What was your career background?
B.S., Michigan State University, Medical Technology (Biomedical Laboratory Diagnostics) with a minor in Animal Science.
I worked in sales and sales management for veterinary drug and diagnostics research companies representing pharmaceuticals and medical laboratory analyzers.
At what point did you consider that it may be time for a new career?
When the corporation that I was working for at the time was purchased by another company. The company focus changed from a customer service focus in order to bring in profits, to instead, pleasing the investors being put in front of what was the right thing to do. I was also tired of having to travel and be away from home so much.
What drew you to the Funeral Services industry?
I was familiar with funerals since a teenager by working at the local town cemetery, and found the profession to be intriguing. I was a Cemetery Commissioner in the town where I live. We developed a Preservation Management Plan for the cemetery and undertook several restoration initiatives. I’ve also always liked helping others.
How did being at this stage in life affect your decision to pursue a new career?
No one likes change, but I was ready. I had worked for corporate for 30 years, and the changes that came about that I had no control over, led me to it. I did it for my sanity and for my health. You absolutely have to be happy in what you do. I could have gone with another company within the same industry that I was familiar with, but wanted to leave it entirely. When I analyzed the total picture, I felt it was the right decision to make.
How did your significant other / family / friends / colleagues react to your decision to pursue another career at this point in your life?
They were all 100% absolutely supportive! They could see that I was frustrated in my current position including all the travel I had done over the years and would still need to do. Given the changes in the philosophy of the new company direction, and my stress level, they supported me.
How did they react to your decision to pursue this PARTICULAR career?
They were actually not surprised, “You’ve only been talking about doing it for forever!” They also felt that it is something that I would be good at which I certainly found to be encouraging in making my decision.
Did you find that your age and experience helped prepare you to succeed in your education?
Yes, definitely. I was in a different life point timeframe than the majority of other students, and it was a much less stressful period than what they have to deal with. I own my home, have a stable home life, and my children were older - already through college, had secure jobs, and were on their own too. Work experiences in my previous career for so many years also helped to lend balance and taught me so much in dealing with and interacting with people. I was always in awe (and still am as an instructor) of the younger students who are balancing home life and school – spouses, kids, gaining funeral service experience, tuition and other finances, all while working towards the goal of graduating successfully, passing the National Boards, and acquiring their licenses.
How did you feel about the idea of being in class with much younger students before beginning your education?
It really didn’t bother me because we were all there for the same purpose. Although I was the oldest student in my graduating class, there were a few students in their 30’s and 40’s. Students ranged in age from 18 to me, 57. No one really looked at me any differently though. One of my friends asked me, “Did the other students think you were there as one of the cases when you arrived for orientation?” Haha…. During Anatomy II in Ralph’s class, he put up a slide of God Creating Adam in Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. He said, “now, most of you weren’t even born yet, so you won’t know about this. Well, Peter might remember it.” I said, “Geez Ralph, I know I’m the oldest student in here, but I haven’t been around since the 1500’s!” We all had a good laugh, and he explained that the discovery of the artist’s hidden anatomical illustrations within the painting happened in the 1980’s (yes, I was in college then). In the painting, which shows a cross section of the human brain, Adam’s body is depicted as actually being a part of the brain and brainstem. Adam has his outstretched hand reaching towards God’s. Was God endowing Adam with not only life, but knowledge as well?
Did your feelings about that change after beginning the program? If so, how?
No, they really didn’t change. We had a good group that went through together and everyone got along well and helped each other through study groups. Some younger students actually looked toward us at times for tutoring or support.
Has your view of the industry changed after having worked in the field for several years? If yes, how so?
Not so much the industry per se, because it is still about helping families through a difficult time. It is the dynamics of the industry now that are driving it that has changed. It also takes a lot of patience at times to deal with the varying family dynamics that can occur.
What industry opportunities and trends do you see for the future?
Serving families is the cornerstone that the profession. The trend is for the cremation rate to go up, the burial rate to continue to decline, along with the revenue generated per call to decline as well. Funeral homes need to provide the best in family care still within the options that the families have chosen.
If you could give advice to others who may be considering a mid / late life career change, what would you say?
Explore the career that you are considering completely before making the leap. Understand as many of the aspects of the career choice and what it involves as well as what the future of it is trending towards. Volunteer or spend some time with someone who is in the occupation and career field now. Weigh the pros and the cons, and recognize that you may have to make some compromises. Make your decision and commit to it.
How would you describe your experience as a mortuary science student working toward your career?
I really enjoyed it. The school underwent the change of ownership as I went through. The new owners made it a more welcoming place to be at, and truly supported the students and their needs while there. I was also fortunate to be able to Apprentice at a Funeral Home with an owner who understood that school and doing well was the priority and that it truly is a real commitment.
If you could sum up your career path in just 4-5 words, what would you say?
Absolutely, glad that I did it!!