Behind the Back Fence
was aware of funeral supply salespersons when I was three or
four years old. They would talk or play with me at the
business office located in our retail store. During the
80 plus years that I had contact with perhaps 40 or 50
suppliers, I recall only one supplier who seriously demeaned a
A few years ago we were selling an occasional air seal style non-porous polypropylene burial vault which contained recycled material that appealed to some of our environmentally concerned clients. I liked the fact that they were lightweight and easy for me to display in our 2nd floor selection room. The material they were made of was similar to the grave liners used in the veteran’s cemetery in our area. The vaults were guaranteed by the manufacturer and I had them serviced by my primary concrete vault manufacturer and distributor.
Unexpectedly several cemeteries notified us that they would no longer accept this product for burial in their cemeteries. When asked why, we learned that one of the outer receptacle distributors in our area had circulated a photograph of a crushed non-porous polypropylene vault. Supposedly the incident happened in cold weather, but there were no details. I was always inclined to believe this was a contrived event, since the products were guaranteed by their manufacturer.
period of time stories about funeral professionals and
ambulance service seem to have little relevance. That
however does not deter some old codgers from relating stories.
During the 40 years our firm operated ambulance service and even during the succeeding seven years I was a city volunteer paramedic, there was occasionally a very sad transfer call.
A family or perhaps a county judicial court proceeding would ask the ambulance service to transfer a patient to State Hospital #3 in Nevada, Missouri—the insane asylum. Most often the patient suffered from senile dementia with family members no longer able or willing to take care of them. Sometimes the patient was lucid enough to know what was happening. I have no idea what the percentage of senile dementia cases were in relation to the total number of occupants in old #3.
Entering the building that infirmary M or F was located in was much like any hotel or caregiver facility until stepping out of the elevator and be confronted with two sets of locked doors. When your escorting attendant turned you over to the ward receiving attendant—you entered another world. Stretching before you was a long lounge or dayroom. Most of the people in the room were wearing street clothes and were middle age to elderly. They stood looking out windows or sat in chairs, benches or the floor. There might be an old lady rocking a doll or someone playing with a toy; two people might actually be speaking to one or another; perhaps you might even be greeted or they just sat there moaning, rocking their body back and forth. At the end of this room you entered the ward for the bedfast patients.
As we passed through the large room on the return trip to the locked double entrance a patient might reach out to you. The look in their eyes said, “Take me home!” It was heartbreaking.
Fortunately this face of “Old #3” is now a part of history. Most of these folks are now in a home-like setting when possible.
It is nice the politicians have made a big white house available for one poor soul.
About the Author:
Lowell Pugh has had funeral director and embalmer licenses in Missouri and Texas. He is publisher of The Dead Beat which began in 1999. He can be contacted at The Dead Beat address and firstname.lastname@example.org
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