600 green graves, as well as areas for the interment of ashes.
“We will not allow any above-ground monuments, we won’t mow the grass. The headstone will consist of a natural field stone with the head cut off,” Webber said. “The concept is to feed the earth and not to damage it with the compounds.”
Another advantage is cost. The National Funeral Directors Association put the cost of a conventional funeral at $7,755 in 2009. Webber puts the price for a green funeral in his cemetery at about $5,000.
Webber hopes people will come to regard the cemetery as a sort of public park. It will contain wooded areas, native grasses and a pond.
That’s not that unusual. Although people don’t hang out in cemeteries much now, they did in the past, said John Troyer, deputy director of the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath in England.
“The 19th century cemetery was very much designed as a park, as a public sphere for people to go and stroll through and eat,” Troyer said. “Cemeteries that are going to more meadow type setups — or what’s described as green burial — they are in some ways creating sort of a 21st century reinvention of what might be thought of as a burial ground.”