Honoring The Dead Differently

A football poster and a basketball hoop are two key ingredients in the Sports Vignette, designed to look like a sports fan's den, Monday, Oct. 7, 2002, at the Wade Funeral home in St. Louis. AP

When loved ones pass on, many families are passing up the chance to bury them the old fashioned way. Instead they chose something different.

It's the new face of an industry that's making funerals, less funereal.

The Wade Funeral Home in Saint Louis has built intricate sets worthy of a theatre where the dearly departed can bow out of this life in more comfortable surroundings, reports CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger.

There's a set for sports fans who can rest in peace below a basketball goal or near a small fish-stocked pond where a sign notes "Fishing Season Is Close". There's even a recliner, remote control and TV.

Another set titled Big Momma's Kitchen makes a big production out of people who leave memories of mealtimes.

"I actually have pots on the stove simulating cooking and of course the remains are here," said employee Debora Kellom.

The theatrical backdrops have been big hits in St. Louis. Almost half the customers have chosen to hold visitations in settings their loved ones would have loved.

Angela Harris chose the Big Momma's Kitchen set for her mother's funeral. "It made you feel a little better to come in and see people around, looking at different things instead of just standing there crying and just looking at my mother you know."

Is this a little too frivolous for someone who's just lost their mother or their father?

"It doesn't diminish the death at all," she said. "What it does, it helps you to remember and reflect."

There are fans of old fashioned funerals who believe these new theatrical ceremonies are undignified -- more like a stage show. But these sets have breathed new life into an industry where undertakers became known as funeral directors and are now thinking like Broadway directors.

"Our expectation is it will continue to grow and we believe that's a very healthy thing," said funeral director Ken Camp.

Camp runs the Batesville Casket Company, which pioneered the idea of funeral sets and introduced them to funeral directors around the country.

"It's very clear to us that this is the way of the future," he said. "I think it's very likely it could expand and that funerals like weddings will have very unique elements."

It's an idea that takes some getting used to as families learn a funeral doesn't have to be deadly to honor the dead.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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