Relationships between Cemeterian and Funeral Directors

     Having only been a cemetarian for 18 months I am still in the learning stage of what exactly a cemetarian should do. When I say learning stage I don't mean to imply that you learn every thing quickly. I'm fairly certain I will be in the learning stage for years to come. I work for a family owned company which has four funeral homes within a 30 mile radius of each other. In 2008 they decided to get into the cemtery business and purchased a 28 acre cemetery that had been seized by the State of Louisiana Cemetery Board for mismanagement.  I was a retired police officer in our community, having retired with the rank of Major after 30 years in law enforcement. My attributes were organizational skills and knowing how to handle people who have problems. Of course this cemetery had a lot of problems. It has really been a wonderful experience for me and working for a company that wants everything done the righ way is a big help.

     The former owners of the cemetery left only paper trails of their management skills. We put every thing in computer files and that has helped to solve most of the problems.  With a little history out of the way let me get to the core subject of this post. Even though I am owned by one funeral home company, it did not take me long to realize that I actually provide a service to all the funeral homes in our area. Of course, most of the funeral directors knew me by name and reputation and that of course has helped. It also did not take me long to realize not only am I serving a family who has lost a loved one, but I am also serving the funeral director in charge of the service. The better I make him look in the eyes of the family he is serving the better he will make me look by guiding future business my way. I provide a service that is needed and I should bend over backwards to help all parties involved.

     So, what exactly does a cemetarian due during services at his cemetery? I do realize our primary function is to open and close the grave and provide set up, which includes tent, chairs and grass. We direct and park cars in the cemetery during services. We also provide water to the families during hot weather. What exactly is our function during the service and when should we approach families? Should we do it upon arrival? Should we do it after the service? Even though the service is being held in our cemtery, who exactly is in charge? Eeveryone should understand, this is not an ego problem, this is something I am just throughing out for discussion to see how other cemeteries operate and handle problems. 

I once had an out of state  funeral home bring a body up for a service and they hired a Lousiana funeral director to do the service. The body arrived at the cemetery before the funeral director and with the help of the driver and my employee's we took the casket out of the hearst and put it on the lowering device. The funeral director arrived a few minutes later and chastised me for moving the body before he arrived. Was this right or wrong? Should I have waited to move the casket?

I had a flower truck bring flowers to the cemetery before the poessession arrived. The flower truck had a funeral director in it, plus the delivery driver. The funeral director told the delivery driver to drive on the grass on the cemetery up to the grave site. The delivery driver told the funeral director I had said on previous occasions not to drive on the grass. They did anyway. So should I call and complain to the manager of the funeral home using our cemetery?

I know there's a fine line in dealing with human emotions and I'm certainly not one to make waves. I've always operated on the concept of common sense. Ok, now lets think this thing out and then make a decision. I would appreiate any discussion on this topic.


Christine.Hentges's picture

Hi Mr. Dearman! Welcome to our industry. Keep up the good work you're doing!
This is an interesting topic and I am a firm believer that we should talk about this more at networking events or at sessions at the ICCFA meetings.

I am a cemeterian in Wisconsin, which is one of only a handful of states that legislatively divides cemeteries from funeral homes. When it comes down to interpreting the law, cemeterians cannot transport or embalm bodies and funeral homes cannot sell cemetery property. All in all, the law says funeral homes cannot have any financial gain from cemeteries and vice versa. Very antiquated thinking in so many different ways, but particularly because I firmly believe that we are all part of one industry, doing the same thing for the families we serve: to help them make an extremely difficult time easier emotionally, financially and in a way that promotes positive memories of the life that was lived. There are simply a few phases of this process to carry it out successfully. Respect for each other's (cemetery vs. funeral home)different phase of this process is critical from both sides in each step of the funeral, committal and/or memorial service.

Most consumers see us as the same business. Most communities rarely make the connection that they've never seen a funeral home on the grounds of a cemetery (in Wisconsin). Most families believe that if they've prearranged their cemetery property, that they've also prearranged their funeral.

But the divide that you're dealing with is not a new one. On microscopic levels, we're getting closer to better relationships amongst each other. But, it's the larger levels that continue to leave me scratching my head wondering what needs to be done to continue to work towards the larger good of our industry: seamless, personalized service amongst us all that leaves our families with an extraordinarily positive impression of what we do. Let's all work to try to bridge that gap. It might take some time, but we'll get there!

Hey there,

Would you please help me understand what a cemeterian is. Did you go to a school to become one? Is it a certifacation or a licensing process?

I am sure that each state is differant. I would like to know what it is and if you might know anything about the requirments for the state of Texas.

I have gone to the states web site and can not fine anything.

thanks so much

Terry Ward
Houston, Texas

I am a cemeterian for a catholic church in Louisiana. MY main duties are to input death records and cemetery payments in the computer system, to visit the cemetery occasionally with family members who are preparing to bury a family member in a particular plot or vault, also making sure the records are kept up to date on available plots, or mausoleums. I only attended local classes on how to keep accurate information as a cemeterian, no certificate or license, or certification docment was given.So, basically these are my duties as a cemeterian.