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August 03, 1973 - Image 9

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1973-08-03

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Friday, August 3, 1973


Page Nine

Cremation causes grave situation

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - With
the cost of a funeral with ceme-
tery plot and headstone averag-
ing about $1,700 nationally, a
growing number of Americans
are signing up for cremations for
as little as $250.
They would rather use the dif-
ference - about $1,450 - to
bring their mortgages up to date
or help their grandchildren
through college, say the business-
men who offer this "minimum
BUT DON'T JUMP to the con-
clusion, they say, that people
who sign up in advance for their
own low-cost cremations are poor
people. The fact is, they say,
most are from the affluent mid-
dle class and have about - aver-
age educations.
The trend does not frighten the
funeral industry, its spokesmen
say. They characterize the inex-
pensive cremations as nothing
more than a "disposal service,"
which they say few Americans
want. And in case someone does,
they say a conventional mortuary
can supply the need as cheaply or
Nevertheless, the industry lob-
bied in the California Legisla-
ture last year for a bill that the
director of a cremation service
said would hamper if not kill his
THE MORTUARY spokesmen
said they were concerned mainly
with public health, and believe
that any handling of human bod-
ies should be regulated the same
way they are. The bill died in
The cremation service that
fought the bill was the Telophase
Society of San 1iego, whose
founder and director, Thomas
Weber, says it is unique in the
Weber won his point with the
legislature by saying the fun-
eral industry "IS TRYING TO
BURY US." But another simi-
lar bill was introduced in this
year's session and scheduled for
a committee hearing Aug. .
ALSO THIS session, a San Die-
go legislator introduced a "truth-
in-funerals" bill requiring the
itemization in advance of all
funeral costs, and a bill which
would not permit changes in the
funeral arrangements that a de-
cedent makes himself in ad-
vance. Both bills were killed in
Weber says Telophase signs
up individuals for $25 - senior
citizens $15 - and waits for
telephone calls reporting their
A 24-hour crew picks up the
bodies in a station wagon and
turns them over to an indepen-
dent licensed cemeterian for
cremation at rented facilities and
disposal of ashes at sea.
An office staff handles the pa-
per work. The survivors are bill-
ed- a flat $250, which is $5 less
than the death benefits paid un-
der Social Security.
sees to the disposal, there are 11
funeral and memorial societies
in California - and 130 national-
ly - which operate differently.
The funeral and memorial so-
cieties enroll families for a flat
$10 fee, then place them in con-
tact with regular funeral homes
with which they can contract for
cremation at similar low prices.
Once the member has contacted
the mortuary, the role of funeral
or memorial society ends.
The main difference, Weber
says, is that with Telophase the
survivors cannot change the ar-
rangements, but with funeral and
memorial societies, the survivors
can go to the funeral home,
where renegotiation for added
services such as embalming -
with added costs - is always
WEBER, A Ph.D. in biochem-

istry, says he believes the de-
ceased should have the final
"Everyone I talk to says,
'When I die. I want the simplest
thing possible,"' Weber said in,
an interview. "You never hear
anyone say, 'I want a $10,000
coffin and all the rest."
He quoted a recent survey, by

the Wharton School of Business
as saying the national average
cost of a funeral - including
cemetery plot and headstone -
was $1,690.
DEATH IS A normal conse-
quence of life, says Weber. He
often uses the word "thanatolo-
gy," defined as "the descrip-
tion or study of the phenomena
of somatic - bodily - death."
He said thanatology courses are

being offered in a growing num-
ber of high schools and colleges.
The title Telophase comes
from the Greek - rooted term
"telo phase," meaning the last
stage of cellular division, Weber
Despite the biological approach
to handling physical remains,
Weber said there is no reason
why survivors cannot organize
separate memorial or religious

ceremonies, and many do.
T E L O P H A S E started
three years ago, signing up five
members the first month and 20
the second. Membership is now
more than 3,000 with 431 signing
up in one recent month.
Cremations were running one
a month only a year and a half
ago, but have since increased to
about one per day.
Weber said a survey of the
first 2,000 members revealed
that fewer than 10 per cent were
hard-pressed financiay.
WHILE MOST listed "cost"
as the chief reason for signing
up, Weber said "surprisingly,
they are more affluent than the
norm. Many live in La Jolla," an
upper-middle class city in San
Diego County. "In 'education,
they are about 2.2 years higher
than the norm."
"By religion, about 15 per cent
are Roman Catholic," Weber

Jive to normal funeral, on which
they say Americans spend $3
billion to $3.5 billion a year.
"ONLY ABOUT five per cent
of the dead are cremated in the
United States," Williams said,
"and this has grown only about
one per cent in the last 10 years."
"What they're offering is just
a disposal service," Williams
said. "You can't qualify that as a
funeral service.
"They don't offer embalming
or religious services, It's just
not the right way to do it. It's a
completely pagan method of dis-
posing of remains."
necessary for the public to turn
to these pagans for the simple
want of funds. I don't know of
any funeral home in California
that will turn them down. Hun-
dreds of people are buried every
year at no cost at all."
He said mortuaries sometimes

lit s just not the right way to do it. It's
a completely pagan method of disposing of
-George Williams, mortician
said. "There is a high percent- handle funerals for as little as
age of Jews. Protestants are well $150. In San Diego alone, he said,
distributed, although we have there are four mortuaries that
fewer of the fundamentalist type would provide the same service
denominations." as Telophase "for the same cost
Similar findings are reported or less."
by the vice president of the Cali- "To each his own," Williams
fornia Federation of Funeral and said of the ways a person may
Memorial Societies, E. A. Peson- wish to have his remains treated.
en of Sacramento. WHATEVER YOU WANT," he
AS PESONEN and Weber see it, added, "you'll find a funeral di-
they are offering the first alterna- rector who will go along
SGC is looking for a DIRECTOR OF STUDENT
ORGANIZATIONS. This is a non-salaried posi-
tion which entails sitting on the Student Or-
ganizations Board, acting as advocate, trouble-
shooter and problem solver for various groups,
reviewing applications for regitration, etc. All
applicants must be students. The time commit
ment is about 20 hours per week. This is a
wide-open position and offers a good deal of
potential for creativity and organizational in-
novation. For further information call 764-
0207 or 764-0436. Interviews will be happen-
ing shortly.

Up on the roof
Millionaire Stewart Mott shows off some of the vegetables he has
grown in his penthouse garden. All it takes is sunshine, loving
care and lots of money.


Pointing the
way towards

CALL 764-0557
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