Furlong Funeral Home Installs Crematorium, a First for Jefferson County

SUMMERVILLE, Pa. – With the arrival of a 2.5 million BTU Crematorium earlier this summer, Furlong Funeral Home became the first funeral home to own a human crematorium in Jefferson County.

Greg Furlong has been a funeral director for 25 years and has seen the growth in cremations over the years. Last year he did over 50 cremations at other funeral homes for his funeral homes located in Summerville and Marienville, Forest County.

“There is a growing need, and the funeral industry has changed, especially in the last 10 to 20 years, and cremation rates have gone up and up,” said Furlong. “Baby boomers have certainly come in to play, and it’s the choice of the next generation. It used to be that a lot of people looked at it, and it wasn’t something that was acceptable, but now it’s growing and is successful and every religion accepts it.”

“I’ve been thinking about this and making plans for this and almost did it 15 years ago.  It’s been on my mind and about a year or two ago started the process.”

Furlong emphasizes that he is not adding the crematorium to step on anybody’s toes or take business from anybody else. He is doing it for customers.  Clarion County has two crematoriums, including the Burns Funeral Home and Cremation and the Goble Funeral Home and Crematory.

Furlong has operated a pet crematorium for the last eight years.

The cremator was purchased from Facultatieve Crematorium Technologies, an international leader based in the U.K. with a facility in Medina, Ohio. The 30,000-pound device was installed in a garage on Furlong’s property.  The garage is only used for purposes of human cremation. The entire process of cremation takes between 75 and 90 minutes.

“It’s not like a factory process where it would be running all day, every day.”

Owning the crematorium, Furlong can ensure loved ones that he will be in control of the entire process.

“I made it so that if someone wants to come and see their mother and or father – and as weird as that may sound, some people do want to see their mother or father go into the crematorium. In this business, it’s all about personal preferences.”

Furlong still favors a traditional viewing along with the cremation, but that choice is up to the families.  The role of the funeral director, according to Furlong, is to help guide families through the process of grieving.

“They have their own minds, and what we are here for is to provide some different ideas and options. It’s not about dollars and cents in terms of burying someone. I just don’t want people to have regrets, and we should at least suggest options.”

“A lot of people still do have the tradition viewing, followed by cremation,” explained Furlong.  “Somebody is embalmed and in a rented or purchased casket. It can have the feel of a traditional funeral, and they save a lot of dollars and cents as opposed to a traditional burial because they do not have to buy a casket, pay for a grave opening, or have to buy a vault.  The person gets their final wish if they want to be cremated, the family saves a lot of money, and the rest of the family gets the closure and the feeling of the funeral process. It’s a psychological process for some people, and they can pay their last respects and have closure.  Just because you have a cremation doesn’t mean you still can’t have a funeral.”

The option of still going through with a funeral or memorial service is important because there are some things that can’t be done later.

“I’m a firm believer that if someone has a cremation, I still push for people to at least have a memorial service,” explained Furlong. “This isn’t a point in life that you can go redo – you’ve got to get this right the first time. I respect someone wanting to have cremation, but I encourage him or her to at least have a memorial service. I don’t want to have them saying years down the road that I wish we would have had a funeral for mom and dad or whoever it was.”

“I’ve noticed that more and more people over the last 20 years moving from not having anything with a cremation to having a viewing and a cremation or a cremation and a memorial service.  Years ago you had someone cremated and gave the family the ashes, and they took them home and put them on a shelf somewhere. Many funeral directors encourage them to bury the ashes instead of just setting them on the shelf. I’m not saying you still can’t take them home for a time, but to bury them for a permanent resting place. I respect people wanting to scatter mom or dad at their favorite place, but they should consider having a permanent place where children and grandchildren and other family members can go. Cemeteries are forever. The grieving process is forever, and 20 years from now, you may want a place to go to pay your respects at a grave.”

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