Written by Shelley Russell, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
WATERLOO (KWWL) -
Folks in the funeral industry admit services can get tricky in winter months, but they must go on.
Funeral Director at Redman-Schwartz Funeral Home Travis Bouska said in his six years at the funeral home, he's only had to cancel a service once because of weather.
"It's a one time deal. You have one chance to get it right," he said.
He said there are a lot of people involved in the process, so canceling or postponing a traditional funeral service and ground burial can be chaotic.
"Depending on if we had a recent snow storm or ice storm, sometimes there might be an additional day in there that cemeteries, or grave diggers as they're referred to, need time to thaw the ground which typically is something that's done overnight over a 24-hour period," he said.
Bouska said he worries about people tripping and falling on ice or snow.
"The minute the casket makes it to the grave site and they have it up on the equipment, it's kind of a sigh of relief," he said.
Bouska said it can be difficult to keep the vehicles clean in winter months, but that their funeral homes are equipped to wash the hearse inside a heated garage if necessary.
He also said it's also difficult to dress for colder weather because there is an expectation that funeral directors wear a suit and tie.
"The majority of people are used to, or maybe expect, a funeral director in a suit and tie and suit coat, and anybody that has bought a suit before knows how thick that they aren't. There's a lack of warmth there, but we do wear long underwear underneath the suit, and extra gloves and hats out in the cemetery when it's cold," he said.
"And most families are understanding," said Bouska.
Meanwhile, employees from Wilbert Vault Company have to brave the cold temperatures since they're responsible for setting up dozens of grave sites across Northeast Iowa every week.
"I feel like it's an important thing to get done, and you get done working even in the bad weather, you let the family know that we do care and want to get your loved ones buried," said Ken Bradley who has helped set up grave sites with Wilbert Vault Company for more than 12 years.
Bradley and his co-worker Troy Niedert set up a site on Wednesday.
"When it comes down to the vault men, we're out there no matter what the weather is like," said Bradley.
"We get no choice in the matter," he said.
Both Bradley and Niedert said in the extreme cold temperatures, they'll work for 10-15 minutes and then go back inside their vehicle to warm up since most of the work is done without gloves on.
"Oh you get your days in the winter when the winds are blowing and the snow's flying, and it can be pretty miserable out there...but you've got to get the job done," said Bradley.
Bradley said the springtime is the hardest season for them to work in because of the soft, muddy ground.
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