Even Cemeteries are Not Immune to Bad Economy

August 27, 2009
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image Cemeteries, like other businesses, are feeling the squeeze of the economic downturn. Locally, they have tried to cut costs without affecting service to families who have lost loved ones, cemetery managers said. Calvary Cemetery has eliminated one administrative assistant?s job, has hired out its lawn mowing work in recent years and was able to eliminate a full-time mechanic?s position to cut costs, superintendent Rick Meade said.

Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum in Dayton, burial site of Wilbur and Orville Wright and poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, reduced the pay and working hours of all its employees by 10 percent for two months, through mid-March, to avoid layoffs, said Dave FitzSimmons, president and chief executive officer. Those cuts applied to FitzSimmons as well, he said.

Dayton Memorial Park Cemetery and Mausoleum laid off two of its five full-time groundskeepers and has begun seeding graves by hand, to reduce materials use and machine maintenance, said Barry Bolyard, general manager of the cemetery in Butler Twp., Montgomery County.

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The cemetery, owned by a nonprofit association of lot owners, also has hired out its mowing for the past three years, Bolyard said.

Almost half of the funeral directors responding to a National Funeral Directors Association survey said sales of burial plots for eventual use declined in 2008 from 2007. Those ?pre-need? sales are a major source of income for cemeteries.

In addition, families are cutting costs of funerals by choosing less expensive caskets and reduced services, or opting more often for cremation, the survey found. U.S. funeral costs averaged $7,323 in 2006, the latest figures available, not including cemetery and monument costs.

Article By: John Nolan, Staff Writer Dayton Daily News

Photo: Jan Underwood

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