James Darby To Receive Lasting Impact Award From ICCFA Educational Foundation

February 8, 2016
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STERLING, VA (February 4, 2016)—The Board of Trustees of the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association’s Educational Foundation has selected James Darby as the recipient of the 2016 Lasting Impact Award. The award will be presented during a reception on April 14 from 6 to 7 p.m. during the ICCFA 2016 Convention & Exposition in New Orleans, Louisiana.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the Education Foundation scholarship fund, used to offer funeral professionals financial assistance to attend ICCFA education events, such as ICCFA University and other programs.

The Lasting Impact Awards were created to recognize those individuals who have made significant contributions to furthering professional development and lifelong learning in the funeral, cemetery and cremation profession.

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As James “Big Jim” Darby says in his book, “no one looks up to a grave digger.” But digging graves is how he started his career.

The Darby family, Charles and Florence Darby along with their two sons, James and David, moved to Danville, Illinois, in 1960 after purchasing Sunset Memorial Park. On a hot, humid day, young Jim, still in high school, was digging a grave by hand. He paused to ask himself if this was really what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. The answer was “yes.”

Greenwood, Inc., was founded in the late 1960s in an effort to increase the size of the existing business, expanding into a burial vault company. Through research and study, the Darby brothers introduced a stronger, arched cover design and more efficient manufacturing process that revolutionized the industry. The company trade name was born, Trigard, for the three layers of protection a Trigard burial vault provides for the casketed remains of a family’s loved one.

Today, the Darby family not only manufactures Trigard burial vaults, but also uses them as funeral home owners. Sunset Funeral Home opened in December 1984 as one of the first funeral home/cemetery combinations in the state of Illinois. Few companies had such an opportunity because at the time, the combination operation was illegal in most states. Big Jim helped change the legislation that allowed the partnership of services to become a reality.

The Darby family and Trigard have since expanded the company to include ownership and operation of seven funeral homes in Illinois, Indiana and Arizona. Through the years of cemetery operation and ownership, the Darbys identified a dire need for revolution in the bronze memorial business. They felt the existing options did not tell the story of the life of the individual. With innovation at the forefront, Trigard Engraved Bronze, now Trigard Memorials, was established in 2003. Additional manufacturing divisions have developed, including Greenwood Plastics Industries, which thermoforms custom plastics, and Hall of Fame Plaques and Signs.

In 2012, Big Jim was one of five honorees inducted to the inaugural class of the Vermilion County Business Hall of Fame in Illinois. He is also a past president of the Illinois Cemetery Association and past Board member of the International Memorialization Supply Association.

Big Jim is the “Walt Disney” of Trigard and stays involved with every aspect of his family’s business. When he is in the building, the news spreads like wildfire. Employees seek him out and look forward to spending a few moments with him. He is quick to give a pat on the back and encourage them with his trademark phrase, “That’s good stuff!” What began as a small family business has grown to provide jobs for more than 100 employees working in funeral service, manufacturing, customer service, grounds maintenance and horticulture.

Current owners Donna Darby-Walthall, Linda Darby and Rich Darby continue Big Jim’s vision. His other two children, Karen Darby-Ritz and Scott Darby, have also joined the business along with several grandchildren, furthering his dream of a lasting legacy.

Tickets for the Educational Foundation Reception are only $50 and may be purchased on the convention registration form. The reception will feature refreshments and hors d’oeuvres.

“Jim was so successful as an innovator and leader, based on the fact that he had the courage and self awareness to find his passion, follow his heart and be himself—an important insight for all of us,” Price said. “Our profession has created a league of giants over this past half century—none larger than James “Big Jim” Darby!”

Founded in 1887, the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association is the only international trade association representing all segments of the cemetery, cremation, funeral and memorialization profession. Its membership is composed of more than 9,100 rooftop locations and 20,000 professionals in the cemetery, funeral home and crematory industries, as well as supplier and related businesses worldwide.

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