Funeral Business Advisor sat down with Charles A. Shaw, Sr, a funeral director at Schoppenhorst, Underwood and Brooks Funeral Home in Louisville, Kentucky to learn more about his career and experiences in the funeral industry.
Did you always want to be a funeral director?
No, I did not. I spent most of my life as a truck driver. I got into the funeral industry when I began selling cemetery properties with SCI. I stayed in that line of work for about 5 years, but soon after decided to start working for my first funeral home in Mt. Washington. After a few years, things slowed down and I was laid off, but I soon found another job with Schoppenhorst, Underwood and Brooks Funeral Home, where I have been for about 12 years now.
What is your favorite part about working in this industry?
My favorite thing about working in this industry by far is helping families. Being there to help the families through some of the hardest times in their lives has been a really rewarding process.
How are you involved in your community?
I belong to the Zoneton Masonic lodge #964 and we make donations to the WHAS Crusade for Children. As a part of the Masonic Lodge, we also take a casket to local high schools and provide a visual simulation of death in an attempt to make the dangers of texting and driving clear to the students.
What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
I am most proud of the fact that I work for a family owned funeral home. This industry is not about making money to me, it’s about providing a service that truly helps people. Mr. Underwood, my boss, does a fantastic job treating each and every person who comes in the same. It doesn’t matter if you have big budget or a small budget, you know you’ll be treated the same. I’m really proud to be a part of that.
It’s such a blessing to work for Mr. Underwood. He goes out of his way to serve our customers. Once you walk through our doors, you become a part of our family. The atmosphere we work so hard to create really sets us apart from other funeral homes in the area.
Have you had to overcome any major struggles in your career?
I can’t say that I have. Everything about this career comes really easy to me. This is what I should have been doing my entire life. Honestly, I thought I would be retired by now, but I enjoy what I do too much to give it up.
What does excellent customer service mean to you in this industry?
It means making sure that the customer always has what they need and really taking the time to listen to them. Something as simple as just listening to the families can reveal really important information about their loved ones that can help make the funeral that much more special.
Looking forward to the future, what are you most excited about? What are you most concerned about?
I’m most excited about keeping the job I have and waking up every day to continue helping families get through rough times. What I do every day is more than just a job, it’s what I was meant to do all along. It’s truly a calling.
I’m most concerned about the cremation trend we are seeing nowadays. We don’t lose money when families choose cremation, but we don’t generate the same income that we normally do with traditional full service funeral. It’s a change in the industry that we will have to take a close look at.
Do you have any advice for other funeral directors in the industry?
If you get to a point where the funerals don’t bother you or affect you anymore, you need to get out of the profession. Every family is coming to you because they’ve lost a loved one. Every family is different but they have the same need – they have experienced a big loss. Whether the loss was expected or not, it will still be a really tough time for the families and you need to have the compassion to understand that. You need to be able to connect with the families you serve, and to do so you need to take personal interest in each funeral.
How do you keep residual emotions from following you home?
You have to realize that the person you are dealing with is no longer there. It was just a shell that housed their body and their soul is already gone. Although helping a family through such a big loss can be taxing, at the end of the day it’s human nature and it’s a part of life. FBA