Melissa Johnson Williams is a second generation funeral director, based in Chicago. Licensed for 40 years, she is the daughter of two prominent funeral directors, and educators, Edward C. and Gail R. Johnson. Sought after for her embalming expertise (in practice and theory), Williams was the co-founder of the American Society of Embalmers with the world renowned embalmer Robert G. Mayer, an organization dedicated “to promulgate and promote excellence in the 21st century practice of mortuary arts and sciences.” Williams has authored more than 100 articles and book chapters, and conducted nearly 100 continuing education programs for funeral service professionals. One of those standout pieces is: A Social History of Embalming
Williams believes strongly in the gift that a properly embalmed body can be to a grieving family. “I love the work that we do as embalmers. We can give a family back their loved one after a terrible illness, horrible accident or natural death. Through embalming, the family and friends can have the time they need to say good bye regardless the method of final disposition; burial, entombment or cremation. Seeing the deceased one last time can be a great gift to a family,” she said.
Alexandra Kathryn Mosca, a New Yorker, found her calling in funeral service when she worked in her first funeral home while attending college. Licensed for more than 35 years, Mosca is a regular contributor to industry magazines: American Funeral Director, American Cemetery, and the Director. She is also the author of three books: Grave Undertakings (2003), Green-Wood Cemetery (2008), and Gardens of Stone (2016).
Mosca is passionate about cemetery preservation, and has not only written extensively on the subject, but has served as a cemetery tour guide. She is firmly convinced that, “People need a place to memorialize their loved ones and cemeteries provide that.” Despite news items to the contrary, Mosca believes that the traditional funeral isn’t (and shouldn’t be) going away any time soon. An article she wrote for The Saturday Evening Post’s Jan./Feb. 2018 issue, titled ‘Let’s Keep the Funeral Traditional Alive’ makes a persuasive case for its importance.
Mosca’s recent articles for Next Avenue A Funeral Home Director’s View of the Pandemic and The Saturday Evening Post Funeral Service in the Time of COVID-19 lay bare what seasoned funeral directors are coping with in these dark days of COVID-19.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
Sir William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898)
A time-honored maxim by British Prime Minister William E. Gladstone guides all good funeral directors: “Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals.”
We couldn’t agree more.