Robert B. Ferguson, Jr. F.D., OwnerFor many longtime funeral professionals, the overwhelming need to express appreciation to those who have put their trust in us is exhibited by a commitment to community service. As true public servants, undertakers, morticians, and funeral directors alike are called upon at anytime to provide for the needs of those grieving and distressed. Our sworn duty to serve, aside from our daily personal responsibilities, takes top precedence and off we go, delving into a full-fledged desire to accommodate the bereaved. It is our focus, it is our pledge, it is our promise, and it is our undertaking that symbolizes our culture.


As for the art of giving back, communities across America and service organizations circling the globe derive a sincere benefit from those dedicated caregivers and workers. The one genuine gift that we can deliver is the volunteer time spent for the betterment of mankind. In times of need, times of disaster, and in times of holiday giving, throngs of professional servants set aside their personal lives and submerge themselves into this conceptual means of saying “Thanks”.


Most recently with the events of Katrina and Rita, it was the response of funeral professionals that portrayed the obvious, the desire to give back. It happens however on a daily basis, in their own backyard, in their hometowns and enhances the quality of life for all. Whether ringing the bell at the kettle, distributing groceries to the needy, or providing a gentle touch to the shoulder of the impoverished, they are there.


In my own small community setting I have witnessed the out-pouring of volunteering. It’s the drones, the workers, the network of us common folk working together to make a difference. Goose bumps are the norm, a tear happens occasionally, and smiles are abundant when seeing the good it does to assist. From all walks of life and from all ethnic origins, both young and old chip in to provide aid. So as we approach the upcoming holiday season, I urge you to join with your local public servants, your local funeral professionals and work side-by-side, hand-in-hand to make a difference and those goose bumps will be had by all!


Rob Ferguson is a PA licensed funeral director and past president of the Westmoreland-Indiana-Armstrong County Funeral Directors Association. He can be reached at

Robert B. Ferguson, Jr. F.D., OwnerTis the time and season for many who honor the cherished memories of past loved ones by venturing out to burial sites to pay their respects. As is tradition, visiting a cemetery, cleaning tombstones, planting flowers, and offering a prayer allows for one to reminisce of happy times of a bygone era. It is the stories and afterthoughts of a dearly departed parent, grandparent, spouse, child, grandchild, or even friend that causes us to pause and remember. The shedding of a tear or utterance of a pleasant smile results from that vivid memory or noteworthy story.


So how do we pass on those eternal memories, as we grow old and age with the passing of time? Sure, there are the physical remnant s, the granite monuments, the favorite pet’s burial site, a roadside memorial cross, or even a peaceful and serene scattering location of cremains. But the questions still lingers, “How will the stories and memories go on and on?”


Years ago, it was a given fact as to the mode of transmission. We all participated in grandma’s story hour next to her spindle rocking chair, sat on grandpa’s knee, rocked on great uncle’s back porch wicker swing, or took part in Sunday afternoon family discussions and car rides through the countryside as certain stories were told over and over and over again.


The lives of our youth are different now and are much more time consumed and hurried. As for the upcoming generation, story telling on the back porch swing or in front of a burning fireplace are things of the past, as are cemetery visits and family reunion story hours.


What confronts us is the emergence of the electronic age that presents the best opportunity to preserve the archives of our heritage. We as the storytellers must now adjust, change, and adapt to a new mode of transmission.


Photos must be digitized, emailed, pasted, transcribed, and forwarded to reach the youth of today. The stories, old 8 and 16 mm home movies, and eternal memories compiled into DVD and video documentaries are crucial if we want to continue the tradition. Titanium indestructible metal medallion discs will be encoded with text and pictures so that history can be scanned and downloaded onto PDA’s and laptop computers. Only then can the story telling survive another generation.


The key to capturing the ears, eyes, and minds of future storytellers is found in the ability to adapt, keep pace, and translate the past via a new mode and model of that old wicker porch.


Rob Ferguson is a PA licensed funeral director and past president of the Westmoreland-Indiana-Armstrong County Funeral Directors Association. He can be reached at