Funeral Business Advisor sat down with David Murphy, funeral director with Paul L. Murphy & Sons Funeral Home in Newark, New York to learn more about his career, experience in the funeral industry, and how he created the LoadAloneTM.
What brought you to the funeral industry? Was becoming a funeral director something you had always pictured for yourself ?
I grew up in the funeral home and helped with my dad’s business, so the industry has always been familiar to me. However when it was time for me to go to college, I didn’t find myself wanting to follow in his footsteps and I was more interested in Environmental Science. I got my chemistry degree and was working in New Jersey for a little while when many of the the jobs in my field were sent to Mexico. At that time, I found a job in Alaska on fishing boats as a Fisheries Biologist and I remember sitting there covered in fish slime thinking to myself about how joining the family business wasn’t looking so bad.
I knew I had the funeral home to fall back on, but I think I needed to grow up a little to realize that it was were I was meant to be all along. I had always enjoyed helping my dad when I was younger and after working in Alaska for a few years, I finally came home and took the steps necessary to become a funeral director and joined my family.
What is your favorite thing about working in this industry?
What ultimately pulled me back into the funeral industry was the memory I had of how rewarding the work was. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t feel appreciated. I always say that I am the most thanked person in town – getting to make a difficult time in someone’s life a little easier is something that will always be important to me.
What makes your funeral home unique? What makes it stand out from others?
Our service is what makes us stand out – it’s the most important aspect of our business. We do the best we can do for every single person that walks through our doors. We put the families first and do everything we can to honor their loved ones.
But beyond that, our space is really beautiful. The woodwork, big maple doors, and spacious porch set the standard for quality. We work really hard to ensure that people feel comfortable here, like they belong.
How did you come to invent the LoadAlone™?
The LoadAlone™ was the missing piece of the puzzle that solved a problem I had after an accident on my motorcycle. Almost 6 years ago, I almost died in an accident when a distracted driver hit me and I was left with twelve broken vertebrae and two complete spinal cord injuries. No one was sure if I would live, let alone work again. I was told that the chance of me walking ever again was less than one percent, but I was determined to beat that statistic.
A year after the accident, I was able to take my first steps with the support of family and friends. One year after that I set my sights high and started training for a 5k, which I finished. At work, some new obstacles presented themselves. I needed help with the heavy lifting and that’s when the idea for the LoadAlone™ came to me. Inspired by the way the nets and winches I worked near everyday in Alaska on fishing boats operated, I came up with something that could help me as funeral director.
I made a prototype and it worked perfectly. The winch pulling system makes it easy to load human remains in vehicles for removals and transportation to funeral homes, airports and crematories. From there, I kept finding ways to improve the LoadAlone™ and make it bigger and better. When the word got out, everyone was interested – I even had offers from people to buy the entire company. It has really taken off and I’m proud my idea was able to become a reality. We can’t build them fast enough!
Recently I was also awarded a $40,000 economic development grant from Wayne County after I won a Shark Tank style pitch competition which will really help me launch the LoadAlone™ into the industry and keep up with the demand. I am a firm believer that you can do anything you set your mind to as long as you work hard and don’t lose sight of your goal – the LoadAlone™ is proof of that.
Looking forward to the future, what are you most excited about?
I have some big things on the horizon for the LoadAlone™ and I’m looking forward to the relief of that pressure and finalizing a few things in regards to that. It’s exciting that the business is growing. I am motivated it keep it moving and excited to see where it takes me.
Do you have any advice you would share with other funeral directors, especially those just now entering the profession?
My new mission is to help save our backs. Literally. Funeral directors are prone to back injuries with all the heavy lifting we do day after day and year after year. I don’t think there is anyone in the industry who doesn’t know someone who has injured their back or found themselves with back pain or an injury. My goal with the LoadAlone™ is to prevent that from happening. I want other funeral directors to know that there are options for relief and ways to avoid injuring their backs. When we put others needs before our own, it’s easy to forget that we need to take care of ourselves as well.
In addition to the service you provide, what are some of your favorite ways to stay connected to your community?
I used to be a volunteer fireman and was very active for 17 years. I also had a fishing charter that I ran on the side – I was known as the Fishin’ Mortician. I made a lot of connections that resulted in booked trips while from showing pictures and getting to know families at calling hours. My tagline was “Make a Wake with the Fishin Mortician” and I even had shirts made. Balancing the difficult job and schedule of a funeral director with fishing trip was always a challenge, but so rewarding to getting to know the families I had served a little better and bringing a little joy into their lives with a fun trip.
When you aren’t working in the funeral home, what are some of your favorite things to do in your spare time?
Fishing used to be a really big part of my life, but lately it’s my grand babies. The best day of the week is Grand Baby Wednesday because we have both grand kids that day. They are both around 5 years old, so it’s just a really fun age and I love watching them grow up. FBA