You Are ALWAYS a Funeral Director – Toby Sutton

March 12, 2010
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imageToby Sutton is an Embalmer/ Funeral Director at Emerson Funeral Home in Jonesboro, Arkansas. He graduated from Weiner High School in 1996, University of Arkansas at Monticello in 2000 with a BA in English, Arkansas State University-Jonesboro in 2002 with an MA in English, and Arkansas State University-Mountain Home in 2003 with an Associate of Applied Science in Funeral Service. He was an adjunct instructor in the Mortuary Science Program at Mountain Home for two years before moving back to his hometown. He is active in the Northeast Arkansas Funeral Director Club, being a past president, and is also a member of the American Society of Embalmers.

He works full time and likes to write about funeral service on the side. He still lives in his hometown.

Sometimes, we forget that we cannot leave our profession at the door. When the day ends, and we are ready to go out and have a good time, we must always remember that people from our home towns are always going to view us as the town mortician.

I have heard stories about how horrible some funeral directors have acted. I went to get my hair cut the other day and the lady cutting it was telling me that she cut another funeral professional?s hair and that he treated the entire staff like dirt. That is certainly not the reputation that I would want. Set aside the fact that it is just rude, but he was employed at a firm and those young ladies are going to have death in their families. Do you think they will be using the firm that has an employee that treats them like that? And the hair dressers will talk to others.

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We must always remember that we represent our entire firm when we speak to the public. If we have a hair dresser come in to do the hair of a loved one or client of theirs, we represent our firm to them. The condition of our dressing area is on display. It boggles my mind when I think how many people that hair dressers come in contact with. If we make a hairdresser angry, I would venture to guess that a good part of the town will hear about our short-comings.

We have to even think about retaining our professionalism when we go out to eat. Besides that fact that I don?t know what is being done to my food, I also do not know who is watching my actions. We don?t have to accept inferior service or food, but we do have to watch the way we respond.

We can?t have fits of anger in the parking lot and spit on the windows because someone has parked too close to our vehicle. That is nasty, unprofessional and juvenile. This, too, has happened. Thank goodness he was not in a funeral home van.

Something happened in our area this week that I never thought I would see. An apprentice was terminated from a firm for punching the owner three times. The chances of him finding employment in this area, possibly the state, are very slim. It would have to be a desperate funeral home. If other states are anything like Arkansas, word travels fast. This would have been the time to remember that he was a funeral professional, not a bar fighter. The funeral home is certainly not the place for a fight like that. This happened about ten minutes prior to a funeral starting.

We have to guard ourselves all the time. I understand anger. I deal with difficult families just like anyone else. When I taught I dealt with very difficult students. It is not always going to be a cake walk, but you are always a funeral director, and in many towns and places, that is the highest honor that you could ever have. Our profession is suffering because of the decisions that seasoned professionals are making. We have recently seen the fiasco in Memphis, there are all the cemetery problems and then we all remember the crematory debauchery.

Funeral professionals also have Mitford?s book to contend with. We not only have to fight against our actions, the actions of other funeral directors, but the belief that we are taking advantage of persons during their time of need.

Always remember when you start your career to keep your nose clean. Keep your temper in check. Watch your words. Pay attention to where you relax. Always try to remember what others would think about what you are doing.

The ultimate question that can be asked is, ?IF I were to see this person out acting ridiculous in public, would I want them taking care of my loved one??. There are several in my business that I would not want to have anything to do with the arrangements of my family.

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