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Another Well-Known Public Figure With No Public Funeral

When Barbara Walters died on December 30, 2022, at the age of 93, the world took notice. Although she had not had a public presence in some time, the death of the legendary broadcast journalist saddened people around the world. The decision to have no public funeral for Barbara Walters shortchanged so many who wanted…

The Sad Reality: Human Composting is Now Legal in New York 

It’s a sad day when legislation passes that allows for the composting of humans. It shows a lack of respect for values and traditions, and makes a mockery of the sanctity of life. This is not something that the average person wants. It’s just so much hype. We seriously doubt this will ever take off…

Thriving As A Woman In a Male-Dominated Industry

Funeral service is no longer a male-dominated industry. In fact, across the country, females outnumber males in mortuary schools. It was not always like that. In our latest interview, we tell what it was like when we began our careers in funeral service, and how we chose to work in harmony with our male colleagues.

Because That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It

Yesterday, I was chatting with a colleague I had not seen in some time. She comes from a long line of funeral directors, one of which was her grandmother, and was married to a popular funeral director for many years until his death. She’s a busy funeral director, and rarely uses social media. But she…

Are You Thinking of Hiring a Funeral Photographer?

Today, photographing the dead is making a comeback. But this time it’s not only the deceased who are being photographed – it’s the entire funeral service. Candid shots of the somber rituals, loved ones embracing, mourners comforting one another, are all captured with empathy, and discretion by professional photographers. Duane Knight is one of the…

Elaine & Jimmy: A Tale of Two Restaurateurs

During a recent conversation about iconic New York City restaurants, I mentioned Elaine’s. “Elaine’s? Never heard of it,” someone said. “Never heard of Elaine’s!?” I asked in surprise about the restaurant which had been featured prominently in the opening scene of Woody Allen’s film Manhattan. But maybe I should not have been so surprised. Soon after the death…

What Happens To Cremated Remains Thereafter?

When a New York funeral home closed its door a few years ago, it found itself in the midst of a moral dilemma it had never bargained for. There, on its shelves, were more than 275 boxes of cremains never picked up by the families of the deceased. Some dated back 100 years. Legally, it…

What You Need To Know When Considering a Home Funeral

In 1911, when newspaper publisher and journalist Joseph Pulitzer died, he was waked in the library of his Manhattan home. The room was filled with floral tributes and the furniture arranged for the assembly of mourners. Throughout the morning, family, friends, and employees came to pay their respects to the journalistic icon who reposed in…

DOA -RIP

For a brief time, when I was a young funeral director, I had license plates on my car which read DOA-RIP. Admittedly, I thought they were clever and set me apart. The plates garnered mention in a few newspapers, and other funeral directors who read about –or saw–them were not amused. In fact, they chided…

NYSFDA, Spare Us the TikTok eClips

Lately, the weekly eClips, sent by the NYSFDA, have contained more and more links to embarrassing articles by so-called viral sensations on TiKTok. The most recent article, about a mortuary student who “has lifted the lid” (this expression is gag-inducing) about repairing “injuries on deceased people” with clay (which is not used in actual practice)…

A “Contemporary” Funeral Home

We’ve noticed, recently, several funeral homes billing themselves as “modern” or “contemporary.” They claim to have a new way of doing things; that they are bringing a new awareness to death and making it less sad. Really!? Light and airy reposing rooms will not change the abject sorrow felt by a family whose daughter has…

Remember These 8 USEFUL Tips When Donating After a Loved One Dies

After a loved one dies and the funeral is over, you may think the worst is at an end. Then come the many practical matters: settling the estate, filing for life insurance benefits, transferring deeds and titles, and the often dreaded, and sometimes lengthy, task of sorting through a loved one’s personal possessions. Sometimes this…

Sure, Let’s Dumb it Down Some More

Last spring, the New York State Funeral Directors Association sent licensed NY State funeral directors a survey about creating a new –and unlicensed –position: funeral director’s assistant. When the survey responses were tallied, the results showed a majority against creating such a position. Seemingly, that was not the desired result. So, we were all asked…

We Compost Trash, Not Our Mothers

The New York State Legislature will soon vote on whether composting (like we do with our kitchen waste) of human remains will become legal. If it passes (sadly, that seems likely), New York will become the third state to allow this desecration. The Morte Girls want to go on record as to our disgust. The…

A Dying Business

One upon a time, a young woman walked into a funeral home in Queens, New York. She needed an after-school job to earn some money, while she worked her way through college, and the funeral home was hiring. She had dreams of one day becoming a great writer. Well, if not a great one, at…

Let’s Be Truthful

The Morte Girls are often asked by young people (and some not so young) about how to forge a career in funeral service, and what it’s like. We explain that the hours are long, that most of us work nights, weekends and holidays, and that the pay is generally little more than adequate. Additionally, the…

Our Latest Interview

In our recent interview with Authority Magazine, we reiterate the importance of funeral service & how we continue to uphold cherished traditions. Clearly, the Covid pandemic underscored (in a major way) what any funeral director can tell you: #funeralsmatter.

