Normand Laliberte used to work for the Hummel Funeral Homes in Akron, Ohio. He confesses that he thinks funeral costs are getting pretty high and is interested in lowering the costs to families. One step he has taken on his own is to build a columbarium in a small cemetery so that families may have an inexpensive place to place remains when choosing cremation.
An article on CantonRep.com illustrates what Laliberte has accomplished. He has convinced the St. John’s Church Cemetery Association in Lake Township, near Canton, Ohio, to allow him to build a columbarium on the cemetery property that would benefit both parties, and in his opinion, consumers looking for permanent cremation placement also.
He built a very solid, decorative cement block columbarium on the property of St. John’s Church Cemetery. For $495 a client family can have their loved one’s urn placed inside, resting on a shelf, and have a plaque with the deceased’s name attached to the outside of the building. For $695 individual niches are made available.
According to Mary Schwartz, secretary for the cemetery association which was established in 1847, the cemetery made no investment in the building but granted the property for it to be built. The association receives $100 for each urn interred in the building. The building currently holds only five people but has room for 5,000.
The columbarium is locked at all times and no one can go inside to mourn. That must be done outside, as Laliberte explains, “Simply for the respect of everyone interred inside and their families.”
Funeral Director Daily take: This is an interesting partnership. I served for about 15 years on a cemetery association board which build columbariums in the cemetery. Yes, there was an investment to be made in them, but with the advent and popularity of cremation, the cemetery soon recouped their investment and made money to invest in more and more units.
Why this arrangement may work very well, and the article does not give us enough information to know what arrangement is in the future, I’m somewhat surprised that the church/cemetery did not take this on without partners. While Laliberte is very interested in this, what happens if something happens to him? Is the columbarium then gifted to the church, does it pass to his heirs?
Those questions are probably answered in some type of agreement we don’t know about. However, just being able to ask them points out how important future possibilities and scenarios are to any partnership your funeral home, cemetery, or crematory makes in the future.