What was your career background?
I graduated in 1987 from Bentley with a BS in Computer Information Systems. I worked in Human Resources Information Systems at IDEXX Laboratories for almost 10 years. My husband and I decided to have a family, so I resigned and worked part time at Saco Valley Credit Union as a Mortgage Originator for over 20 years.
At what point did you consider that it may be time for a new career?
Out of necessity, my husband needed help at the funeral home, so I was his best option! He needed someone he could trust with the business. I may not be physically the strongest funeral director but I feel I my skills in the prep room and relating to families is second to none.
What drew you to the Funeral Services industry?
Dennett Craig & Pate Funeral Home has been in my husband’s family since 1960’s. I married into it and had helped whenever I could. I held a Funeral Attendant’s license for many years.
How did being at this stage in life affect your decision to pursue a new career?
Our children where both in college away from home and they didn’t need me “mothering” them anymore, so it was a good time for me to pursue a career change. This industry fascinated me after losing my sister to a heart attack just a few years prior to starting school.
How did your significant other / family / friends / colleagues react to your decision to pursue another career at this point in your life? Or How did they react to your decision to pursue this PARTICULAR career?
My family was thrilled with the idea to “keep it in the family”. It was a good idea, also for me to get licensed in case anything ever happened to my husband and my children want to pursue this career in the future. Owners need to be licensed.
Did you find that your age and experience helped prepare you to succeed in your education?
I think my age and life experiences, both helped me succeed. Its funny, some of the younger students I helped tutor called me Mrs. Pate and a few of the younger teachers did too. That’s when I felt my age, a 20-year-old brain doesn’t function like a 50-year-old one so sometimes I felt at a disadvantage and had to work a little harder in school. I feel my personal death experiences, losing both my sister and my mother enable me to relate and help others through a significant loss. I also think families sometime relate better to an older lady, I’m like everyone’s Mom.
How did you feel about the idea of being in class with much younger students before beginning your education?
Many of the students I was in class with were my children’s ages, so it was strange at first, but on break, we would sit in the lounge and someone would start talking about a show they had watched on Netflix and I chimed in about the episode. They looked at me like you really watched that?!? I guess I’m not that old!
Did your feelings about that change after beginning the program? If so, how?
Yes, we were all there for the same purpose: to become Funeral Directors. We had a nice core group who regularly got together to study together, and it helped us to learn and remember vocabulary and lessons for each week’s quiz. I became more of a classmate and friend instead of a “mother” figure.
Has your view of the industry changed after having worked in the field for several years? If yes, how so?
At my age and being a lady in this industry, breaking into what was deemed the “boy’s club” seemed a bit unconventional at first but we are being accepted more. In fact, I was recently elected to serve on the Board of the Maine Funeral Director’s Association. It’s a great group who are all working toward the same goal.
What industry opportunities and trends do you see for the future?
The funeral service is quickly moving toward cremation, each year our percentage of services is rising. So, we need to sell services to our families and be creative in our ways of honoring the deceased. Just because the family choses cremation, doesn’t mean they are not entitled to the same services. We need as an industry to work harder in that regard.
If you could give advice to others who may be considering a mid / late life career change, what would you say?
Do something you love and have a passion for. After the loss of my sister and my mother, I felt I could help others. Funeral directing is not a 9-5 job, it is vocation and you need to be available 24 hours a day. Working with my husband makes it easier as we have the schedule. It was hard when I was working in mortgages as I would have a lot of time off, but never got to spend time or plan events with my husband because he was working. This was a very good decision for us as a couple.
How would you describe your experience as a mortuary science student working toward your career?
It was great for me as I was able to go to school and work on my apprenticeship at the same time. I was able to incorporate what I was learning in school with real life experiences. I encourage anyone going to school in this industry to try to do the same, don’t wait until your last semester because once you get into the job it may not be for you.
If you could sum up your career path in just 4-5 words, what would you say?
C’est la Vie – That’s Life