Another Change to the Funeral Horizon

Todd Van Beck's picture

I was not surprised.  Rumors had been flying around for a while.  Even if there had been no rumors I still would not have been surprised.  The news, when finally verified, was another example of a sign of the times for our beloved profession.

Aurora Casket was sold.  

My relationship with Aurora goes back to the Tom Ward days.  I was teaching at the Cincinnati College and part of my teaching assignment included Funeral Merchandising, and this course included field trips.

I always thought that Cincinnati was so fortunate to be so close to the big two casket companies.  Aurora was only a hop, skip, jump away from Cincinnati on the bus.

Twice a year I took my students to Aurora and Tom Ward would work his magic, and magic it was when Tom stood up to make his presentation.

Mr. Ward was simply stellar at public speaking, and to his tremendous credit he never once mentioned Aurora Casket in his talks.  Unlike other casket companies who seemed to be unable to stop talking about how wonderful their products were, Tom Ward wisely took the opposite approach.  He entertained, he made people laugh, and most importantly he made people feel good about what they were doing day to day with their lives and careers.

Of course the Aurora Casket Company facilities were spotless, and the owners, managers, trainers and workers were always so polite, so accommodating, and so diligent in their work.  However for years it was Tom Ward who was the face of the Aurora Casket Company.

Now the company has been sold.

I read the press releases and it was the usual public relations spin, you know the drill, nothing will change, nobody will leave, everything will stay the same, and you know I have concluded that when such statements are made the people making them truly believe what they are saying.  However, things will change; they always do in any acquisition.

With this cynical and skeptical statement said, I hope Aurora will not change too much.  I always enjoyed working with them over the years, and while my connection with the company “changed” after Joanne Baldwin left, I still have such fond memories of my trips, tours and relationships that I formed and experienced over the last 30 years.

I have concluded that as I have aged I have turned into a sentimental old blub.  I cry nowdays at most anything.  My memories of Cincinnati, the college, the trips, of the Tom Wards of the world, make me very reflective, and I am expecting more and more and more changes to be waiting around the corner to happen in my beloved profession.

I would not be surprised if someday one of the big powerful funeral companies moves their headquarters to Beijing,  China. Which one I don’t know, but it just might happen.

My hope for Aurora is for all the best.  I hope they don’t change how they make caskets; they always made a good product.  I hope they don’t fiddle with staff.  I hope no one becomes unemployed.  I hope the big boys up in New York are sensitive and respectful of a small Indiana community of people and a company of human beings that has served our profession very well since one year before my grandmother was born, 1890.  

Nothing lasts forever, but if the students from CCMS are still making the trek to Aurora for the grand product tour, I hope they are still being treated to the marvelous fried chicken that we devoured at the country club in Aurora.

Good luck and best to all my buddies at Aurora.

Anyway this is one old undertaker’s opinion.  TVB


Thank you for the memory, Todd. This article, along with some additional insight is re-blogged at

Ray Visotski
Aiken, SC

It's great story. Maybe your Aurora are really the best, because she hopes, you have this spirit. It's also nice to write your memories here the writing scholarships, because of they really valuable and multifaceted. Thanks for post.