What exactly do you do?
I’m a sales counselor—I sell cemetery space, whether it’s graves or crypt space in a mausoleum, or space for cremated remains in an indoor atrium or outdoor cremation garden.
Tell us about your background and training.
After receiving an associate’s degree in mortuary science in 1983 from Herkimer County Community College in conjunction with Simmons School of Mortuary Science in Syracuse, I took and passed a national board exam to become a licensed funeral director in New York State. Then I did a required one-year apprenticeship at McMahon Lyon & Hartnett Funeral Home in White Plains. After that, I worked as a funeral director for various funeral homes, including my own, until I decided, in 2007, to do what I am doing now.
Why the switch from being a funeral director to a salesperson?
The funeral home business can be very heavy. And it was just a great opportunity that came about to work at this very beautiful cemetery that I knew had a long history of taking good care of families.
How did you get into this line of work?
It wasn’t some career occupation I had always wanted to pursue—I didn’t have any real ambitions growing up other than being a professional baseball player or sports personality. I had an uncle who was a funeral director. When he died in 1970, my father purchased his business, the Phillips Funeral Home in Yonkers. So, when this opportunity became available, I took it, and I’m glad I did.
Is your job depressing?
It can be, but this is life. And I am able to provide a service and lighten the burden on the family during a very difficult time. I get a lot of satisfaction from that.
Does selling a final resting place differ from selling another type of item?
For about a year and a half, I went out and sold restaurant supplies to try something other than this business, and there’s really no difference. You are selling a product.
What’s the most difficult thing you do?
Deal with families who have lost children.
Notice any new trends?
Cremation is definitely becoming more popular, as is purchasing plots before they are actually needed, or ‘pre-need’ as opposed to waiting until someone has died or ‘at need.’ The reason? People don’t want to leave this burden—financially or emotionally—to their children.
What unusual things have people requested be buried with them?
We don’t allow for something to be buried with the deceased, but many times people have asked for things like their best putter or fishing pole to be put in the casket.
How much do final resting places cost?
In-ground, outdoor graves cost from under three thousand to six-thousand dollars and a crypt that can hold up to two people in one of the community mausoleums can range from twelve thousand to fifty-six thousand dollars.
Have you arranged for your own burial needs?
I have not. I am leaning towards cremation and haven’t selected where my ashes would go.