Local funeral home faces challenges due to COVID-19

By Nancy Price

Funeral homes are one of the hardest hit industries during the coronavirus pandemic. Many families served by St. Pierre Family Funeral & Cremation Services have chosen to eliminate traditional viewing and funerals, opting for graveside burial and direct cremation with memorial services indefinitely postponed. As well, no tents are allowed at graveside services as that encourages “gathering” and not “social distancing,” according to owner, Paul St. Pierre.

“We had one family that selected our funeral home, then they opted to go elsewhere because we were enforcing restrictions of 10 people and social distancing,” St. Pierre said.

Due to those limitations, St. Pierre added he is concerned that families of the deceased will not want to have a funeral or memorial service when restrictions are lifted, and they are allowed to have more friends in attendance. “A funeral or memorial service is still necessary for families to grieve and get through their loss – not around it,” he said.

“It has been very difficult for all the COVID-19 deaths but also the families whose loved one did not pass from COVID,” St. Pierre continued. “Those families are also affected by the gathering restrictions. We had a visitation for a young 58-year-old. While he didn’t die of COVID-19, we are still protective of the health of all.”

St. Pierre Family Funeral & Cremation Services enforces social distancing during graveside services. (Submitted photo)

Safety measures implemented at funeral homes owned by St. Pierre include a substantial supply of respirators, gloves and gowns. “We are prepared but I’m sure we will continue to acquire anything else we see available.” As well, technology efforts have been stepped up. “We are now very accustomed to making funeral and cremation arrangements with families with a digital casket and urn selection rooms with email and/or Zoom,” he said. “If a family had a death due to COVID-19, we will definitely meet the family online – not in person. This is because the family very likely spent time with their loved one sometime during that infection period. Families are accepting of it and are getting through the changes.”

St. Pierre said his funeral homes have expanded to a fourth facility for cold body storage “to assist us prior to any kind of preparation.”

“We’ve been ready since early March and very prepared,” he said. “We can convert any room to accommodate more cold storage space in six hours.”

St. Pierre Family Funeral & Cremation Services owns Wilson St. Pierre, Simplicity Funeral Care and the Cremation Society of Indiana.