ICCFA Names 2011 Keeping It Personal Award Winners

February 3, 2012

February 2, 2012 (Sterling, VA)—The International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association has named its 2011 KIP (Keeping It Personal) Award winners, recognizing the best in personalization in the cemetery and funeral service profession.

Created by the ICCFA Personalization Committee, the KIP program honors recipients in five categories: Best Practices/Personal Touch; Most Personalized Service/Memorial; Events; Innovative Personalized Product (suppliers only); and Most Personalized Pet Service/Memorial.

This year’s contest attracted a record 58 entries from across the United States, Canada, China and Guatemala. Communications and marketing professionals from outside the cemetery and funeral service profession performed the judging.


Information on the winners is available on the ICCFA website at www.iccfa.com/certifications-awards. Applications for the 2012 KIP Awards will be available from the ICCFA this spring. The ICCFA congratulates the winners and all who entered the 2011 KIP Awards. The winners are as follows:


First Place & Grand Prize Winner

Pray Funeral Home

Charlotte, Michigan

Charlotte, Michigan, high school teacher Barbara “B.C.” Collinsworth-Johnson was a vibrant personality in her community. Her students, family and friends wanted her to go out in style, and Pray Funeral Home obliged.

B.C.’s casket was custom painted in her favorite color, royal metallic purple, at a local auto body shop. She directed numerous school plays, so the service was held at the new Charlotte Performing Arts Center, which she helped design. The format of the service was divided into three “acts” separated by video interludes of photos from her life. Before entering the darkened auditorium, attendees were presented with pins featuring drama masks and her nickname “B.C.” on them as well as the Playbill-inspired service program that told her life story as the acts in a play, with the service participants listed on the back page as the cast of characters.

Marquee posters featuring her favorite caricature and posters from many of the plays she directed flanked the entrance to the auditorium. In dramatic fashion, the gleaming casket was spotlighted on the left side of the stage. As the service began, the curtains parted to reveal an empty purple director’s chair with B.C.’s initials along with poster-sized photos spotlighted on stage. As a celebration of her life, an alumni choir and jazz band performed between the many eulogists who shared their remembrances and told how her dreams would live on in her students.

The service concluded with the Michigan State cheerleaders and mascot, “Sparty” flooding the stage during the MSU fight song and leading the crowd to the luncheon in the adjoining cafeteria, while along the way they were presented with B.C.’s favorite snack: popcorn served in purple cups. The services were recorded and edited together with interviews of family and friends and presented to B.C.’s family as Pray’s exclusive “Remember a Life Well Lived” video after the event. They chose to order numerous additional copies to be sent out to family and friends as remembrances.

Honorable Mention

Curran-Shaffer Funeral Home and Crematory

Apollo, Pennsylvania

Chas Armitage, Laura Stettmier and Mike Garrone, owners of three well-known local businesses, passed away in a tragic plane crash in West Virginia. Funeral director James Kunkle and certified celebrant Norman Connors coordinated the services for Chas and Laura.

Kunkle worked with the family to plan the funeral while Connors had meetings with the families and friends of each of the decedants. From those interactions, Connors collected a multitude of information that he could put to use during the services. He used Facebook, his personal e-mail address and a page on the funeral home’s website where people could share memories. Special-made folders created by the Curran staff, which included their photos and obituaries, were handed out to attendees. Personalized portraits of Chas and Laura were presented to their families after the services.

James Kunkle and owner Art Kunkle coordinated with the families to ensure Chas’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle was present during the service as were throw blankets brandished with Harley-Davidson images. Laura’s memorial service included a detailed celebration of life, a dove release, a distribution of Laura’s favorite candy (Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies) and a shot of Jack Daniel’s for everyone to enjoy as a toast at the end of the day.

Honorable Mention

Spring Hill Funeral Home & Cemetery

Nashville, Tennessee

John Christian Phifer received a call from a social worker attempting to find a funeral home who could do something out of the ordinary for a family who was about to lose their 11-year-old girl who was diagnosed early in life with Batten Disease. The story can be wrapped up in one statement from her mother: “I’ll never be able to give my daughter a fairytale wedding so I want to give her a fairytale funeral.”

The girl was dressed in a white flower girl dress adorned with pink bows. Cinderella slippers rested near her feet and she wore a crystal tiara. A four-poster princess-style canopy bed was created to use in place of a coffin. Throughout the halls you could hear Disney classics such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella playing.

Visitors commented, “I’ve never seen anything like it,” while some just cried and smiled with no words.


First Place

Parsell Funeral Homes & Crematorium

Lewes, Delaware

Parsell Funeral Home has implemented a top-notch hiring and personnel program aimed at providing “The Parsell Experience.”

Before being hired, employees must submit to rigorous background and driving checks, expectations are set to ensure personnel are passionate about the position and they are given a “Removers Handbook” to study. Staff receives extensive training before being approved for family contact.

Two employees are on call for nine-hour shifts each night and on weekends, which eliminates the need for nurses or family to assist with the removal and also gives maximum security, safety and assistance when returning to the funeral home.

And finally, before departing from the decedent’s home or hospital bed, the bed is made, a dove keepsake is laid on the pillow with a poem called “Light a Candle,” and the family is assured that their loved one is in the best care.

This program has led to many compliments from families about the funeral home’s professionalism and excellent service.

