Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - February 1, 1975, Lethbridge, Alberta
District The LetKbridge Herald Local Second Section Lethbridge, Alberta, Saturday, February 1, 1975 Pages 19-36 The Canadian way of death... three deep beneath a plastic headstone? Cost of dying "less inflated9 than living costs By GEORGE STEPHENSON Herald Staff Writer Although the cost of living has soared during the past few years the cost of dying has remained relatively the same, say funeral industry officials. But if costs for the business keep rising, future funerals could include plastic headstones, burials three-deep, increased cremation and more pre-arranged funerals. Max Salmon, a director at Christensen Salmon Funeral Home, says the cost of funeral services provided by homes has risen less than other businesses. "You go back a few years and see what people were choos- ing and see people are still choosing the same line of caskets and funerals as they were he says. John Clark, a director at Martin Brothers Funeral Home, agrees but says some caskets have doubled in price during the past five years. He says, however, basic service costs have only increased to from in those years. Dale Martin, owner of Martin Brothers, says funeral ser- vices, including the casket, can range from to about in Lethbridge. But the average seems to be around he says. The only noticeable effect on the funeral service industry that might be attributed to inflation is an increasing number of people are arranging their funerals before death. Pre-arrangement of funerals through a funeral director allows a person to pay for his funeral in advance at current costs, Mr. Martin explains. Payments in trust Advance payments for funerals are kept in trust but can be claimed by the person at any time, he nays. But if the money is left it will be used for the funeral that person has arranged. Mr. Martin says he thinks more people will be pre- arranging their funerals for both the purposes of paying less and relieving stress on relatives who would be faced with future funeral arrangements. Although the funeral director says he feels pre- arrangements should be done by funeral directors, the Lethbridge Memorial Society offers information on the cost of funerals for people who wish to make arrangement before death. The memorial society does not pre-arrange funerals by accepting payment for services but offers updated funeral in- formation to its members. Harold Shaw, secretary of the Lethbridge Memorial Society, says the aim of the group is to provide information where a simple low cost funeral can be obtained. "What the society does is try to remember the person before death and not be concerned so much with the he says. "We make no preference (for funerals) and each member chooses their own method of disposal." More members of the society are choosing cremation rather than burial now, says Mr. Shaw. "They prefer the quick disposal of remains and a memorial service somewhere where friends and family can he says. "The lower cost seems to be quite a factor in the decision between burial and cremation." The two Lethbridge funeral directors say they have not had any more requests for cremation but Calgary Crematorium Ltd. says its business is definitely increasing. Cremations on upswing A spokesman for Calgary, crematorium says: "It is hard to pinpoint any one cause for the increase in cremations. "But cremation is becoming more accepted these days and the cost factor is having some affect but is probably not a major he says. Mr. Martin says the percentage of people requesting cremation from Lethbridge would not be as high as Calgary because the cost of transporting the body from here to a crematorium increases the cost to almost that of a simple burial. While a simple burial can be obtained in Lethbridge for about cremation costs about On top of these costs are cemetery charges for a plot and grave digging. Bill Brown, parks superintendent in charge of city cemeteries, says a plot for an adult in Mountain View cemetery would cost about The cost to bury an urn of ashes in the city grave yard is The burial costs include opening and closing of the grave, cost of the land and perpetual care. City regulations, however, add to the cost of burial by mak- ing mandatory the purchase of a "rough box" in which the casket is placed before being buried. Mr. Brown says this is to prevent the slumping of land over the caskets. The city also makes mandatory the purchase of concrete vaults in which caskets are to be placed before being buried as j the lower casket in double-depth graves. i The cemetery has set aside an area for "double-decker" j graves in an effort to extend the time before the cemetery is i filled. The city's community services department estimates a new cemetery will be needed within five years. Two-deep cuts cost The double-depth graves cut down costs for both the people arranging the funeral as well as the operators of the cemetery, says Mr. Brown. The graves cost less and fewer staff is needed to care for them. The costs of operating a cemetery increase with the amount of land being used, he adds. Double-depth graves are initially dug 8 feet deep. The city has about 80 acres of cemetery land. Mr. Martin says he believes triple depth graves will be used "before too long" in Canada because they have already appeared in other countries. Another facet of cemeteries that could change in coming years because of costs is granite and marble headstones. Paul Anctil, manager of Southern Monument, says the monument business has kept its prices for headstones relatively stable despite rising costs of stone. "People will only pay for a monument up to a certain he says. "And if a monument costs more they won't buy i -tJ. CEMETERY SCENE: BURIAL CAN COST AS LITTLE AS PLUS SITE PURCHASE >i RICK ERVIN photo Dad's funeral costly? wait'll you bury Fido While some people complain about the high cost of burying human remains, others spend more than to bury their dead pets. Jean Graham, manager of the Ellen Foster Pet Cemetery and Crematorium in Calgary, told The Herald the business there is ever-increasing. The one-acre cremetery, the only one for animals in Alberta, contains about 350 animals and the .crematorium has been used to dispose of about animals. Pet funerals differ little from a human's funeral except a service is rarely conducted, she said. But people buy caskets, flowers and headstones for their dead pets and at least one person burying his German Shepherd spent on the headstone alone, she said. The dog was a pet of the man who trained "The Littlest Hobo" of television fame. "There was a big funeral and a big Mrs. Graham said. "The funeral service had to be held out- side, and he bought this huge monument." The larger monuments people choose are purchas ed at normal monument firms but the pet cemetery will Supply