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National Funeral Directors Convention 2009 Boston MA

Ever wonder what goes on at a convention of funeral directors?  Joe E. and Lori  Pray headed to Boston the last week of October for the National Funeral Directors Convention. Workshops, seminars and displays were all part of the happenings to be explored. 

 The following are some of our observations as well as those from others.

The following report is a somewhat lighthearted report about the Boston Convention which was reported by one of the Boston TV Stations.  The clip starts out with an advertisement, but stay tuned.


SUNDAY, the first day of seminars and meetings  Yes they even have them on Sunday.  Mostly after church.  On the rest days of the convention workshops and seminars start at 7 AM!!  And yes I did go to some of them. 

My mind wasn’t firing on all cylinders until part way through, but once the speakers got through the introduction my mind was up, running and following along. Early morning meetings, I’m not fond of them at home either because I’m usually at work at the funeral home until 10 Pm or later.  

Conventions are work mixed with some time on the town.  There are many people to meet with over dinner.  Colleagues from other parts of the country, or from other countries, representatives of the suppliers who exhibit during the convention. Yes we talk about funeral service at the restaurant or nightclub.  Usually comparing notes on how we take care of family’s back home, or what each of us think about one of the seminar topics  or products we saw at earlier in the day. The late nights (although they are getting less late as I get older) make the early mornings even harder.  Oh well, the opportunity to learn from some of the creative minds that gather at the convention is worth it. 


Oh boy, a very boring meeting discussing the testing of alternative embalming chemicals. Research scientists with way to many statistics and boring details; yawn; stretch

Finally a funeral director stood up and filled us in on how to use the new Formaldehyde free solution and the possible results.

  Hmm. I’ll have to try it.



After another seminar, we head into the main ballroom filled
with thousands of chairs to hear the association brass welcome the 3500 funeral directors to Boston.  Next the stage is taken over by the keynote speaker for the opening general session.  The dynamite speaker used the experience of his own father’s funeral to teach us what we need to do to truly meet families needs in a world where the family demands more because or society is moving toward more experienced based rituals where the family wants to share their view of the deceased  with those who are in attendance so the memory of the lost family member lives on in the hearts of others.  


Finally we head into the massive exhibit hall to see what the numerous suppliers to the funeral profession have to offer this year.  Are there any truly new ideas present? 


What do you see when you walk in to the convention hall.

Seemingly miles of carpeted walkways between hundreds of booths, some filled with caskets made of metal, wood, and even biodegradable materials such as molded paper and bamboo for “Green Burial.”  Other booths are filled with hundreds of cremation urns, may of them similar or even identical to another booth’s offerings a little farther down the aisle.  Some companies have glitzy displays with huge video screens extolling the virtues of the offerings, others have slick attractive models explaining or “demonstrating” the products.  No, nobody lays in the caskets to try them out.

  It’s always interesting to take note of the arena’s custodial staff reactions – I’ve noticed janitorial staff looking at the caskets, urns and funeral equipment on display with a look that suggests they are curious and “creeped out” at the same time. 

  The most intriguing things at the show this year are in the area of cremation urns, some made from the flower petals of the casket piece or floral arrangements from the funeral or memorial, and others that feature artistically inspired bronze sculptures.

  Another area is funeral home management and website software that promises to be the next great solution for the funeral home’s business management.  Some points are good, on other points, they still have a way to go.

  What were some of the more unusual things we saw at the convention?

Embalming solution that is iodine based verses the standard formaldehyde base.

Caskets woven from seagrass and bamboo

Caskets made from tread-plate aluminum

Glass and crystal figures made with the cremated remains of a person embedded in the glass.

Paintings made with the cremated remains mixed into the paint.

And companies that send out cards that claim to be sent by the dear departed from heaven for the holidays.

 4:30 PM 

We are invited into another large hall for an awards ceremony.  It honored funeral directors who had earned certification of continuing education, and funeral homes who had earned the Pursuit of Excellence Award.  We were there as one of the Pursuit of Excellence winners.  It began with an address by the football coach from Marshall University who rebuilt the football program after the entire team died in an airplane crash.  The message was rebuilding and planning in the face of disaster and adversity.  An inspiring  presentation.

Following the address we joined the association president and the keynote speaker on stage to be presented with the Pursuit of Excellence Award.


Pray Funeral Home, Inc. • 401 West Seminary Street 401 West Seminary Street Charlotte, MI 48813
Phone: 517-543-2950 • Toll-free: 1-888-825-8527