Remembering Robert F. Kennedy’s Funeral Train

More than 40 years ago, Robert F. Kennedy died after being shot by Sirhan Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California.  This tragedy took place mere minutes after Kennedy won the state’s Democratic presidential primary election.

On June 8, Kennedy’s body passed through Delaware County on its way to the nation’s capital on a funeral train. His funeral was the only nighttime funeral in the history of Arlington National Cemetery. It was not planned that way, however. It just happened because of the delays caused by the more than one million mourners who stood alongside the tracks of the funeral train as his body went by.

One of the most amazing parts of Kennedy’s assassination was his concern for others despite what happened to him. Just seconds after he was shot, a hotel busboy heard the senator ask if everybody was alright while he was probably in anguish from the gunshot wounds.

Those words are the subject of a documentary that Oscar-winning filmmaker Jon Blair created on about the incident. He asks “Is everybody alright?” referring to the people who lined the tracks as the train’s funeral cars went by.  You can read more about the documentary here and order the documentary online.

Stories – and documentaries – like this illustrate just how important modes of transportation can be during a funeral.  While funeral trains were long retired by the time Kennedy died, reviving them for his funeral gave the country a chance to come together to mourn – and comfort.

 


PHOTO ROUNDUP: 10 Vintage Funeral Cars from Cadillac

The manufacturing of petrol-driven began in 1909 in the United States. Cadillac started building hearses in 1916 and remain a major player in the industry today.

Cadillac created a “commercial chassis” which is a stronger version of the long-wheelbase Fleetwood limousine. The commercial chassis allows for extra weight of the body, cargo and rear deck.

Below is a history of Cadillac hearses manufactured throughout the decades.

1916 Cadillac Carved-Panel Hearse

The oldest know Cadillac hearse to exist. Mourners could view the casket when the drapes were pulled back.

1916 Cadillac Carved-Panel Hearse

1941 Cadillac Gothic Carved-Panel Hearse

1941 Cadillac Gothic Carved-Panel Hearse

1946 Cadillac Limousine-Style Hearse by Superior

1946 Cadillac Limousine-Style Hearse by Superior

1953 Cadillac Landau Hearse by Superior

1953 Cadillac Landau Hearse by Superior

1955 Cadillac Flower Car

1955 Cadillac Flower Car

1956 Cadillac Limousine-Style Ambulance

1956 Cadillac Limousine-Style Ambulance

1957 Cadillac Imperial Sedan by Fleetwood

1957 Cadillac Imperial Sedan by Fleetwood

1959 Cadillac Landau Combination

1959 Cadillac Landau Combination

1960 Cadillac Victoria Landau Hearse

1960 Cadillac Victoria Landau Hearse

1970 Cadillac Crown Sovereign

1970 Cadillac Crown Sovereign

Photos via HearseWorks


Does In-Dash Funeral Car Technology Distract Drivers?

hearse funeral car Lincoln distracted drivingImagine getting into your funeral car or hearse and typing in the address of a cemetery you’ve never been to before on your in-dash GPS unit.  Your touchscreen interface pops a map and directions for getting to the cemetery from your funeral home. It’s a common occurrence these days but it has spawned an interesting debate.

Does that constitute a driving hazard?

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, it could very well be distracting to drivers.

New discussions at the DOT may lead to legislation that requires auto makers to block such technology inside vehicles. But you know as well as we do that in-dash technology isn’t the problem. Many drivers use their cell phones for talking and texting while driving. That is much more harmful than GPS navigation.

Naturally, the automobile industry is challenging the DOTs train of thought. As well it should.

Some in-dash technology can benefit funeral car drivers while conducting their normal business. GPS is one such technology. But what about Internet browsing? What if you have a client ask a question and you want to ensure that the information you provide is accurate? A quick Internet search would solve the problem, right?

Of course, we would caution readers against conducting the search while driving, but who wouldn’t?  Let’s not blame the technology for the irresponsibility of certain drivers – let’s find a way to give people access to technology that makes travel safer while teaching its responsible use.