bronze or aluminum plaques for pet graves, she said. These can vary in price from about to more than Burial costs at the cemetery are and an average casket will sell for about she said. An "average" funeral was held recently, she said, in which the pet owner paid for the burial, for the casket and for the monument. A transpor- tation cost is charged if the remains have to be brought to the grounds by cemetery staff. Mrs. Graham, who started the cemetery with her husband Norm in 1969, said many of the people who br- ing pets to be buried have "very strong" feelings about the pet's death. "Some people think a lot of their animals, you wouldn't believe she said. "In the summer some people will bring fresh flowers every Sunday and at Christmas, wreaths.' Animals buried in the cemetery range from cats and dogs to hamsters, ducks, budgies and canaries. The cemetery has had requests to bury horses but have had to turn them down because of the animals' size, she added. Headstone sculpture reviving but labor shortage cuts deep The art of sculpting cemetery monuments, once a dying trade, is re- appearing in an even more valued role. Monument sculptors and engravers contacted by The Herald said skilled monument craftsmen are in short supply, at a time when they are most needed. Business for the headstone artisans who can do deep engraving and sculpt- ing in granite and marble is increasing while less skilled work, which has been prominent for the past few decades, is declining. The difference in the two types of monument work is the depth of engrav- ing and detail in the decorative trim on the stone. The master craftsman can shape the stone, bringing out the detail and curves of petals of flowers, or crosses or religious figures he carves in the stone. The more popular monuments during the past 30 years have a shallow engraving that often has paint in the relief areas of the stone and shows lit- tle detail in decorative portions. Sand blasting These are done by sand blasting the stone through a stencil of a basic design. The blasting simply removes the polish and paint is then applied. Paul Anctil, manager and stone cutter at Southern Monument here, says'people have found this "flash work" wears away during the years and the paint disappears. "They (customers) go back to the graveyard 10 or 20 years later and can't read the he says. "Some cemeteries in the East or Europe won't allow that type of work." However, Jim Mulock, manager of Lethbridge monument, says some peo- ple still prefer the shallow type of engraving. Deep engraving "Some are going to the deep engrav- ing and some prefer the other depending on the color of he says. Mr. Mulock, whose firm will do both types of work, says many headstones in the Lethbridge city cemeteries are shallow cut because the city at one time made a regulation stones on graves had to lie flat. "We found the deep engraving collected dirt when they were flat so people then preferred the he says. Mr. Anctil, who began stone work as an apprentice 28 years ago, says people have seen the problems with flash work and are seeking finely tooled monuments. Mike Andrews, manager of Dominion Granite in Edmonton, says he definite- ly agrees, adding people are much more fussy about the workmanship of monuments they buy than they were years ago. "More businesses have to switch to deep engraving because people want he says. "There is no such thing as flash work on a piece of granite when you can do good work" for the same price." While people have been switching back to purchasing the work of skilled artisans, monument firms are having trouble finding craftsmen to do the work. "We (Dominion Granite) advertised for a man from Halifax to Vancouver and couldn't find Mr. Andrews, says. Mr. Anctil, 43, is teaching his son the technique of carving and engraving monuments. Mr. Anctil's firm cuts its own head- stones from huge pieces of granite, draws its own desigrfs and does its own carving. Pre-cut headstones Many shops, says Dominion Granite's Andrews, buy the headstones pre-cut and polished, and at times engraved, leaving only the lettering to be done. But this is changing because of peo- ple wanting "personalized" monuments, and the increasing cost of pre-cut stone, he says. Mr. Anctil says it seems to '-'mean a lot" for a person to be able to get the exact type of monument he wants, with a carved design or statue he has selected. One piece done in Mr. Anctil's shop, now in the Taber cemetery, cost the person It is a five foot Madonna statue on seven-foot-granite base. The statue took three weeks to carve and was the most expensive work the firm has turned out. Prices for monuments begin at about he says. Many Albertans leave their bodies to science If operating costs for the monument sculptors keeps climb- ing the trade may have to turn to other materials from which to build headstones, he says. "There has been no reason to go to synthetics instead of stone but this could he says. "Synthetic monuments would likely be cheaper to make." He also says the use of molds in miking monuments could push from the craft the artistic hand-engraved and sculpture now popular in the business. While most people are buried or cremated im- mediately after death more, than Albertans have decided they would rather donate their bodies to medical science. The University of Alberta and University of Calgary both accept body donations for medical study and more than people have in- dicated they will donate their bodies to the institutions after death. Dr. T. L. Leeson, chairman of anatomy at the U of A, says that department receives about 40 cadavers a year but will likely need SO when its enrolment increases. The U of C reports it receives about 10 bodies a year and has more than people on record who have in- dicated they will donate their bodies. People wishing to bequeath their bodies to a university for purposes of instruction and research contact the universi- ty of their choice and fill out certain forms. The people then receive a wallet card that indicates their bodies are to go to the university upon death. The U of A generally takes bodies in the northern part of the province and U of C in Southern Alberta. After death, a relative or executor contacts the univer- sity, which agrees to pay ex- penses incurred in trans- porting the body to the U of C, up to a maximum of or U of A, up to a maximum of The universities will also pay the expense of cremation and interment of ashes or remains, about four years after donation, in cemetery of the appropriate religion. However, if relatives wish to reclaim remains after study, the universities will permit it in order for the family to have a private funeral. Wallet cards for the dona- tion of organs such as corneal tissue of the eye or kidneys can be obtained from the Eye Bank of Canada, CNIB Calgary and the Kidney Foun- dation of Canada.