At Rest Personalized Funerals Help Many Survivors

Article excerpt

Playing cards. Cigars. Cigarettes. A bottle of Jack Daniel's. A stuffed animal.

Golf clubs, fishing rods and pool cues. An urn full of a dead pet's ashes.

These aren't items from some unusual garage sale, but rather just a few of the things recently buried in caskets along with deceased loved ones after funerals in the Metro East area and throughout Illinois. The funeral business is changing, and probably for the better, said Dale Kurrus, a funeral director at Kurrus Funeral Home in Belleville, and Charles Kassly, a funeral director at Kassly Mortuary Ltd. in Fairview Heights. "It is getting more personalized," Kurrus said. He said personal touches such as photographs and drawings surrounding the casket and burying the dead in the casual clothing they usually wore can help make funerals more meaningful for survivors. "To me, that is needed in some ways," Kurrus said. "People need to be honored for what their uniqueness in life was." Kassly agreed. "Just because people don't always wear morning coats and ties anymore doesn't mean it's any less of a funeral," he said. Kassly and Kurrus said they'd had generally favorable comments about non-traditional funerals they've conducted in the last few years. "There are really not too many things that are off limits, as long as they are in good taste," Kurrus said. Funeral directors say burying personalized keepsakes with the dead is becoming much more common and very acceptable. "I've put a deck of cards in (the casket) a number of times," said Art Hornburg, a funeral director at Hornburg-Klein Evergreen Funeral Home in Evergreen Park, Ill., near Chicago. "There was a six-pack of beer one time," he added. "It was the individual's favorite, obviously." In another instance, Ryland S. Wakely Sr. had an unusual funeral in Chicago after his death in 1994 at the age of 78. Wakely had spent much of his life on two wheels. He bought his first Harley Davidson as a teen-ager. After graduating from high school during the Depression, he hopped on his Harley and followed Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. "Everybody knew my dad," said Ryland S. Wakely Jr. "Go anywhere in my neighborhood, and they'd know. They called him `The Motorcycle Guy.' " Wakely Jr. wanted to bury his father in a Harley Davidson casket. …

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