The Funeral Industry: Not Just For Men!

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Mar 18, 2020

Mar 18, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

The funeral industry can be tough for many people to wrap their heads around when it comes to the desire to work in this niche. There has been an increase in women getting into the funeral industry for a variety of reasons. According to the New York State Funeral Directors Association this number has skyrocketed. In the last 4 decades the percentages of female funeral directors has gone from 5 percent to 43 percent. Morticians are a career that is dominated by males as the number of funeral directors and morticians that are male are around 3 out of every 4.

There is a physical component to the funeral industry as bodies can be extremely heavy. A large portion of the role is transporting the dead bodies but other roles are available. Being surrounded by death is not for everyone but for those that can handle it, there are quite a few stable jobs to look into.

Most people do not want to be a funeral director as a child as death makes a large number of people uncomfortable. Women are entering this industry at a high rate as the celebration of life is something that people get satisfaction from being able to offer this event to a grieving family.

Rebecca Majus has been a funeral director as well as embalmer at Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home in Naperville. The 24-year old has worked this job for a few months after graduation for her degree in Mortuary Science from Southern Illinois University. She does admit that it was not her first career choice but seeing the number of jobs can help others with the decision. The creativity of a funeral director and caring nature that has to be taken on appeal to her.

Majus was quoted, “I started out wanting to be a vet, then thought about being a dental hygienist, but a lot of people in high school started to suggest becoming a funeral director,” “I don’t know, maybe I’m just a weirdo.”

The physical component of the job is stressed in all programs as this will be a staple of the job. There are never going to be two days exactly alike which provides something new and interesting on a daily basis. Majus has admitted that she has never had any fear working with corpses. She prepares the bodies for the coffin which will allow the person to look their best on the last day their families can see them physically. The job does require quite a bit of planned which Majus says, “There’s a lot to learn with a lot of details and I’m naturally detail-orientated,”

When asked about the preparation of the bodies Majus replied, “We use restorative art to make them look as natural as possible,” “We position and dress them. Sometimes, I’ve been asked to paint their toenails and, in another case, I placed fishing poles in the hands of a keen fisherman.”

Kelsey Fisher is another funeral director at Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home that finds the work to lift her spirits. Most people would think of the job as depressing but this is not the case for Fisher. Kelsey considers being a funeral director as more than a job as it is very uplifting for the most part. She does say there are sad moments,” “I have never found it depressing, but the saddest thing is if there is no family to share stories and memories,” “Usually, though, it’s very uplifting.”

Fisher graduated from Waubonsie Valley and enjoys the community aspect of the job. Growing up and working in the same area allows her to better understand the people that come through the door on the day of a funeral.

She mentions the following,” “Being born and raised here, it’s nice to see familiar faces, even in times that may not be so great for them,” “Just because there are so many aspects to the job, you really have to devote your time to it, it’s a lifestyle. This job is exciting, rewarding and definitely has meaning. It’s similar to nursing in that way.” You do have to stay devoted as she mentions as certain days can be far tougher than others. Knowing a family that has lost a loved one can touch you in extremely personal ways.

Ray Jones’ daughter Stephanie Jones-Kastelic joined the family business in the late 1990’s. Jones’ father started the business in the late 1970’s and Kastelic joined after working as an accountant at Deloitte. Stephanie joined the business and works with families planning out the funeral. Small details can make a huge difference in how a funeral is received which is something to keep in mind.

She notes the changes in demographics of the funeral industry and notes females bring an added perspective to the business, “In 1996, women were just starting to come into this male-dominated industry,” she said. “It was thought they couldn’t manage the heavy lifting of caskets involved, but they do fantastic.”

She also notes the differences in personalities of most men and women,” “It’s very easy for us to hug people, it’s second nature for us to be compassionate. “So much of our work is connected to cosmetics and beauty. Even flowers, choosing them to match the dress your mom is wearing, for example.”

The world has become far less traditional in terms of funerals as the past was full of funerals sticking to certain traditions. As families have become far more integrated than in the past there has been a blending of traditions and creation of new traditions. Jones-Kastelic also understands the need to accommodate a large variety of requests. A few instances of this were quoted as being, “They can have religious or not, music and poetry. We even did one where we played heavy metal. A few years ago, we had a lady who had been a consummate gardener. We filled her watering cans with flowers and every guest was given a bulb with a special tag.”

Children passing away under any circumstances is a challenge for anyone. Planning this is to be done with care as honoring the child in a way that also helps a family find closure is imperative.