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I received a call today telling me that Dan Hillenbrand passed away at his home. It is appropriate and fitting that we all in funeral service pause for a moment in respectful remembrance of this leader and gentleman. Funeral service changed forever because of the impact of this one man.
Years ago when I was teaching at the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science one of my responsibilities was to take the merchandising class students twice a year to take a tour of the Batesville Casket Company. It was always a looked forward to event, not the least because the tour was interesting, the food was great at the Sherman House, it was free, and Tim Hogenkamp was par excellent at motivating the students in his presentations.
The tour always included a trip to the “Farm.” The farm is well known to probably every funeral director in North America. It is a pristine place, well kept, ideal for seminars and meetings. One day I was standing in the bar area of the hospitality center and this well dressed gentleman walked in. He went into a side room and closed the door. I did not think much of the event as I was occupied with the behavior of the students. In short order the gentleman came back out and walked over to me. “Hello, I am Dan Hillenbrand.” I almost fainted, for I knew precisely who he was as well as who all the other Hillenbrands were. They were mighty important in the world of funeral service.
I seemed that over time Mr. Hillenbrand enjoyed hobnobbing with the students. I tried to explain to them who is was and what he and his family had accomplished but they were students, some of them got it, some of them did not.
Mr. Hillenbrand lived a long, fruitful life, and I found it always an honor and pleasure to run into him, visit with him, and listen to his years of experience and vision. He was a smart guy.
I have not seen Mr. Hillenbrand for many years, and was sad when I received the news of his passing. No question the Hillenbrand family changed the way Americans buried their dead.