Moonrise and the Morte Girls

Last night, the Morte Girls attended Moonrise, a most unique event at Green-Wood Cemetery. It was a two mile stroll through the grounds, after dark, on a perfect fall evening . Along the way, we encountered performance artists stationed in and around some of Green-Wood’s many notable mausoleums and monuments. Food stations, too, were available.…

Post Pandemic Funeral Service – Can We Find Some Normalcy?

As the winter of 2020 turned to spring, the death toll from Covid-19 seemed insurmountable. For funeral directors, it was the darkest and most challenging time we’ve ever faced. In an industry built on personal contact and a deep sense of tradition, we could count on neither. “The idea of not being able to do…

I Want to Watch

An essential component of our role as funeral directors is to maintain the sanctity of our work and protect the privacy of those in our care. Something that continues to trouble me is the prurient interest some have in the most private part of funeral service. “I want to watch? Can I?” It is an…

A Funeral Home Director’s View of the Pandemic

A Funeral Home Director’s View of the Pandemic In this article I wrote for Next Avenue, three seasoned, and respected, NYC funeral directors shared their thoughts and experiences with me. They were hard to hear, and even harder to write about, but such is the reality in these dark days. Funeral directors are doing all…

RIP Dr. Jacquie Taylor

We were saddened to learn about the recent passing of Dr. Jacquie Taylor. Funeral service lost an excellent champion in her. An educator, who was also licensed as a funeral director, Dr. Taylor  truly “walked the walk and talked the talk” unlike so many others today. In 2013, I attended a continuing education seminar Dr.…

Fashion to Die For: How to Choose Your Last Outfit or Burial Gown

Have you ever uttered the words, “I wouldn’t be caught dead in that outfit!?” Well, you just might be – literally speaking – if you leave it to your family to decide what you’ll wear when the time comes for you to make your final public appearance. Now is the time to consider your final…

How to Write Condolence Notes: 8 Tips That Might Come In Handy

I recently poured out my heart to a colleague about my guilt at two condolence notes left unwritten. One note was intended for a colleague whose sister had died, though I’d heard about the death long after the funeral had taken place. The sisters had shared a close bond that I hoped to capture in…

Five Things

Five Things I’ve learned in my long career as a funeral director I was pleased to share my view of funeral service with Life. Death. Whatever., gleaned from the work I’ve done, the experiences of my colleagues, and the perspective of the thousands of families I’ve served over the years. Despite what you may read…

Definition of Funeral Service

Southern Calls is a prestigious funeral service journal. The SouthernCalls.com website has interesting articles and images on their pages that are a mix of old and new.  The Funeral Profession page has two separate pages, The Present and The Past.  The Present page has this as its headline: THE PRESENT Steeped in history, defined by…

Death At Christmas by Melissa Johnson Williams

Death never takes a holiday.  At whatever time of year a death takes place, it will leave a permanent reminder in those left behind.  Around any of the holidays it’s also a painful reminder of the “empty seat”. My own father’s death took place on Christmas Day. He had been sick for several days but…

Green Burials and Responsible Reporting

We submitted this piece to The New York Times @nytimes as an Op-Ed letter seven days ago and have never heard from them. We are publishing it here so our voices can be heard regarding this topic. Recently, The New York Times published an article: Green Burials: At the End of Life, Thinking Outside the…

3 Myths About Green Burials: A Funeral Director’s Perspective

In funeral parlance, ‘green burial’ may be the most hyped phrase around. References to this ‘new’ and seemingly popular type of disposition seem to be everywhere these days, particularly in the press. And since we, or a loved one, may be headed in that direction, we might have looked up the subject. Reading those stories…

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

By Melissa Johnson Williams Those of us who witnessed the events 56 years ago of President Kennedy’s assassination, remember it vividly. He was so much more than just our President. He was of course a husband, father, son, brother, and friend to many. He was a decorated war hero and an inspiration to generations of…

