Raleigh man's casket is ultimate DIY project

December 12, 2011
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Image via News & Observer

Raleigh, NC – Down in the basement, right next to the treadmill, Scott Steiner keeps the box he’ll be buried in – a 75-inch casket made of poplar and pine, stained cherry and black, topped with a cross.

He built it last winter, along with a matching coffin for his wife, Kathy, and he lined both of them with foam to make eternity more comfortable. On top of the foam, he installed a smooth beige covering.

“Would you believe we went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and we found some curtains we loved?” said Steiner, 71, running his hand over the fabric. “They’re kind of satiny.”

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This is a man living a happy retirement on the golf course at Brier Creek.

Just last Thursday night, he hosted a Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament in that same basement, cavorting until 4 a.m. and walking away with the pot.

His front yard shows off an elaborate Christmas village – elves made with the same tools that fashioned his burial box.

Steiner isn’t even sick.

But last year, while nursing a bum knee, he read an article about how evangelist Billy Graham had once visited a convicted murderer who had some carpentry skills. Graham asked the prisoner to build coffins for him and his wife, Ruth.

“I said, ‘Geez, if Billy Graham and his wife can be buried in a plain wooden casket, so can I,’ ” said Steiner.

Having buried both parents and in-laws, Steiner knows the dreariness and expense of picking out coffins. This way, his three daughters won’t have to make that most unpleasant of purchases. Steiner guesses his handiwork saved $8,000.

Not only that, but he’s plastered the side of his casket with photographs, saving family the chore of rounding them up for the funeral.

Here’s his photo from Upsala College in New Jersey, around the time he and Kathy met on a blind date.

Here’s one of all three daughters wearing St. Patrick’s Day green.

Here’s one of Herbie the cat, eyes red from the camera’s flash.

Steiner points to a few bare spots between the snapshots: “This is just in case we befriend a few new people.”

It’s actually cheerful work, making your own casket. Steiner spent a lot of the time chuckling, fitting the pieces in place out in the garage.

Once, a 10-year-old boy wandered over from a neighbor’s house, curious about all the commotion. Steiner explained himself, and the boy turned and ran.

“He ran away so (gosh-darned) fast I thought I’d scared him,” Steiner said. “He came back five minutes later with an iPhone and said, “Can I get in it and take a picture?”

Steiner has climbed inside the casket himself. He had to, for measurement’s sake. You wouldn’t want to find out too late that your casket was an inch short and have to repose forever with your knees bent. But no worries.

Steiner figures it like this:

If the weatherman calls for rain, you bring an umbrella and the clouds disappear. If you build your own casket, the ultimate be-prepared chore, odds are it will gather dust in the basement for years, waiting patiently.

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CDFuneralNews

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