Roadfuture

21st Century Hearse: What Will Future Funeral Cars Look Like?

21st century funeral cars and the mobility internetWhat will the next incarnation of the funeral car look like? Back in 2012, authors William Mitchell, Christopher Borroni-Bird, and Lawrence Burns believe they know. A new book describes what they call the “mobility internet,” and the implications for the funeral car business are incredible.

For starters, this trio are suggesting that all cars, funeral hearses included, will not only be driven electrically but be electronically controlled. Translation: That means they’ll have a battery that needs charging, but the inside mechanisms of the vehicles themselves will be electronic.

Another idea floated by these authors is technology that allows vehicles on the road to communicate between themselves and the surrounding infrastructure. You’ll be able to see traffic ahead of you, say, between the funeral home and the cemetery, and pick alternate routes if you have to.

One implication of the interconnected infrastructure is something they call a “clean energy grid.” A reduction in auto emissions plus the entire transportation ecosystem being driven by the internet.

Just over five years later and we’ve already seen advancements that show these authors were on the right track.  Electric cars are now seen on roadways thanks to Tesla and advancements in batteries and automotive technology mean that autonomous driving features are now almost standard.  While there’s still no communication grid between cars and their environments, the idea seems less far-fetched.

Another idea that was mentioned by the authors and may come to fruition is the idea of dynamic pricing for markets such as parking, roads, electricity, etc.  Imagine your funeral customers being able to reserve their parking spaces at your funeral home before they arrive. You can have assigned parking spaces for the cars joining the procession after the service and those that won’t be going to the cemetery service. And you can have electric battery chargers as an added service.

Of course, these advancements haven’t entirely made their way to commercial vehicles such as funeral hearses … yet.  But as consumers and the general public embraces these changes, it becomes a lot more likely we will see them become a part of professional options as well.

There’s no telling how the mobility internet might affect the overall funeral business and your ability to manage your funeral car fleet, but if the vision of these authors is any indication, it will be a wild ride.


5 Tips on How To Increase Funeral Car Fuel Efficiency

funeral car fuel efficiencyAn interesting article about the auto start-stop feature got me to thinking about fuel efficiency in funeral cars. In a day when gas prices are hitting near $4 per gallon or more, fuel economy is becoming an increasingly more important concern for all drivers. It should also be an important concern for funeral directors.

When you consider that funeral cars are constantly starting and stopping in traffic, this is very important to talk about.

You park your funeral car, then drive it around to where the pall bearers will load it with a casket. From there you drive to the cemetery. From the funeral home to the cemetery you will undoubtedly stop and restart your vehicle several times – at stop lights, stop signs, in traffic, etc. The auto start-stop feature can increase your fuel efficiency.

The way this feature works is, when you sit idle in your funeral car for more than a few seconds, the vehicle’s engine shuts off. When you accelerate again it restarts. The engine shutting off and coming back on like this will save your fuel.

With Ford Motor Company offering this feature as an option for less than $300, I think this could spell a new direction for the auto industry as a whole, even funeral cars.  It’s a system that has many owners of fleet cars – including funeral home directors – taking a closer look at ways to improve overall fuel efficiency.  Here are five other ways funeral directors can improve and maintain better fuel economy:

  • Don’t Idle – This top tip is where the inspiration for systems like Ford’s Stop-Start option.  Idling your car can cost you – literally.  Idling can burn up to 2 ounces of fuel a minute – that’s 20 ounces within 10 minutes.  Funeral cars tend to idle for a long time, with some funeral homes leaving them running as they wait for families to get in.  Shut the car off if you’re going to be still for more than a few minutes and save yourself plenty at the pump.
  • Inflate Tires Properly – Checking that your funeral car’s tires are properly infalted reduces the resistance of your tires on the pavement.  This reduces drag and can make a difference in fuel economy.
  • Watch the Oil Maintenance – When dealing with a fleet of cars, some funeral homes have them serviced all at the same time – and as cheaply as possible.  This means some cars may not be getting serviced when they should while others may not be getting the specific kind of oil they need to perform.  Keeping each car to its own schedule and sticking to vehicle manufacture guidelines improves overall performance.
  • Seal Your Gas Cap – This is one that many people laugh at when they first see it, but hear me out.  I’m not talking about making sure your gas cap is on, it’s about the rubber seal around the cap.  The seal prevents oxygen from getting into your gas system.  Extra oxygen means more air getting to your engine and that means more fuel consumption.  Seals can degrade and crack over time and that’s where maintenance comes into play.  If your seal starts to go, don’t replace it with the cheapest knock-off you can find.  Invest the extra money for OEM or equivalent.
  • Shop Smart – If you maintain a larger fleet, work with a local gas station for a price break.  If you’re not able to do that, use apps to find the best prices and then strike while the iron is hot.  Double up the smart shopping by paying with a credit card that offers cash back on fuel purchases.

 


Financing a Funeral Car – A Basic Overview

Individuals who purchase automobiles for their personal driving often buy on credit. Auto financing is a huge business in the personal automobile category. Even businesses that purchase cars for business use, whether they will be driven by one person or shared by a team, will purchase autos on loan. But what about funeral coaches?

Yes, even funeral coaches can be purchased on loan. Auto financing for funeral coaches works pretty much the same way that it does for other cars.

Your funeral home should come prepared to leave a down payment. Figure out how much of a down payment you can afford and that will often influence your finance rate and the length of your loan term. A higher down payment, for instance, will often result in a lower finance rate and a shorter term loan.

When you figure the life of your funeral coach, you’ll be surprised at the value of buying your coach through financing. And if your company has a positive credit rating, you’ll get good terms as well.

Here are five things that influence the terms of your auto loan agreement when you purchase a funeral coach through financing:

  1. Size of your down payment
  2. Your company’s credit rating
  3. The current market rate for financing
  4. Length of the loan term
  5. Amount you are borrowing

Funeral coach financing, like personal automobile financing, moves in waves. Finance rates go up, then they go back down. The trick to getting the best deal on your coach purchase is to purchase when the rates are low. That time is right now.

According to BankRate, auto financing rates are at a low point. That includes financing funeral coaches and limousines.  These rates can vary depending on when you intend to buy as well as your area so be sure to check back often in order to get an idea for the best time to buy.

Financing a funeral coach is easy. Your funeral home can leverage its financial position by financing its coaches and spreading out the purchase price of the vehicle over the life of the coach itself. This helps you, and it helps your clients.

Heritage Coach is committed to providing funeral homes and funeral directors with the best funeral coaches at the best prices, and that includes the best finance rates. If you think you’ll be in the market for a new funeral coach any time in the next year, then start looking now. Pick your coach and finance while the rates are low.


Funeral Car Restoration – Why We All Want to be Pat Brewer

Planning your own funeral is about more than choosing a playlist or even selecting your casket.  For many people, it’s also about deciding which car you’ll use for your Final Ride.  If at least part of your focus is on the car you’ll use to ride off into the sunset, then you’ll want to learn about Charles “Pat” Brewer.

Brewer, a Brooksville, Florida resident, has some of the most classic hearses and funeral cars you will ever find. One is a 1938 Packard Eight hearse. In addition, he has a 1937 Packard Super Eight limousine and a 1947 Lincoln Continental. He believes his 1937 limo once belonged to legendary boxer Jack Dempsey.

Brewer is also the founder of Brewer & Sons Funeral Homes. His son now runs the business which operates funeral homes in Brooksville, Spring Hill, Tampa, Clermont, South Tampa and Groveland. This gives Pat the opportunity to do what he loves – restore old vehicles.

The funeral home offers these old restored funeral cars to families who request them. They are requested at least one time a month. People seem to enjoy them with their two-tone gray and black paint jobs. As a result of the two tones, Brewer has not been able to rent his classic funeral cars out to Hollywood because producers are looking for hearses that are simply black as that is more historically accurate than the black with the gray.

