Modern funerals often bring up quirky requests

August 19, 2010
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If explorers dig up Ashland County cemeteries in 500 years to find out what our lives and culture were like, they may scratch their heads at what they find. Beer cans, blankets, motorcycles and Ohio State sports have become features of the modern funeral as the trend shifts to celebrating life.

In the process of interviewing funeral directors for the “Peace of Mind Preplanning Guide,” which appears inside today’s Times-Gazette, the staff asked funeral directors about “unusual requests” involving funerals.

To most, unusual only stretches to items placed in the casket.

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Walt Lindsey of Byerly-Lindsey Funeral Home in Loudonville said he’s seen people place sweet items in the casket, including letters from children and pictures of loved ones. Friends and family also have placed funny items in the casket, like a can of beer or a pack of cigarettes. He has seen one person buried with their favorite pet’s remains.

He said he was told once that someone placed illegal drugs in the casket.

“I wouldn’t support that and I would never do it, I just heard it happened once,” he said.

A certain illegal drug relates to Ashland Monument president Don Hoffman’s most unusual request — engraving marijuana leaves on the headstone.

“Everyone who comes in here is different, and that’s what makes it fun,” he said.

Motorcycle enthusiasts also contributed to multiple non-traditional area funerals. Ed Kemery of Denbow-Primm-Kemery Funeral Home said one of the most unusual requests he has handled was for a

Harley-Davidson motorcycle to be placed next to the casket.

Ed Herrick of Roberts Funeral Home had a similar request many years ago — instead of a hearse, a man wanted his casket to be pulled by Harley-Davidsons.

Ohio State Buckeyes fanaticism apparently extends beyond death.

Don Fickes of Fickes Funeral Home in Jeromesville has had some of the best Ohio State requests, including a lady whose casket was lined with the Buckeyes’ scarlet colors. She was buried in the team’s gray colors from head to toe.

It doesn’t stop there though, as Fickes said he once placed a set of Ohio State golf clubs in a casket for a Buckeye fan, and the bottom of his cemetery monument read, “Go Buckeyes.”

“He wanted to cheer for the Buckeyes forever,” he said.

Lindsey also said he’s played all kinds of music at funerals, including rock, pop and country as opposed to the typical mellow funeral music.

But to a funeral director, nothing can be considered “unusual.” Many said funerals now tend to focus more on what the person’s life was like — what made the person who he was, what made him happy and what the family remembers when thinking about him.

Lindsey said many people still want the traditional religious service, but he is seeing more blended services that combine the religious aspects of the funeral with a celebration of life that includes pictures, videos and songs that tell the person’s story.

“Some people, I think, went to funerals and didn’t think they were meaningful enough for them and wanted to incorporate more about the person who died, and that is a good thing,” he said. “Everybody wants to talk about the person because they were pretty important to us.”

Source: Times Gazette

In the comments, tell us what quirky requests you get.

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