Retire VA 2019 - 26

The Baby Boom, says Oakey, "has different
ideas about memorialization. They want
to tailor their funeral to the way they lived
their life. It used to be 'Amazing Grace,' Old
Testament scripture, a hymn and some
New Testament reading. Now, it might be
'Stairway to Heaven' and cremation.
"When we started cremating in 1976, it
was 3% of the funerals. Now it's up to 45.
We've done three green funerals, but the
price is higher than for cremation." The
cost for cremation in the Roanoke Valley
runs from about $500 on the bargain end
to about $5,000 at the top. The average
burial, says Oakey, is about $9,000.
Mike Hamlar, owner of Hamlar-Curtis
Funeral Home, sees more traditional
approaches in the African American
community, which his business primarily
serves. Still, there is "more cremation than
I've ever seen. Some has to do with costs,
but it's not a majority yet."

26 / Retire-VA.com / RETIRE-VA 2020

Hamlar is seeing some movement
among the religions that once forbade
cremation and, he says flatly, "The
industry is changing a lot" and "there are
a lot of options" for those wanting them.
One disturbing trend he sees is "the Baby
Boom burying their children because
of drugs and accidents." Opioid deaths
increased "300% last year in the Roanoke
African-American community," he says,
and many of those were young people.
Costs for traditional funerals mount
quickly and include charges that can
go unnoticed until the final bill: death
certificate ($12), minister (hundreds of
dollars), flowers ($200-$500), medical
examiner costs ($50), obituary in the daily
newspaper ($600), organist ($100 or so),
limousine ($100 or so) and so forth. (There
is a new alternative to the expensive-
formerly free-newspaper obituaries at
roanokeobituaries.com. The cost is $65 for
any length, three photos and permanent
placement.)
Buck Simmons, he of the carriage
service, says Valley Funeral Home "is the
affordable" funeral service and 150 of its
175 "death calls" a year are for cremation.
"We're near 80%" and it has to do with
price. He charges about $1,650 for a
cremation, while other homes are well
over double that.
Cremation, he insists, has "created a lot
more flexibility for families. They have a
memorial service at a family reunion" six
months after the death, he says. "They
can put Dad's ashes in an urn and bury
them on top of Mom-stacked-in the
same grave. There is some double-dipping
in a single burial plot."


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Retire VA 2019

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