Rosalia Lombardo

By Melissa Johnson Williams It was my great pleasure to work on the National Geographic program Italy’s Mystery Mummies. I had the opportunity to work two distinguished anthropologist, one of whom was a living legend at the time. Dario Piombino-Mascali known for his work with the Sicilian mummies made it possible for me to complete…

Remembrance Day 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day

IN FLANDERS FIELDS In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row, that mark our place: and in the sky the larks, still bravely singing, fly scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved, and now…

Formaldehyde

By Melissa Johnson Williams From a new study that looks at 30 years of formaldehyde studies. “We now have much greater knowledge of the distribution of endogenous and inhaled formaldehyde at the molecular level. Two such findings are of great importance: (1) every living cell contains formaldehyde and measurable formaldehyde N2-hydroxy-methyl-dG adducts; and (2) there is…

Dia De Los Muertos

Dia De Los Muerto, the Day of the Dead, is a formal holiday celebrated throughout regions of Mexico where it originated from October 31 – November 2 (All Saints and All Souls Day), each year.  The funeral related industries throughout the world have started dropping the word “celebrate or celebration of life” to replace the…

What It’s Like To Work As A Funeral Director

“What’s it like to work as a funeral director?” This is a question I’ve been asked time and again. My response: It’s not easy, given the complex emotions involved. It takes enormous commitment and dedication, along with a compassionate nature and respect for tradition and ceremony. Funeral directors deal with issues of mortality – our…

Traditions

This hearse represents a bygone era. One that many people miss. Today “dissing” tradition is the thing to do. It’s old, it’s NOT cool, it’s traditional. Modern is good if that’s what you want. I myself prefer a traditional, old fashioned home style. It feels warm and comfortable. It reminds me of my parents and…

Carolyn Jones (aka Morticia Addams)

By Melissa Johnson Williams Thirty-five years ago today Morticia Addams died. The woman we knew and loved as Morticia was of course Carolyn Jones.  A very talented actress who performed in both movies and television. She crossed several movie genres but even the younger generation knows “Morticia”. She was the original and favorite goth beauty.…

Extreme Embalming

By Melissa Johnson Williams There was a picture that circulated on the internet recently showing a young man posed at his wake in a laid back style.  Many commentators used the phrase “extreme embalming” to describe this supposedly new phenomenon. Most of those commentators know nothing about embalming or its history. If they did they…

The Real Death Deniers

Perhaps it’s a consequence of being on social media, but barely a day  Perhaps it’s a consequence of being on social media, but barely a day passes that we don’t read some nonsense article, post or tweet about funeral service. Shooting ashes into space, turning cremains into bullets (Seriously, With all the gun violence these…

Women In Funeral Service, Circa 1900

By Melissa Johnson Williams These pages are from the funeral service publications of the early 1900’s called The Casket and The Sunnyside.  As can be seen in these photos women are prominent in the care of the dead, specifically teaching embalming.  More than 100 years ago these women lead the way for every woman practitioner…

Funeral Customs

By Melissa Johnson Williams While browsing for other books about funerals, I happened upon this. I love the description of it from Amazon. All reviewers give it 5 stars. “A funeral is a ceremony marking a person’s death. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember the dead,…

Not New and Not a Novelty

There was a time when women were seldom seen working in funeral service. It’s not that there weren’t any licensed females –there were. But their numbers were not appreciable, and as in many male-dominated industries, they were often relegated to the background and more feminine duties such as cosmetizing of the deceased. By the time…

Honoring Memorial Day

By Melissa Johnson Williams During the early days of the Civil War, it became apparent that there was a need to identify and develop space for cemeteries to honor those who fought for their country and gave the ultimate sacrifice. On July 17, 1862 Congress authorized the President to purchase cemetery grounds “for soldiers who…

When My Yiayia Died

  Marjorie Kunch is a funeral director, and writer, based in Arizona. When her grandmother died, Kunch, the mother of two young children, searched for books to answer the questions her two young children had about funeral rituals. Not able to find what she was looking for, Kunch decided to write her own book. Written…

Embalming Facts & Myths

The Value of Viewing the Deceased           By Melissa Johnson Williams Every family that experiences the death of a loved one will have a very important decision to make. That decision is whether or not to see their loved one prior to either burial or cremation. This decision should not be taken…

The Journey Begins

Alexandra Kathryn Mosca, and Doris V. Amen, are two well-known and respected names in funeral service.


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