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Two local funeral homes merge together to better care for Muskegon families.

Muskegon, Michigan, August 20, 2018 – Young Funeral Home and Clock Funeral Home, Inc. , both multi-generational locally owned and operated funeral homes, have merged together effective August 1, 2018. A public announcement was made earlier to families who have placed their faith and trust with Young Funeral Home over the years.

“My father staked his reputation and built our family business on the principle that we would offer comprehensive services and a beautiful facility for every family served, “said Greg Young, “Many things, including funerals have changed dramatically over the years. I made the decision to join Clock’s in order to uphold my father’s promise, well into the future.”


By joining forces with Clock’s, Young families can take advantage of expanded service offerings, three locations that also have a reception facility (Downtown Muskegon, Fruitport & Grand Haven), Phoenix Crematory Services, and a pet cremation / burial assistance company through Timeless Pets. Both are Clock subsidiaries. Please note Young’s Terrace Street location is closed.

Young’s have been caring for area families since 1949 and Clock’s since 1897. Last year Clock Funeral Home celebrated 120 years of serving Muskegon. That’s a combined commitment of community heritage of 192 years.

“This is really a union of old families friends who have always respected one another and helped each other when extra assistance was needed, “said Dale Clock, Owner and President of Clock’s, “ It just makes sense and will also carry out the two family’s community longevity.”

Both Greg Young and Dale Clock want families who have pre-funded their funeral with Young Funeral Home to know their funeral plan is still guaranteed and funds are secure.


Note: This Blog is written by a Guest blogger, Jodi Clock, my wife. She writes her own blog, Ask Jodi, which can be found at jodiclock.com and the Author of the very informative book “Navigating the Eldercare Journey Without Going Broke” which can be found on Amazon.com. The story told below was experienced by all of us here at the funeral home. It shows some of the challenges that can happen when trying to do things on the internet. Buying shoes online is one thing. Making cremation plans for your deceased mother is a completely different. I hope you find this post informative.

The following is a true story. You will read about one local family’s experience that thousands of people across the country who want a “simple” cremation fall victim too. The names of the family have been changed, but the name of the the cremation provider is actual. The story was not embellished.

Funeral homes are left time and time again picking up the pieces for families who make well intended choices without understanding what’s involved. After reading this, please go to my website JodiClock.com and download my free e-book “5 Legal Requirements Before Cremation.”

Sam died peacefully at home under the care of hospice on a Sunday morning in Grand Haven, MI. His wishes were to be immediately cremated and returned to the family for burial at a future date. Having grown up in the great depression, he was adamant about spending as little money as possible for a cremation. Written instructions were left requesting his family not spend money on an obituary, memorial service, flowers, even an urn. His intentions were to ensure that his wife of 65 years would have enough money to live comfortably. Together his wife, Mary, and their seven children agreed to honor his final wishes.

The day that Sam died, their oldest child, Karen, began price shopping for a cheap cremation. Like most baby boomers, she turned to the internet. The key words used in the search engine were “cremation providers in Grand Haven, MI.” As you would suspect, after the paid ads, all the area funeral homes appeared, followed by a list of “non-funeral home” cremation society imitators who not only advertise on low price, they give the appearance to be local.

Therefore, if price is the driving factor and the service appears to be local, the average person would make the assumption that the service provider was the solution for their situation. After all – how difficult could a “simple” cremation be? Or so you would think. Here in lies the problem.

Karen chose to call Heritage Cremation Provider strictly based on their website. She called what appeared to be a local phone number. What she encountered on the other end, unbeknown to her was a call center that was re-routed someplace else.

The voice on the other end of the phone took the necessary information and shared that they would get back with her regarding when to expect someone to come pick up her father. In the meantime, she was told that they would need signatures from all of Sam’s children on a cremation authorization before the cremation could take place. The form was to going to be emailed to her.

Once Karen hung up the telephone, Heritage Cremation Provider began calling all the local funeral homes trying to negotiate a price for what in our profession is commonly referred to as a “trade call.” A trade call is when a funeral home that was not originally contacted by the family, is subcontracted by a funeral home out-of-town or a death care provider to:

  • make a removal
  • file the death certificate to become the funeral home of record
  • if requested to embalm or oversee the cremation

By federal and state law it necessary to have a funeral home/director be accountable for the above responsibilities.

Heritage Cremation Provider then hired a local funeral home and called the family back. They said someone would be there within the hour to pick up their father. Shortly a removal team arrived at the house and brought Sam to the contracted funeral home’s care.

