Personalized funerals make for memorable send-offs

Courtesy of the Toronto Star | By Isabel Teotonio and Nancy White | Originally Published 05.29.2014 | Posted 01.09.2018

Life passions often reflected in unique service, and even the storage of cremated remains can take on added significance.

A growing desire for personalized funerals has led to some non-traditional requests, including:

  • James Henry Smith was a zealous Pittsburgh Steelers fan in life. So when he died of prostate cancer at age 55, the viewing room at the Pittsburgh funeral home arranged furniture on it much as in Smith’s home: His body was on the recliner, his feet crossed and a remote in his hand. A pack of cigarettes and a beer were at his side while a high-definition TV played a continuous loop of Steeler highlights.
  • During the service for a woman who loved to bake, staff at Turner & Porter created memorial cards that included a favourite recipe of hers. During the funeral reception, guests were served her baked goods, which she had kept in the freezer.
  • The music chosen for the funeral service speaks volumes about the person. North York funeral director Glen Burkholder’s most memorable? A funeral at which visitors left the chapel as the Hockey Night in Canada theme played.
  • During the funeral service for a woman whose great passion was shoes, staff with Mount Pleasant Group put her prized collection on display.
  •  During the service for an accomplished seamstress, staff at Turner & Porter displayed her handiwork, including a collection of wedding dresses.
  • At Mount Pleasant Group, there was one service where the family dog led the funeral procession.
  • At one funeral the casket was decorated with meaningful messages by friends and family.
  • The rise in cremation has led to some unusual options. The way people choose to have their ashes stored can reflect their life passions, especially if they’re outdoorsy types. For nature lovers, memorial options include the bird-bath urn or sundial to store cremated remains. And North York funeral director Glen Burkholder says that twice he’s been asked to bury ashes in beloved tackle boxes.

Remains can also be mixed with cement to make underwater reef structures, launched into space, put in shotgun shells and mixed in with fireworks.

With files from

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