In addition to transporting loved ones to their final resting place, Brewer also enjoys showing off his classic funeral cars at various shows. One time he took his gangster-like funeral cars to a show in New Port Richey. At the time, Al Gore was vice president and he was in attendance. Unfortunately, Brewer had a “Tommy” gun in the back of his car to give it an extra “gangster feel.” The Secret Service found out about it and confiscated the unloaded gun. Brewer got his gun back after Gore left the event later that day.

Brewer’s 1938 Packard has been with him since the mid-1980s. Before he purchased it, the Packard was used as an ambulance and later as a vehicle for a rock band’s equipment. However, the band blew the motor and the Packard ended up sitting in a garage for about 20 years.

Brewer recounts how he came across the classic hearse: “I finished playing golf one day at the (Brooksville) country club and was talking to a man from Cloverleaf who said his brother had one. I flew up to look at it. The man rebuilt the engine and then it took me two years to restore it.”

After restoring his 1938 Packard, Brewer discovered the 1937 Packard limo at an Orlando dealer. He traded his Model A roadster for it.

“It came out of Miami,” Brewer recounted about the limousine. “A land sales dealer used it for driving people back and forth. It had spring a leak in the roof and rotted out all the material.” Brewer believes Jack Dempsey, the legendary boxer, owned the limo but has no concrete evidence to prove it.

Brewer “souped up” the limo with a 500-cubic-inch Cadillac motor, two batteries and dual air conditioning. “We have to use these cars so they have to be reliable,” he explained. The front seat still has the original leather but the back has burgundy nylon velour because the roof leaked for years and damaged the original interior.

Of all his funeral cars, Brewer appreciates the 1947 Lincoln Continental the most. He has customized it with parts from various automakers to make it his own. Back in its day, it was used as a moonshine runner in West Virginia. He is currently in the process of working out some kinks in the ’47 Continental before putting it on the road for his business.

As the founder of a funeral home and a funeral car enthusiast, Pat Brewer understands the importance of the funeral process not only for those left behind, but for the dearly departed as well.  While it’s true that you can’t take it with you, the fact is, you can plan the perfect send off knowing that a dedicated team of professionals will ensure your loved ones experience one more day that celebrates your life.

 

 


Funeral Driving Etiquette: What to Do When in a Procession of Funeral Cars

There is often a lot of focus on informing drivers what to do when they encounter a procession of funeral cars – but what about when you’re in the procession of funeral cars?

Here we’ve brought together some simple, straight-forward rules on what to do when you are a part of the funeral procession.  We’ve tried to address the most common questions and challenges so that bereaved drivers can act with confidence and understand what to expect from other drivers as well as what may be expected from them.

  • Lose the Lead Foot – Funeral processions travel more slowly than average.  expect to keep your speed at least 5 miles under the posted speed limit, including when you’re on the highway.  this is done to ensure everyone can keep up and stay together.
  • Filter Out the Flashing Lights – Since funeral processions travel more slowly, they may be have a police escort.  Try not to get distracted by the flashing lights.  Keep your eyes focused on the car ahead of you in order to keep up with the procession.
  • Turn Your Headlights On – This is so other cars can see you clearly and they are alerted that you are part of the procession.
  • Stay in Position – It is extremely rude to even try to pass the car in front of you while driving in the procession.
  • Keep Up With the Procession – If you fall too far behind, you may lose the other cars and all the cars behind you will be lost, too.
  • Use Caution at Intersections – Although funeral cars are allowed to go through stop lights and intersections, drivers these days simply do not pay attention and they could plow into you. Just take a quick look both ways to see if it looks like any cars are going to pose a problem before proceeding through the intersection.
  • Are You The Last in Line – If your car is the last in the funeral procession you should have two funeral flags and have been instructed to have your hazard lights flashing.  Sometimes this is not necessary with a full police presence.
  • Run the Light – Funeral processions are usually given the full right of way at red lights and Stop signs.  No matter what you encounter, do not stop if the car ahead of you continues to go.

