Funeral Business Advisor sat down with Eddie Brown, the owner and funeral director of Brown’s Funeral Service in Atoka, Oklahoma to learn more about his career and experiences in the funeral industry.
Did you always want to be a funeral director?
Yes, I did. I was probably about 12 years old when I decided that. After my granny died, I was intrigued by the actions and interactions of the funeral the process that took place beforehand. I just knew it was something I wanted to do.
What steps did you take to become a funeral director? What was that process like for you?
In my hometown in 1974, there was a man – who became a good friend of mine – who had just bought a funeral home. He told me he would teach me the ins and outs of the funeral home, how it operated, and most importantly how to treat families.
I worked for him on an at-need basis and he called me when he needed me. At the time I was in the convenience store and real estate business, but anytime he called, I would take the time to break away and offer my assistance. He taught me what I needed to know to prepare me for a career in Funeral Service, but I still needed to go to school.
After a few years, I decided to attend the Dallas Institute of Funeral Service 10 days after attending an open house. I had enough help to cover my grocery business for a while, so it was finally the right time. The school was 137 miles from where I lived and I had to leave every morning at 4:30am at drive to Dallas. I did that for a year with a friend of mine and only missed one class. It was something I loved, so nothing was going to stand in my way .I also served as President of the Class.
In 1995, I finally opened my own funeral home here in Atoka, Oklahoma.
What is your favorite part about working in this industry?
Taking care of the people. We jump through hoops here to take care of our families’ needs, there is nothing that we will leave undone. It’s because of that that we have never had a complaint.
It’s the people who are left behind that are hurting. Yes, we take care of the deceased, but we are there every day for the family members.
What are you most proud of thus far in your career?
I’m just tickled to death that I got into this at all. I started at it late in life, I was 38 when I went to school and 40 when I was licensed. Now I am about to celebrate 21 years in this business as an owner, and I’m thankful every day. This is what I was meant to do.
I learned my trades from being poor. I told myself when I was 7 years old that I wasn’t going to wear jeans with holes in them and I set out to change that. Fortunately, I did and things worked in my favor. I’m proud of how hard I have worked to get where I am. This business is 24 hours a day 7 days a week and I make myself available at all hours in case someone needs me. It’s hard, but the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
Looking forward to the future, what are you most excited about?
The future and funeral homes will involve a lot of changes. Just in the past ten years, with cremation exploding like it has we’ve seen a ton of change.
In the future, in order to be successful, we are going to have to be ahead of the changes. I always tell my families that they need to hold some kind of celebration of life even if they choose the cremation route. I encourage them to have a service even if we don’t do it for them. Whether it’s in their home or their own church, I always try to convey how import a service is.
The funeral industry has been changing and will continue to change in the years to come. I think that a lot of funeral homes may end up closing because it is hard to survive on cremations without any kind of service. I still look forward to the future, we’ve always been good at adapting and I am confident that we will. We will always take care of our families.
Do you have any advice you would share with other funeral directors, especially the younger ones who are just now entering the profession?
Funeral services are unlike anything else. Our hours are 24/7 and all holidays. To make it in this business, you’ve got to have a passion for helping people. I urge young people who want to serve and help others to get into this field. It’s a profession that will make you proud of yourself. It’s a great field to be in and in the last few years there are jobs everywhere.
I encourage those who are interested to find a funeral home and funeral director that they can trust and take some time to sit down and talk to them about the industry. We’ve personally helped a lot of people go through school here. I’ve paid for tuitions and transportation. I even encourage studying on the job and really take the time to prepare them and push them to getting it done. I’ve help more than 10 people in that way. I’ve had students working for me since the very beginning.
Do you have a memory from your career in this industry that stands out among the rest?
Yes, there is something that will always stand out for me. Back when the Sandy Hook shooting took place, I knew I wanted to do something to help. I began searching my mind and my heart and finally figured out what we could do. I decided to have a blanket made for each of the victims as well as the shooter’s family – because they were hurting and innocent in the whole incident. I got in touch with Karl Weisenbeck at Funeral Home Gifts and we began designing the blankets immediately even though I wasn’t a current customer.
We also set up a register book at each one of our locations. In just a week’s time, we had accumulated over 10,000 signatures from the people in our communities sending their condolences. I personally flew the packages to Sandy Hook in my company airplane. The personalized packages included a memorial book with copies of over 10,000 signatures, a DVD on grief and two leather bound books on grief in addition to the blankets.
Funeral Home Gifts went above and beyond to help us with that and now we have a great relationship with them. If I ever have issues, I can call Karl directly and he does everything in his power to help me. They are a company I am proud to work with. FBA