Afternoon Edition: “Get to Know Them” – Mary Lou Cressy

Mary Lou Cressy

As we told you last Thursday, Funeral Director Daily has started a new feature every Thursday entitled, “Get to Know Them”.  In this feature we bring you an interview with someone in the Death Care profession/industry.  From writing this blog I’ve learned that there are so many valuable people who keep our profession moving and making difficult times for families experiencing a loss much easier.  This is our attempt to feature some of these people who we all have come to rely upon.

Today we bring you an interview with Mary Lou Cressy.  Mary Lou is the Principal and acting President of Cressy Memorial dba Crowne Vault.

As a small aside here, I want to tell you that if you enjoy reading Funeral Director Daily, you need to thank the people at Cressy Memorial and Crowne Vault.  When I began blogging I had about 8 readers and that included my wife and two sons, who I made sign up on Twitter so that I could find out if my Twitter feed went out everyday.  It was not easy writing every day and having only five other people, outside my family read my writings while I tried to build up readership by getting on Google for people who might be searching for articles.

It wasn’t long after that that I somehow snared somebody at Crowne Vault into reading my blog daily and they spread word of it around their company.  Even more important to me, however, was that they reached out and encouraged me by telling me how much they enjoyed the articles.  They even said they felt what I had to say to the death care profession was important enough that they would help in underwriting some of my costs and they continue to do so so that you can receive my thoughts every weekday directly in your inbox.

I owe a deep amount of gratitude to Mary Lou Cressy and her team at Crowne Vault.  And, like most things, the financial support is welcomed, but it was really the encouragement that I was on the right track with this blog that made all the difference in the world.  Thank you.

“Get to Know Them”  — Mary Lou Cressey

Q1.  What is your position and company in the Death Care profession/industry at this time?

Principal and acting President of Cressy Memorial dba Crowne Vault.

Q2.  Is this your first employment experience in the Death Care profession/industry?  If so, how did you acquire this position and what do you believe are some of your previous work life experiences that may have qualified you for this position?

My husband Ray Cressy and I started a Manufacturers’ Rep Group in the Great Lakes area in 1986 selling products into the Boat Building and RV Building Industries.  In 2004, one of our good vendors, Howard Miller Clocks diversified and asked us to take their new beautiful wooden urns into the funeral industry. The following year we formed Cressy Memorial, a Manufacturers’ Rep Group serving as the sales and marketing arm for 3 memorial manufacturers. Almost overnight, I changed from marketing plumbing, electrical and lighting to marketing memorial products with beauty, emotion, and comfort. I loved it.

Q3.  How would you describe what you do in your present position?

Our small tight knit company typically does ten or more trade shows a year but with Covid, we have pivoted to reaching out with more phone

calls, virtual meetings, email blasts, post cards and print ads.  A large part of my time is spent researching new products.  Two years ago, we “tooled up” (very expensive) for a compact Crowne Urn Vault because we had listened

Part of the Team at Crowne Vault

closely to the funeral and cemetery professionals  who said some families do not buy an urn and are happy with the temporary crematory container. So we designed an attractive compact urn vault to fit the temporary container with the extra benefit of it being the perfect size for second right interments. And so much less digging! This summer we are finalizing the Island Indoor Columbaria so cemeteries can get immediate niches and we have a Niche Urns project in the pipeline.

Q4.  Do you belong to any professional organizations or associations?  If so, which ones?

NFDA, ICCFA, CANA, SCCFA,CCCand some state cemetery associations.

Q5.  What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing the Death Care community in the next decade?

The general challenge I see for the memorial industry is a cavalier attitude about memorialization. Cremation memorialization has no real timeline. With Covid, I fear many families may get too comfortable with having the urn at home and accepting the Zoom memorial as enough.  Also, there may be less of an urge in those younger than the “boomers” to make pre-arrangements.

One bright spot I see for cemeteries and funeral homes is second rights of interment-with good marketing.  Land locked cemeteries embrace second rights but some other cemeteries do not embrace is.  Many families have no idea what second right interment is or what the cost savings are. Also, there can be a warmth and comfort for family members to share “perpetual” with loved ones.  A funeral director can educate the family about choices and we know the funeral home is actually the referral sources for many choices of cemetery decisions.  The cemetery can research their burials and the deed holders.  So many Americans have moved from city to city and have strong emotional connections with their hometowns (not their recent big city or retirement city). This is a big advantage for a hometown cemetery to reach out to family deedholders-business they could never have imagined possible. Truly, a homeward bound opportunity.

Q6.  What are the best words of advice you received about working in the Death Care community?

The best advice I ever got was from another exhibitor/supplier at a trade show where the attendee participation was disappointing.  I was complaining when this other exhibitor gave me a focus. He said “Look, half the exhibitors on this convention floor, I sell to. The other half, I buy from!”  After that I saw the convention in new light and recognized the new possibilities for growth.  The bond with the other vendors/exhibitors can be fun and friendship filled.

Q7.  What would you advise those thinking about entering the Death Care profession/industry?

I tell everyone that I love working in the funeral industry.  After doing sales presentations in a lot of factories where the engineers and purchasing managers work so hard (producing beautiful Boats and RVs) and with such small offices and fierce production schedules, I enjoy the hospitality of the funeral industry and the high interpersonal skills of funeral professionals.  I remember one of my first presentations in 2005 (before we had our wonderful distributors) where the director motioned me to a beautiful seating area and offered me coffee!  I figured this meant he was going to buy my products… he didn’t, but I still appreciated being so graciously treated. To those entering the industry, these interpersonal skills are essential as a funeral director, cemeterian or industry supplier.

Q8.  What’s something you are proud about your company?

Our company achieved the Nation Women’s Business Enterprise Certification (WBENC) 2 years ago.  I work mainly with Sarah Tepe, MaryAnne Scheuble and Tamara Howard. We have great support from our bookkeeper Candy Meyers and recently retired Christine Galwas who processed the massive WBENC filings.  All of us “sat out” or worked part time when our children were young and we still accommodate the personal needs of our small company because we believe in putting our families first.  Our personalities and strong work ethic drive each of us to meet tremendous business goals and being recognized by WBENC has helped motivate our efforts in the traditionally male dominated industry.  We believe our “family first” life skills serve us well at work because who better than a mother to multitask, juggle personalities and redirect when things go wrong?

Editor’s Note:  If you would like to be a part of the “Get to Know Them” column please contact us via the Contact tab at the bottom or the page.

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