These simple rules can help make the journey to the cemetery a bit less stressful.  if, however, you feel you are too emotional to drive, ask the funeral home about transportation options through their funeral car service.


MuscleCarHearse

Muscle Car Hearses – Funeral Cars for Old School Car Enthusiasts

MuscleCarHearse

Mention ‘muscle cars’ to most car fans and they’ll waste no time telling you about their favorite model.  Chevy’s iconic Corvette, Ford’s Mustang Shelby, Pontiac’s Firebird Trans Am and – of course – the Dodge Charger have all become such cultural icons they are recognizable to car enthusiasts and the general public alike.  These cars have come to represent power, freedom and the thrill of the open road.

So what happens when someone who loves these iconic pieces of American history passes away?  For some, the thought of making their final ride in a traditional hearse leaves them feeling underwhelmed.  Their family and friends often feel the same way and wish there was a way for their loved one to ride to their final place in a car befitting the way they lived.

That’s where muscle car hearses come in.

Back in 2009, these funeral cars made a splash when they were a part of Detroit’s Woodward Dream Cruise.  Every August, the Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit, Michigan, dazzles thousands of spectators who come to see the best that the automakers have put out over the years. More than 40,000 custom cars, collector automobiles, street rods and other impressive vehicles line Woodward Avenue revving their engines and showing people what they got. But this year there is going to be a new unique addition to the annual event.

As part of the event, Lynch Sons Funeral Home of Clawson displayed a classic 1939 Henney-Packard hearse at Peabody’s Restaurant in nearby Birmingham. The hearse was part of a much larger display that showcased the history of the American funeral.  The display, “Reflections: The American Funeral,” was a museum on wheels complete with exhibits on funeral customs, practices and other funeral-related items designed to educate and entertain.  It featured relics from the past and glimpses of the future – including innovative new designs for funeral cars.

Muscle hearses were still new back then and, while they still haven’t exactly gone mainstream, they have developed an enthusiastic fan base.   South East Funeral Services in Australia, for example, now offers muscle car hearse options for people who want to make their last ride one to remember.   Then, in 2013, a team out of Atlanta, Georgia unveiled their custom hot rod hearse – a ’60 Cadillac Superior Coachworks hearse they had completely revamped, reworked and re-imagined into something new.  They dubbed their creation the Thundertaker and had it featured on HotRod.com.  You can check out the details of this 36-month build on HotRod’s feature article on the Thundertaker.

Muscle cars and hearses were not traditionally the kinds of cars most people would think of combining.  As funerals have become more customizable, however, hearses have also become a way for people to express themselves.  Collectors and funeral homes alike now see the benefit and the joy there is in creating beautiful hearses and other funeral cars by reworking the traditional views and creating a fleet of cars for a whole new generation.


Forgotten Veterans – The Missing in America Project

Did you know that there are literally thousands of unclaimed urns full of ashes left behind at funeral homes?  That comes out to about 10 percent of the total number of cremations conducted each year.   In many cases, these remains are never reunited with family or loved ones.  Sometimes it’s because a family ends up not being able to pay for the cremation.  Other reasons can include people who were not able to be identified at the time of their death, or those who passed away with no surviving family or friends.

Many people have wondered if it would be possible to find a final resting place for an important segment of uncollected remains – the final remains of veterans.  One nationwide veterans group is trying to do something to identify and claim many of the cremains that came from soldiers who fought for their country.

The Missing in America Project has identified more than 3,000 remains over the past several years.   In some cases, they have been able to get the remains to surviving family members while, in others, fellow servicemen and women have stepped forward to provide a final resting place for their fallen friend.

Quite often, the MIA Project is able to have a full funeral service for veterans once they are identified.  This includes a full funeral car procession and ceremonies related to their branch of the Armed Services.   The Missing in America project works with local funeral homes, social service organizations, veteran’s groups, legions and VFWs.  To learn more about their project or to find out how you can help, check out their home page at www.miap.us.