Karen didn’t understand the paperwork and Heritage Cremation Provider could not answer her questions satisfactorily. This communication debacle resulted in a two-week delay of Sam’s cremation. With no success, the contracted funeral home on a daily basis called Heritage Cremation Provider trying to obtain the information necessary in order to get things done. Finally, after 14 days the contracted funeral home demanded that Heritage Cremation Provider give them the family’s contact information as they were going to take matters into their own hands.

The contracted funeral home’s director was able to reach Karen and discovered that Sam was married and had a surviving spouse. The director explained that by law, the surviving spouse is always considered to be the next of kin, unless there was a pre-appointed funeral guardian assigned prior to death. This provided relief for Karen as she was trying to reach all six of her siblings to sign the cremation authorization. It was abundantly clear that Karen was angry and distraught, so the director asked her when she and her mother could come to the funeral home, sign papers and talk.

Before the end of the day, Karen, along with her mother and another sibling, walked through the front doors of the contracted funeral home. Within minutes of sitting down with the director, the family began launching questions fast and furiously. Rightfully so, their emotions were running high and was fueled by grief and fear from the unknown.

Karen hadn’t slept in days. She was having nightmares about where her father was, let alone how he was being care for. The visions in her head were those of a bad B rated horror film. No one understood why cremation hadn’t taken place after 14 days. After all, this was supposed to be a “simple” cremation.

In a very gentle, but matter a fact manner, the funeral director addressed each concern the family had. The family’s biggest fear that Sam was not being cared for with dignity. No matter what the director said, they could not hear the answer between the sobbing and morbid visions they had in their head.

In order to gain control of the situation the director had to address their two major fears. The first being the visual of Sam decomposing in some back alley and the second, that the cremated remains that they will now receive back will not be his.

At this point, it’s not about finishing a “trade call” and gathering the right information to see the cremation process out. It’s about doing the right thing for two very important reasons: to provide the family the peace of mind necessary for them to begin to heal and showing the family that there are honest death care providers.

The director asked the following two questions:

  1. Would you like to see Sam and say a final farewell?
  2. Would you like to be present and witness his cremation?

By offering those two simple acts, the family’s anxiety level began to decrease. The family was apprehensive about what they would see and once again had numerous questions. The director explained that whatever they are envisioning, is not what they are going to see. Educational information was shared about cold storage and how it preserves a person’s body. The cremation process itself was explained from A to Z. They were told that their involvement could range from simply being present, witnessing Sam physically being placed in the cremator or even pushing the button to start the process.

The family wanted to see their father. After few minutes, the director escorted them into a visitation room where Sam had been placed. The funeral home’s care team, closed his eyes and mouth, combed his hair and placed a pillow under his head and a blanket over him. Why? Because that’s what a funeral home does. Funeral directors know that if there is visual contact, there was nothing to fear and the family will start to heal.

The family spent about 15 minutes privately with Sam and then thanked the funeral home profusely. They said they did not want to be present when the cremation took place. They just wanted to know a “when” it would occur. When the director asked why they did not want to witness after everything they had encountered over the past two weeks. Both Karen and Sam’s wife said that they trusted the funeral home.

Before leaving, Karen completely melted down and was asking for her family to forgive her for choosing Heritage Cremation Provider. She expressed she had no idea what all was involved in a “simple” cremation, nor did she realize the value a funeral home and or funeral director. She just wanted to follow her father’s wishes and not overspend. Her family was more than understanding. They made all the same assumptions. After all – the media and many other uninformed mediums portray funeral homes and funeral directors to be salesmen who prey upon families in their weakest time.

In retrospect, who is preying upon families at a weak moment? A low-cost provider who over promises and under delivers or a funeral home? One could argue that this is an isolated situation. Facts, reviews and a little detective work will prove that this is more the norm than not.

Yes, death care is expensive, but if you work with a reputable funeral home it doesn’t have to be unaffordable. Well regarded funeral homes will work with families so they don’t overspend.

Think if it this way, you don’t have surgery without meeting your surgeon. You certainly wouldn’t leave your child with a daycare provider you didn’t interview or visit. Please, don’t entrust your loved one’s final care with a funeral/cremation provider that does not have a physical facility locally or have a professional who you can’t talk to in person. Transparency is everything! Like anything else, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!”

Please go to my website JodiClock.com and download my free e-book “5 Legal Requirements Before Cremation.”

