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Todd Van Beck's picture

I spent a couple of days traveling the wide width of the great state of Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago.  My host was a chap by the name of Bob Buhrig who I made friends with many years ago, but who I have not seen for over a decade.  It was a great trip, and made all the better by Mr. Buhrig’s insight and clear devotion to funeral service.  Bob is known as BeepBob in Pennsylvania, and clearly he has made some valuable inroads in the Keystone State.

We started out in Harrisburg, and then traveled west to Pittsburgh. Over the years of my career I have had the fortune to work with many funeral professional in Pennsylvania, but honestly these two seminars, which were hundreds of miles apart, reinvigorated my impression of just what quality people our great profession attracts.

I was impressed, as I am on every trip, as to the wide breadth of cultural diversity in Pennsylvania. The two groups I talked to could not have been more different, except for one common denominator – they all seemed to be mighty interested in funeral service, and they all were mighty cordial and hospitable.
It does me good to reconnect with people who like being in funeral service. Honestly, I hear so many negatives, so many pundits with this grudge or that grudge to voice that I actually get worried and depressed that our profession is going to hell in a handbasket. Of course that is only my own temporary psychology, for when I encounter people such as I did in PA, all my worries and fears concerning the future tend to evaporate.

I am not naïve to the problems we have, and the list is long and of concern, but in talking with and listening to and learning from the PA funeral professionals, I concluded that things are not that bad, and that families are still being served on an excellent level, and that the idea that the “sky is falling” is just that – just an idea.

I am not Pollyanna, and truthfully as I was being taken around Pittsburgh and Harrisburg it was clearly evident that things had changed. In Harrisburg a few former funeral homes are now gone and just empty buildings, and in Pittsburgh there are a few parking lots that I remember once were the sites of some really big funeral operations. So yes, things have changed, but when I first traveled in Pennsylvania many years ago, I left feeling that there were some mighty nice people up there in our profession, and when I got on the plane after this trip, well, friends, I felt the same way. Thank you PA; your kindness and courtesy is appreciated.

Anyway that’s one old undertaker’s opinion. TVB