Cullman Funeral Home opens new crematory to serve the community locally

the Cremator apparatus (Heather Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. - Thursday, May 6, marked the first use of Cullman’s second crematory, which is located within the Cullman Funeral Home. Now certified and licensed by the state, the crematory within CFH can be used to perform cremations locally instead of outsourcing the service to other funeral homes. With roughly 50% of their current business made up of cremations and an increase to 75% projected within the next ten years, co-owners Steve and Hilda Rodgers and funeral director/cremationist Greg Davis are optimistic about the benefit this addition will bring to the funeral home and to the local families who are in need of its services. Tuesday morning, The Tribune sat down with Mr. Rodgers and Davis to ask a few questions about the new facility. 

What is the process of cremation like from the time of death to the ashes? 

“We get the phone call from the hospice or the hospital to come and pick up the deceased,” Rodgers explained. “We bring the body back here, and by law, we have to hold the body for at least 24 hours before we do the cremation. During that time, the family comes in and gives us the information for the death certificate and what they want in the paper, and they make arrangements and pay for the cremation. After 24 hours, we can go through with the procedure, which takes about three hours.” 

During the actual cremation, the cremation retort reaches the high temperatures necessary for the cremation to be complete, followed by a long cooldown time. The cremation process takes about 2-3 hours from start to finish, and the crematory has a cold storage unit for storing bodies until they can be cremated. Once removed from the Cremator, the cremated remains are prepared and given to the family in a “temporary urn.” The families can then choose what they would like to do with the cremains. The funeral home offers a catalogue of urns, miniature urns and pendants for families to choose from, and they are also welcome to bring their own if they have specific desires. Memorial services can also be held, and families can choose to bury the cremains with a headstone, similar to a traditional casket burial. 

What are the benefits and downsides of cremation over traditional funerals? 

“The cost is probably the biggest factor when it comes to choosing cremation,” Rodgers answered. “There’s a lot of stuff you don’t have to buy – casket, a vault, cemetery plot, a headstone. Now you could buy a headstone and bury the cremains in order to have a place to go back and honor that loved one, and we usually encourage people to have some kind of service to help bring closure to the families during this time, but there’s a lot of expenses with traditional funerals that you don’t have in a cremation.” 

Davis added on, “Another benefit is simplicity. There’s a lot of planning that goes into a traditional funeral, and cremation is a lot more simple way of handling the death of a loved one.” As opposed to traditional funerals and burials that can cost close to $10,000 and require a lot of planning and collaboration, a cremation typically costs under $2000 and families are able to wait to hold a service until all relatives are able to attend. 

On the downsides, Davis remarked that there are still some religious taboos around cremation, so people of certain faiths may not be able to choose the less-expensive option. Additionally, despite the growing popularity of the funeral alternative, many people who choose cremation for themselves or their loved ones are subjected to others questioning their choice. “I think having to explain why you chose cremation to family members, and especially to children, would be a potential downside for people to deal with.” 

One more list of pros and cons have to do with the cremains themselves rather than the process. On the pros side, small urns can be filled with ashes and distributed to family members as keepsakes of their loved one, and some businesses offer services which incorporate ashes into jewelry or glass decorations. This allows even relatives who live long distances away to stay close to the deceased without having to travel all the way to a gravesite. For the cons, those who choose to scatter ashes at special places sometimes don’t know what to do to honor the deceased afterward without a headstone to gather at for holidays or gatherings like Decoration. 

What are some common misconceptions people may have about cremation? 

“I think the biggest misconception people have is that cremation is just the act of putting the body in the retort with nothing else,” Davis answered. “That doesn’t have to be the case. Sure, some folks come in for the cremation, they get the cremains, and they leave and say, ‘We’ll take it from here.’ But we’ve also had a lot of folks who arrange memorial services for the deceased. Some folks who arranged before death have had something like a traditional service with a viewing, placing the body in a rental casket, and then the cremation after the service. Other families place the cremated remains in an urn and wait until all the relatives can be present before holding a memorial service.” 

“If you want to have a traditional memorial service,” said Rodgers, “we welcome anyone who wants to use our chapel. If you want a video to honor the memory of the deceased, we can take pictures you give us and put them into a video to play during the service. Before cremation, we can even take fingerprints from the deceased and have the fingerprint design turned into necklaces for you to keep. There’s so many different ways that people can honor and remember their loved one, it doesn’t have to be just the cremation by itself if they want more.” 

Davis finished, “Just to sum up, a cremation can be just as effective, honorable and memorable as a funeral if you plan it that way.” 

Is there anything else you want to add? 

“We’re both very grateful to Nichols Funeral Home in Addison and Lemley Funeral Home in Oneonta,” said Davis. “They’re the ones who handled all of our cremations. Cullman Funeral Home is very happy to have this state-of-the-art facility of our own. Now we can serve the needs of grieving families here without having to go out of town.”  

Rodgers summed up the funeral home’s goal by adding, “We just want to do what we can to give your loved ones the respect and honor they deserve in death, and to give you the closure that you and your family might need after their passing.” 

Sample urns available at Cullman Funeral Home (Heather Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

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Heather Mann