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  • WKBN

    Valley funerals are changing as alternatives emerge

    By Brandy JohanntgesPatty Coller,


    YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The funeral industry is changing. Traditional burials are down and people are using cremation services more than ever before.

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    The U.S. cremation rate is expected to increase in the United States from 60.5% in 2023 to 81.4% by 2045 , according to the National Funeral Directors Association. Cost is one of the main motivators, but there are other reasons, too.

    Chelsey Santucci with Thompson-Filicky Funeral Home in Youngstown said he’s noticed those changes. He remembers years ago when a funeral would bring hundreds of people and cars full of flowers to a funeral home, and services that would stretch into days.

    “Over the past decade, I have noticed that funerals have become more simplistic for the most part. Families have gone away from the two or three days — two-day visitation and a funeral on the third day — to more of everything in one day,” he said.

    Santucci said cremation is on the rise locally but not in the numbers reflected nationally.

    “I would say close to 50%. Do I see that trend continuing? I do,” he said. “There are different levels to reasons why. There are more celebrations of life where they are celebrating the deceased person versus the actual setting in a funeral home.”

    Cremation can be less costly, but it’s also mobile, Santucci explained. He said that some families like the idea of being able to take an urn with them when they move, and cremation can still come with many of the services of a traditional burial.

    The National Funeral Directors Association says that over 50% of customers are interested in green burials or other environmentally conscious funerals. They are interested in alternatives to chemical embalming, eco-friendly products, such as biodegradable caskets and urns, and other services and products that appeal to the environmentally-conscious consumer.

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    Santucci said those wanting to go green will need to inter remains in a cemetery designated for that. He knows of one in Akron and another in Hermitage.

    “There is no embalming process. There is no casket unless it’s biodegradable. There are no burial vaults. It’s a process that allows the remains to go directly back into the Earth without any prevention and as quickly as possible,” he said.

    But don’t think that getting a green burial is cheaper. Santucci said there is a premium for those types of burials.

    “We offer them, but I have not done one in my career. Cost-wise, it is not much different than a traditional funeral and the cemetery space is quite costly,” he said.

    There is no doubt the funeral landscape is changing. Funerals at sea, which is an old custom, are becoming more popular, and demand for cryogenics and even composting has gained interest as people are looking for other ways to say goodbye to loved ones.

    Santucci said the pandemic played a role in getting people to think differently about funerals. Families had to scale back because of distancing and quarantines and now, many are pushing those scaled-down visions into the future.

    “We’re still very traditionalistic in this area, and that’s a good thing. There is nothing wrong with that. Youngstown has always been that type and still very ethnic, so those traditions still hold on, even with the younger generations. But I do see a definite trend, and I think over the next decades it’s going to become a little more prevalent,” Santucci said. “Over time, everything is going to evolve. There’s no way of stopping that.”

    Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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