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Cremation up locally; burial still prime

A national trend of using cremation instead of a traditional burial is catching on, but traditional funerals are still the norm here.

According to the Cremation Association of North America (CANA), the number of cremations in the U.S. exceeded 1 million in 2011, the first time ever. The association reported that the cremation rate reached 42.1 percent in 2011.

Locally, funeral directors said, 90 percent of families still choose traditional burial services.

Foreman Funeral Home Vice President Hunter Hobson said his funeral home does between 10-15 percent cremations.

“A lot of people don’t realize that if they are going to be cremated, that they can still have a funeral service like normal,” Hobson said. “The only difference is that they go to the crematory instead of a cemetery.”

Hobson said the funeral home buries 90 percent of its clients.

When asked whether cremation is cheaper than burial, Hobson said that it all depends on what type of cremation service the family requests.

“There are different kinds of cremations,” he said. “If it’s a direct cremation, the funeral home picks up the body and takes it straight to the crematory. Of course that’s cheaper than having a funeral.

“Funerals for a lot of people are when they say, ‘Just put me in a pine box,’ ” he said. “We learn in mortuary school that funerals are for the survivors. It helps with the grieving process.”

Hobson said families can elect to have a viewing of the body before it goes through the cremation process.

The process begins when a body enters a big incinerator or furnace, like a crematory. When the body burns, the remains are swept out of the furnace, cooled, processed and placed into a container or urn.

Keahey Funeral Home Employee Buddy Gill said cremations have been on the rise for several years.

“We have five funeral homes, and each has a different percentage of cremations,” Gill said. “For example, Evergreen is 8 percent and the others are around 20 percent.”

Gill said that cremations became more prevalent when corporations started buying out funeral homes in the mid-1990s.

Gill said the length of time it takes to cremate a body depends on the body weight.

“For a person weighing 250 pounds, it takes approximately 2-and-a-half-hours,” he said. “The crematory can reach up to 2,400 degrees.”

Carrel Wyatt, owner of Wyatt Funeral Home in Opp, said the number of cremations is more than what it was 10-15 years ago.

“It is a lot cheaper than traditional funerals,” Wyatt said.