SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Funerals aren’t fun to discuss but eventually almost everyone has one. It can be sad, spiritual or even celebratory. No matter how it’s handled, the business of death is a changing industry.
The St. Louis Cardinals, Elvis Presley, and Harley Davidson may not seem to have much in common, but they all can be found inside a funeral home.
“The sky's the limit. I think, if people can dream it up, we'll make it happen,” said Heidi Diemer, an owner of Greenlawn Funeral Homes.
The business of death is a $17 billion-a-year industry, but, in the past 10 years, independent funeral homes have seen a 27 percent drop in profits. Diemer says the tide is turning, however.
"The baby boomers, as they have gone through life, they've changed a lot of things. They are changing the funeral industry as well,” she said.
The number of deaths will rise 30 percent in the United States by 2030 as the first baby boomers turn 85, but that's not stopping a lot of people from planning now.
"They are wanting things more about them. They want to celebrate their life,” said Diemer.
Funeral homes are listening.
“We try to stay abreast of industry trends just like any other business would,” she said.
Those trends might surprise you.
"We now offer caskets that are made out of barn wood,” said Diemer.
They also come steel plated, leather lined and custom painted, “anything from veterans to horses to a lake scene in the Ozarks."
There’s something for everyone, like Helen Gunther.
“It will be 10 years, June 15, when my husband passed away,” Gunther said recently.
Her husband, Lee, had a passion in life.
"My husband was a car dealer. His love of his life was millennium yellow Corvettes. That was his thing,” she said.
She couldn't imagine a service that didn't incorporate that.
"They picked up the Corvette emblems and put it on the sides of the casket. It got a little carried away maybe, but it was all about my husband,” said Gunther.
Caskets, though, aren't for everyone.
"With cremation, there's some really neat options out there,” said Diemer.