The Fan Club, a funeral story

Posted on March 5, 2014 by Guest Contributor under Funeral Directing, Uncategorized
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December had arrived and Christmas was only a couple of weeks away when “Norman” died suddenly when he fell off the roof of his house while hanging Christmas lights. Seven family members came to Schoedinger to complete his funeral arrangements. They were bombarded with intense feelings of shock and disbelief. Our funeral director, Carl, quickly learned that Norman was truly a family man and an all-around cool guy. Norman loved kids. Not only did he have three children of his own, he had hundreds of others that he treated “like his own” while coaching at his church’s school where he served as Athletic Director. He was really nothing more than a 6’4, 350 pound kid himself.

steelersHis wife described him as “the world’s biggest Pittsburgh Steelers fan.” Carl encouraged Norman’s family to bring in some of his Steelers collectables and any other personal articles. Norman’s family thought that was a great idea! The next day, Norman’s sister-in-law appeared at the funeral home with boxes upon boxes of goodies to display and announced that they would like to “decorate Norman’s room” for the visitation. They brought t-shirts, coats, shorts, hats, mugs, sweatshirts, plaques, flags, uniforms, newspaper articles, awards, and countless pictures. They even brought in bleachers Norman purchased at an auction before they imploded the old Pittsburgh Steelers Stadium! It was decided that the “middle room” of the Grove City funeral chapel would showcase all Norman’s Steelers items because a traditional Catholic setting had been requested for the viewing room. The fantastic “Steeler’s Room” also had a monitor to show Norman’s Video Tribute.  We decorated our Christmas tree with his hats and mugs. His coats and shirts were hanging from the draperies. Pictures were removed from the chapel’s walls in order to hang displays with t-shirts and photographs from the school and his workplace. All of the chapel’s memory boards were used to exhibit the numerous photos and newspaper clippings and were strategically placed throughout the building so guests could enjoy the photos while they waited in the visitation line.

Since he was retired from the US Air Force, the family decided they would like him dressed in his military uniform. His fatigues were displayed on a hall tree alongside a table showing some of his military memorabilia. He looked marvelous in his casket with a spray of gold and black roses atop and his favorite gold and black towel used as the casket lid panel, both of which depicted his love for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The family was pleased with Norman’s natural appearance.

It quickly became apparent that Norman had hundreds of “fans”! The chapel warmly welcomed over 500 individuals who valued their friendship with Norman and came to support his family. Friends and family were encouraged to share their thoughts and personal stories by completing “Special Memory” cards while they waited for their moment to speak with the family. What a great fan club!

During the church service, his 18 year-old son took his turn at the lectern to publicly thank everyone for the love and support given to his family. The school children in attendance wore their school jerseys to show their love and affection for their favorite Coach. On the hearse, Steelers flags were placed above the windows for all to see as it led the 100+ car procession to the cemetery. At the graveside, Wright Patterson Air Force Base performed full military honors as a final tribute to this honorable Veteran.

At Schoedinger, we always encourage families to make the funeral service for a loved one more meaningful by inviting them to display items that tell the story of the person’s life, their passions and their accomplishments. Even the process of family members taking the time to collect photos and items to share can be a helpful and healing experience.

Did you know that a Christmas tree is available any month of the year for any family that may want to display a collection of ornaments as part of an individual’s tribute?

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