P.S. Please note that The above mentioned cremation provider has absolutely no affiliation with our good friends and colleagues at “Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes” in Grand Rapids, Michigan, whom provide wonderful service to folks in their area

The New Normal

Every year the funeral trade magazines post numerous articles written by a handful of funeral home financial and marketing consultants like David Nixon, Dan Isard, Alan Creedy, Glen Gould and Bill McQueen just to name a few of the better known. They have provided the funeral home owners with vast amounts of great information through the years about sales averages, how to set up budgets, break-even analysis calculators and the like. We look to these folks to help us figure out what the future might look like and give us some “Normal” numbers to compare our numbers to. They have access to what people are doing around the country that most funeral home owners don’t have access to and we have come to depend on them to give us a “pulse” of what’s happening.

Over the last ten years the funeral business has been changing so much that I don’t believe that we can say what is “normal” any more. Thirty years ago when the cremation rate was below 20% all over the country and most funeral homes provided the same type of service and merchandise to nearly every family they served it was pretty easy to say what was normal and average. But now with new low cost cremation providers, online funeral arrangements sites, and competition from hotels and reception facilities taking a larger piece of the pie every year what’s normal for me may not be normal for someone else.

I think it’s time for all of these consultants to go back to the drawing board, put their thinking caps on and come up with some New Normals for us to compare things to. They need to realize that there are now multiple sets of normal numbers depending on cremation rate, market population, religious and ethnic background, and the number and type of competitors in your market. There is no “one size fits all” any more.

What is normal for a town of 50,000 people with 50% cremation, 3 traditional funeral homes, 2 low cost cremation providers and a large population of church members?

What is normal for a college town of 120,000 with 65% cremation, 2 corporate funerals home/cemetery combos, 3 independent funeral homes and 4 low cost providers and 2 online arrangement providers?

What is normal for a 600,000 population big city with Ethnic firms and Religious firms and corporate firms and independent firms of all shapes and sizes? How many low cost providers can exist in a town like that? Do Online arrangements sites really work or are they just the latest thing the vendors are trying to convince us all we need.

The places in the country that have been dealing with 70% cremation for a long time are the folks the rest of the country should be hearing from and learning from. What is their reality? What kind of average sale do they have? How are they surviving and thriving? What did they do when their call volume remained the same but their annual revenue dropped by 25% because people were choosing less expensive options? I’m guessing that over 50% of the funeral homes around the country saw their average income per call decrease last year (that’s all calls, cremation and burial calls, combined). SCI just reported that their average income per call dropped last year.

With all due respect to the folks in the middle of the country who are still doing 80% burial or big city ethnic firms where people drop $15,000 regularly on a funeral, I don’t even want to talk to them.  They are not in the same business as me. And I’m not so sure the start-up guys in the big cities that are carving out a “hip and new” niche market for themselves can really relate to what it’s like in a market with a steady population and a blue collar income where people are just trying to get by. There are only so many deaths in most markets and only so many dollars that people have to spend.

So…. All of you Mr. Smarty Pants people out there what is the new normal???

I’m Dale Clock.  Thanks for listening.

Last fall I wrote a blog entry about our new venture at our Fruitport, MI location called Sunset Celebrations. I told you that we were converting our existing funeral home into a facility that was capable of hosting different kinds of family oriented events like Graduation Open Houses, Birthday Parties, Retirement celebrations, baby showers and other similar events in addition to the Funerals and Memorial Services and Celebrations of Life. I used the words Event Center to describe the facility, because that’s what’s it’s purpose was now. A place to hold family events.

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wedding reception

Since we re-opened in September we have hosted a wedding reception, a Retirement Party, a Company Christmas party, an Anniversary party, two Memorial Services, two Funerals, several business meetings and a Vendor party where local Tupperware/Avon/Amway type folks displayed their products. They were all very successful events and everyone was very happy with the facility and we were receiving new calls every week to reserve the facility for events in the spring and summer.

Then in January we got a letter from the Village of Fruitport Building Inspector telling us to cease and desist from hosting events other than “funerals” because we were zoned as a funeral home and not as a Banquet Hall. The only major difference between the two zoning rules was that a Banquet Hall required 2 acres of land and a funeral home only requires one acre. Plus there is nothing in the funeral home zoning rule that prohibited us from hosting other family events.  But in an effort to be good neighbors we stopped taking further reservations and started efforts to resolve this issue with the Village Council so we could continue to serve the demands of the public.

Now we have run into some major challenges with definitions and words.

