Funeral Business Advisor sat down with Bart Boxwell, a funeral director with Boxwell Fueneral Directors headquarterd in Amarillo, TX to learn more about his career and experience in the funeral industry.
How did you get into the industry? Did you always want to be a funeral director?
I am a fourth generation funeral director. I grew up in this industry and it has always been very familiar to me, I was never pressured to be a funeral director – but it was a very easy choice for me to go into the family business. Being a funeral director is something that has always come natural to me.
As per my dad’s advice, I got a degree outside of the funeral service just to create options in case funeral service tuned out to be something I did not have a calling for. I went on to get a degree from the University of Texas in History and Government, but after I graduated I still felt like coming back to work with my family so I attended mortuary school in Dallas. In 1991, after finishing mortuary school I completed my certifications and my apprenticeship with my family.
What is your favorite part about working in this industry?
Definitely working with the families. When I was younger, I joined the prep room and I enjoyed the quietness and liked the fact that I didn’t have to deal with the pressure and stress of working directly with the families. But over time, what I wanted out of this industry evolved. As I have grown older and matured, I feel more of a need to help families move through the process. I want to be there for them every step of the way as they work to get through these difficult times.
What are you most proud of in your career thus far? Is there something in particular that stands out?
I am proud to have joined the family business. Getting to work alongside of my father, uncle, and brother is something I am truly grateful for.
What sets Boxwell Brothers apart from other funeral homes in the area?
We started in 1926 and we were small in the market share even through 60 years of service, but when many of the other funeral homes sold to larger conglomerates and we didn’t, it really allowed us to connect to our families on a local level. That’s when things really turned for us in terms of our importance in the community and how connected we felt to them. Our long outstanding dedication to the community has got us to where we are today and the amazing families we serve are the reason we are here today.
How are you involved in the community? Are you part of any community groups or organizations?
I am involved with the NFDA and I am the CEO of the Funeral App so I attend a lot of conventions and industry events. I am also a member of Selected Independent Funeral Homes and Preferred Funeral Directors International.
What is the Funeral App and how did you come up with the idea?
The Funeral App and TheFuneralApp.com were created to provide free online obituaries and help funeral directors and families with funeral planning. The Funeral App is a free resource and it provides online obituaries from any city across the nation. Users can select the cities they want to follow, for free, and set up preferred notification options so that they can receive alerts when new obituaries are posted within a city on their list. If users don’t want to receive notifications, they can still follow the cities of your choice and browse those obituaries for free.
When an obituary is clicked, the link will take the user to the funeral home’s website that is handling the funeral services. From there, users can read the full obituary, and post and send their condolences. They will also find the information they need to send flowers, make travel plans, or contact the grieving family.
I came up with the idea because I was frustrated with our newspaper bill and it just seemed like such an enormous expense for a platform that continues to decline. I had really good technology relationships already established and we came up with a way to index all the funeral home websites to gather the information we needed. Unlike other obituary sites that take traffic away from funeral home websites, we are a search engine that drives traffic to funeral home websites. We are very mindful of being funeral home friendly.
Looking forward to the future, what are you most excited about? Concerned about?
There has been shift in our culture and I’ve noticed a lack of spiritual outlook or world view on life, and that is a little concerning to me. The culture seems to be making a move towards a world view that is less eternal in its thinking. But at the same time I know there are a lot of people out there who do believe we are eternal and that keeps me excited and motivated. The opportunity to minister to people in meaningful ways, beyond just the service, is still very much there and that is what I love about this business.
What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
It sounds silly, but when families hand write me thank you notes – I really appreciate that. Families thank me all the time, but the ones that take the time to sit down and hand write me a note to thank me remind me how rewarding this line of work can be. Serving the families in my community is rewarding in itself, but getting notes from them afterwards just makes me realize I am most certainly in the right line of work – which feels really good.
Do you have any advice you would share with other funeral directors, especially those just now entering the profession?
At your core, you have to want to care for people. The funeral business is very hands on with people going through really difficult times in their lives. If you don’t have a genuine desire to help and take care of others, this industry doesn’t make sense for you. So before you commit to being a funeral director, make sure that is why you are getting in to it. A funeral director needs to really care about people around the clock. FBA