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Content here represents the voice of SIGNATURE SUNSETS, an informational initiative designed to broaden and brighten horizons in the funerary domain.

The material is an outgrowth of a pre-planning reference book, Pondering Leaves: Composing and Conveying Your Life Story's Epilogue, written by the author of this blog.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

PERSONALIZATION EXAMPLES

PERSONALIZATION:  CANNED or CUSTOMIZED?

It’s the buzzword in death care management circles these days.  If providers want to appeal to customers, they must personalize their products and services.  Often, though, the word "personalize" is interpreted as "commercialize."  As long as a manufactured identity symbol is snapped onto the end of a casket, then some may be inclined to label the funeral of its occupant as "personalized."  Or maybe there might also be a candle with the individual's photo embedded in it.  Or a floral arrangement with a ribbon bearing the words, "Beloved Golfer." 

But let’s take a peek at a summarized slew of truly personalized circumstances retrieved from the “Featured Funerals” page of the My Wonderful Life (mywonderfullife.com) website:    

Aware of impending death, Wesley David Scott asked for the fight song of his alma mater, the University of Alabama, to be played at his service.  Lung cancer was at the root of his terminal condition; so he related his oxygen deprivation to a request for guests to give his wife oxygen-producing plants in the form of shrubs and trees as an alternative to traditional flowers.

During life, John Jacobs relished the attention he got because of his cell phone that was always ringing.   So it was buried with him in a Paramus, NJ cemetery where the headstone above his grave has the phone number on it.  

Before his confinement to a wheelchair, Jerry Manford had been an active and fun-loving adventurer.  For his funeral event that would be held in a church backyard, he planned a carnival with pony rides, inflatable jumping toys, and decorations.  By way of a “lifetime legacy video” he had prepared, he told his mourners, “See you on the other side. Don’t let it bother you.  You’re born, you die. Have a beer and a good laugh.”  In accord with his request, his coffin was decorated with the words, “Return to Sender: Express Delivery.”

Because of his passion for cranes, Alan Hampton requested to have his body transported to his burial site by one of them.  Strapped to a ninety-ton crane, his casket was at the head of a motorcycle procession through town to the cemetery. 

A Viking enthusiast, Alan Smith, chose an authentic Norse style send-off.  A replica of a Viking longboat was set on fire before drifting out to sea. 

Rose Martin insisted on being buried in her 1962 Chevrolet Corvair that she had driven around Tiverton, Massachusetts for thirty-six years.  After structural modification of the car by a body shop and acquisition of four cemetery plots, the eighty-four-year-old woman’s wish was granted.  

Music from Tim Russert’s iPod was played at his service.

A Minnesota attorney, C. Blaine Harstad, wrote his own obituary, which included an invitation to the Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis to see his headstone that he had personally designed.  The memorial was personalized with family trees illustrating his Norwegian heritage and his wife’s German ancestry as well as a map of Norway.

Since Fredric J. Baur was especially proud of the patented design he created for the Pringles potato chip can, he asked for a portion of his cremated remains to be buried in one of the cans.  This relevant receptacle is alongside his urn in a grave at Arlington Memorial Gardens near Cincinnati, Ohio.

An ice cream truck led the funeral procession for an ice cream vendor, Henry Ewell.  At the conclusion of proceedings, Popsicles were served to guests.   

Preston Robert Tisch, owner of Loews Corporation and co-owner of the New York Giants, employed a party planner to orchestrate his final event.  A band added flair to his memorial service at Avery Fisher Hall in Manhattan, after which models passed out chocolate-covered marshmallows on silver trays at a reception.  

Purportedly, during life Henry Smith was most at peace in his leather recliner, watching television.  So for his final appearance, his body was placed in his reclining chair facing a TV playing sports highlights, with a pack of cigarettes and a beer on the table next to it. 

Following a memorial service and private funeral in Heath Ledger’s hometown of Perth, Australia, guests met at his favorite restaurant for a seaside wake.  There they linked arms as they watched the sun setting and many of them jumped into the ocean waters where Heath had played as a child. 

Patricia Renick, an artist in Cincinnati, left instructions for each friend at her funeral to be given an envelope containing a portion of her cremated remains. They were to distribute them in places that seemed appropriate. Some were even deposited on a Tibetan mountain. 

A California state legislator, BT Collins, was reputed for his love of a good time.  For his final funerary event he allocated funds for a large party in a hotel ballroom. A large buffet, ice sculptures, balloon bouquets, three bars, and a seven-piece band were features witnessed by about 3,000 guests. 

Philip Quattrociocchi chose to have two final events – a traditional religious service in his hometown of Sacramento as well as a funeral in his current San Francisco environs.  For the second affair he made arrangements with a caterer, chose speakers, created a video memorial, and hired a graphic designer to produce his invitations before his impending death. 

In accordance with his request, the cremated remains of Hunter S. Thompson were shot from a canon, accompanied by a fireworks display. 

Upon learning about his terminal cancer, Jack Smith, a bar owner, arranged a yacht cruise for one hundred friends to set sail the Saturday after his death.  The memorial service on board featured a jazz band, blues group, refreshments, and scattering of his cremated remains while “I’ll Be Seeing You” was played. 

An avid Detroit Tigers fan, Connie Scramlin, opted to be buried wearing a Tigers uniform in a coffin reflecting the team’s colors.  “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” was played during her service. 

Paul Wellener, a committed Pittsburgh Steelers fan, had attended their games for over forty years.  After his death, his family bought two seats from the old Steelers stadium to position over his grave as part of his memorial.

Lourenzy Cosey and his wife pre-planned a funeral event that would represent his favorite life activity – hosting neighborhood cookouts.  The funeral was held at a funeral home, with a cooler along with pop and iced tea as a backdrop, accentuated by a buffet amidst jazz music. 

Many thanks to the folks at My Wonderful Life for posting these inspiring examples of special life endings!  Check their website periodically for additional entries. 

These real life (actually, death) illustrations epitomize the concept of connecting personal characteristics or wishes to uniquely memorable memorial observances.  Are your own “wheels of thought” in motion yet to direct you toward distinctively personalized final exit plans?
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