What is the definition of a Funeral? What is the definition of a Memorial Service? What is a Celebration of Life. What is a Home Going Celebration? What is a Farewell Party?  The fact is each one of the events I just listed are family gatherings recognizing a marker moment in someone’s life. Each one of those events is a gathering of people in a building where there are tables and chairs for people to sit around. Food and beverages are typically served. There are photographs displayed and videos shown on TV’s. There is often a microphone so everyone can hear the stories that people want to share with each other and there is music for all to hear. There is a parking lot for cars and restroom facilities for our human needs. Those are the basic elements and activities of every one of those events.

Now, let’s think about retirement parties and graduation open houses and anniversary parties and baby showers and wedding receptions. The fact is each one of the events I just listed are family gatherings recognizing a marker moment in someone’s life. Each one of those events is a gathering of people in a building where there are tables and chairs for people to sit around. Food and beverages are typically served. There are photographs displayed and videos shown on TV’s. There is often a microphone so everyone can hear the stories that people want to share with each other and there is music for all to hear. There is a parking lot for cars and restroom facilities for our human needs. Those are the basic elements and activities of every one of those events.

I hope you noticed that the italicized words describing all of those events are exactly the same. The exact same thing happens at each and every one of those events.

I ask this rhetorical question. So…Is my newly remodeled facility a Funeral Home that also hosts Family Events or is it an Event Center that specializes in Funerals and Celebrations of Life? And does it really matter?

The fact is that the business of funerals has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Today 70% of the 450 families that we serve annually choose cremation. So where funerals were usually associated with a dead body being displayed in a casket, now that happens less than 30% of the time. The vast majority of the events we help plan and coordinate are not much different than a graduation open house. (Except that we a capable of planning and producing our events in just 3 days where most mothers take months to plan their senior’s open house)

I feel that if the Council of the Village of Fruitport wants to continue to have a local funeral facility to serve their community they need to seriously consider changing their rules to adapt to the future realities of funeral service. Nearly every Funeral establishment in our area now offers some type of reception services. It’s what the public wants. It only makes sense to allow us to host other family events too.

I’d love to hear what the rest of you out there think of this issue.

I’m Dale Clock.  Thanks for Listening.

If StoneMor Partners manages their rest of their companies like they manage Sunrise Memorial Gardens in Muskegon, MI then I recommend all of their investors call their brokers immediately and dump their stock like a radioactive hot glowing boulder.  Since StoneMor took over the operation of Sunrise a few years back it has been a revolving door of inept employees “Managed By Fear”.

I have never seen people so afraid to make any decision, let alone the right one without calling their supervisor. I have never seen management so completely out of touch with an operation, seemingly incapable of training people to do a relatively simple job. Policies, procedures or prices change on a monthly basis. Nearly every family that we serve that has to deal with this company/cemetery comes back to us with terrible stories and complaints of pushy sales tactics, overpriced required merchandise purchases, expensive additional service charges for work that requires little time or effort and brown dried up grass overgrown with weeds. I cringe every time a family tells me they own property there.

The things that happened this week at Sunrise pushed me over the edge. Their treatment of families and the attitude of their staff was disgusting. I had a family tell me they were treated so rudely by a Sunrise staff person in the office that they wanted to punch her in the face. And another family was pressured into purchasing a vault, even though they had purchased one from the funeral home the day before. And when we thought we had that issue resolved they called me on the morning of the burial and told me they had already installed their vault so I was out of luck. Rather than fight the issue I did the right thing and had the vault company go back and pick up my vault. At the burial the family told me both employees were blaming each other for all the errors and confusion.

My complaints to the next level up got blown off by some cell phone carrying, car driving middle manager who gave a 5 minutes dissertation about how their mission is to work with families and funeral homes to provide the best care and services. What a bunch of crap. He and everyone at the place were just worried about meeting quota and how much commission they were going to get. He accused of us lying even though I can prove the time line of how things happened.(we met with the family on Sunday and they went to Sunrise on Monday)

We know some upper level folks that work for StoneMor and contacted them to see who we should talk to and got a few email addresses. Then we called the Michigan Cemetery Association to find out how we should handle our complaint and they said that no-one at StoneMor or the cemetery association would listen to funeral home complaints. It had to come from the family. But rather than put the family through any more grief I have decided to air my complaints here. I’m hoping this might get management’s attention a little sooner. And If anyone reading this has had challenges like this I invite you to comment below.

I want you all to know I’m not just some whiney pants funeral guy that lost a sale. I completely understand that this is business. I’ve been to sales seminars and understand the methods. And it’s all about getting to the customer first in many of these situations. But what’s going on here is borderline fraud and coercion. It’s stuff like this that puts death care in the headlines and gives everyone a black eye.

To paraphrase Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie Rainman ….”StoneMor Sucks”

I’m Dale Clock.  Thanks for Listening