Honorable Mention

Miller-Carlin Funeral Homes

St. Cloud, Minnesota

Miller-Carlin Funeral Homes presents each family they serve with a “Family Pack.” This set of materials is customized for each individual family using any pictures they choose. The packs may contain any of the following:

  • guestbook with every page customized
  • customized memorial folders
  • customized desk placards
  • customized thank-you cards
  • customized laminated obituary
  • custom DVD using personal photos provided by the family
  • angel pins for each pallbearer to wear during the service

They also take a photo of each floral piece and place it in a photo album along with
the card from the corresponding arrangement. Any bereavement cards brought to the
visitation, jewelry and belongings of the decedent, the cross used during the service, a pen and a letter opener are also included in the family pack.


First Place

Prospect Hill Cemetery & Cremation Gardens

York, Pennsylvania

In August 2005, Prospect Hill Cemetery created an Iraq War Memorial following a week in which eight Pennsylvania National Guardsmen lost their lives. Over the next five years, there were 18 ceremonies to read the names of fallen U.S. soldiers and to add to the display in their memory. By December 2010, it grew to more than 6,047 flags. The flags were removed only during the winter to shield them from the elements.

After the United States declared an end to combat operations in Iraq, the staff decided to retire 4,427 flags, which represent U.S. losses in Iraq, on December 7, 2010. In accordance with the U.S. Flag Code, the flags were burned in an empty grave where the display once stood and entombed so they would always be a part of the cemetery. Family members of fallen soldiers were welcomed to help in the ceremony. A permanent memorial will be erected on the site to honor and remember the combat losses. The event garnered a tremendous amount of media attention.

Honorable Mention

The Gardens at Gethsemane

West Roxbury, Massachusetts

The Gardens at Gethsemane welcomed more than 2,000 community members onto their property for a Pumpkin Day last October. The cemetery wanted to attract the general public to their grounds—especially the children—to see that cemeteries are not sad or scary places, but rather are places filled with love, remembrance and heritage.

More than 1,100 pumpkins were presented to children who attended. Other event highlights included face painting, pumpkin bowling, arts and crafts, moonwalks, a costume contest and more. The cemetery partnered with the local Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs, the YMCA and Mount Ida College with proceeds benefitting local children’s programs.

Honorable Mention

Fairhaven Memorial Park

Santa Ana, California

To celebrate its 100th anniversary, Fairhaven Memorial Park held an “old-fashioned family fair” to thank the community for allowing Fairhaven to provide the families of Orange County with 100 years of “service from the heart.” The festivities begin with president Marla Noel recognizing that it is Fairhaven’s caring and dedicated staff that have allowed them to each such a monumental occasion. The ensuing program included:

a “Capturing the Uniqueness of Orange County’s History” photo contest with a $250 prize

a “History Hunt” where participants received clues that led them from one of Fairhaven’s features or famous person’s grave to another
carnival games, bake off, pie eating contest and other games and activities
horse-drawn carriage rides

a concert in the park

a VIP wine and cheese reception where guests received a commemorative picnic basket to enjoy during the evening concert

The celebration ended with a spectacular fireworks display.


First Place


Topton, Pennsylvania

webCemeteries.com has created a mobile application that cemetery staff and visitors may use to search and navigate graves via GPS location.

Visitors can locate a person’s grave by searching cemetery records as well as view personalized digital memorials such as pictures, video, stories and memories shared by loved ones. Visitors may also navigate through pre-loaded tours of celebrities or interesting people buried in the cemetery. The app also can be integrated into the cemetery’s website.

Cemetery staff may use the app to create and update work orders from the field, index trees that have maintenance issues or view scanned documents on file for the lot owner or the deceased.

Honorable Mention

Cold Spring Granite

Cold Spring, Minnesota

Cold Spring recently introduced its bronze butterflies as a way to memorialize cremated loved ones. They may be used in personal or cemetery cremation gardens, as boulder or tree mounts, on a donor wall or as a take-home keepsake.

Honorable Mention

Remembrance Art Glass Memorials

Bend, Oregon

Remembrance Art Glass Memorials are works of art that contain a small amount of cremation ashes of a loved one or beloved pet, offering families another option for cremation memorialization.


First Place

Beyond the Rainbow Pet Hospice and Memorial Center

Fort Worth, Texas

Beyond the Rainbow has fostered a relationship with a 9-year-old girl named Olivia.

She lost her father when she was three—too young to fully grasp the concept of death. As she is growing older, Olivia has come to appreciate the grief process. Her favorite pets are gerbils and, which do not have a long life expectancy. Olivia has been saddened by the loss of her furry friends, but she has learned to memorialize her pets in a series of wooden cremain urns and a scrapbook with photos of each of them.

In the letter accompanying this entry, Olivia’s mother praised Beyond the Rainbow for helping her daughter in a therapeutic way through the grief process: “If we had not found Beyond the Rainbow, I don’t think Olivia would have been able to allow more babies into her heart.”

Grand prize winner Pray Funeral Home receives a free registration to the ICCFA 2012 Annual Convention & Exposition, March 19-22, at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

All first-place and honorable mention winners will be recognized at the Convention and in ICCFA Magazine and are being provided promotional news releases to submit to their local media.

Founded in 1887, the ICCFA is the only international trade association representing all segments of the cemetery, cremation, funeral and memorialization industry. Its membership is comprised of more than 7,500 cemeteries, funeral homes, memorial designers, crematories and related businesses worldwide.



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