News & Events

Welcome to this news page. Here you will find recent news and announcements of events. We also have a BLOG and an online archive of FCAWM newsletters from recent years. 


July 30, 2020.  The national FCA office has announced additional speakers and workshops for the free virtual Conference Sept 22-24. Preregistration is required for each day’s Keynote speaker, 1-2pm. Afternoon workshops (optional, no preregistration needed) follow. Dr. Fletcher’s keynote talk is scheduled for 1pm on September 23.  See full schedule at the FCA conference webpage.


July 23, 2020. The national FCA conference (postponed from June to September 22-24) is now planned as a virtual conference. A Keynote speaker will be Dr. Kami Fletcher, speaking on the subject African American Undertaking: History, Burial Rights and Deathwork

Good news: This will be FREE and open to the public. For more about this speaker and the conference, visit the FCA conference webpage.

Dr. Fletcher, Associate Professor of History, has previously written about "Race and the Funeral Profession: What Jessica Mitford Missed.” Mitford’s classic book, The American Way of Death (1963), aroused public awareness of problematic practices of the American funeral industry, but did not take into account the distinct history of African American funeral directors and the significant roles they played in the communities they served. 

We look forward to learning more during the FCA conference. One of our board members has recently read, and recommends, this relevant book:  To Serve the Living: Funeral Directors and the African American Way of Death, by Suzanne E. Smith.


May 8, 2020. Our Spring Newsletter is now ready. We will being notifying our e-subscribers soon. Print subscribers should receive it via bulk mail next week.


May 1, 2020.  Our 2020 Funeral Home Price Comparison project reached a milestone today, with the online posting of a Price Comparison Chart based on GPLs obtained by April 24. This is a preliminary report with price data from 38 local funeral homes. Thanks to Joan Pillsbury, chair of the Price Survey Committee, and the quick work of her committee, we are able to provide this updated information now (much earlier than usual). We will continue accepting GPLs from additional funeral homes, but did not want to wait longer during this period of high need. See our 2020 Funeral Home Price Comparison report.


April 18, 2020.  We have prepared and posted a new document, "Tips for Consumers about funeral options during the COVID-19 pandemic,” and Sandy Ward has posted a blog entry, “Funerals in a pandemic.”  On May 14, the Tips document was updated and re-posted: Tips for Consumers: Funeral Options during the COVID-19 pandemic.


April 14, 2020.  The deadline for submitting comments to the FTC about the Funeral Rule has been extended. The new deadline is June 15, 2020.


March 27, 2020. Joshua Slocum has prepared a 6-minute video to answer questions about funerals during a pandemic, and to suggest alternative ways of sharing our grief and remembrances. He hopes to calm unnecessary fears about death care in this difficult time.


February 4, 2020. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has opened a 60-day public comment period for review of the Funeral Rule. Hooray! We have been waiting years for an opportunity to improve the federal Funeral Rule, which has been very important in protecting consumers’ rights to choose what services they want (and avoid paying for services not wanted). 

We think it is time – high time! – to add a simple requirement that price lists be posted online. Funeral homes are already required to prepare itemized General Price Lists (GPLs), and to provide a GPL to consumers BEFORE any business transaction occurs. Posting that same price information on a website, accessible at all hours of night or day, would be so much more helpful to consumers.

See the FTC’s press release announcing this review: February 4 press release.

Here is a link to the notice published in the Federal Register on February 14:

PLEASE submit comments before the deadline of April 14, 2020. Use the button on the upper right of that Federal Register page. Help us lobby for extending the Funeral Rule to REQUIRE that funeral homes post their prices online. Thanks!


January 2020.  In Massachusetts the Medical Examiner’s fee is $200. We are updating the information on this website and our handouts to reflect this increase. (For years the fee had been $100.)

Another update: Lenny Weake closed his casket retail business as of 12/31/19. See our revised Casket Options page for more about this change. 


December 2019. We participated in the “On Board Board Matching Event” held in Springfield at the Basketball Hall of Fame on Tuesday December 3, 5-8pm. Over a hundred people seeking to serve on nonprofit boards circulated in the room, navigating among 50 tables staffed by nonprofits eager for new members. A “speed-dating” format was used, with a buzzer sounding at intervals.

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Ellen Freyman, founder of the biennial On Board events, was impressed by our mission, and directed reporter Elizabeth Román to interview us (pictured above). We are one of four organizations described in the resulting article, readable on MassLive:

It was great having four FCAWM representatives there (Jim, Sandy, Joan and Cecile). That gave us flexibility to talk with more people. Some interactions were quick and simple, for instance: a woman with connections to many churches in Springfield grabbed a handful of our brochures to distribute.   We do not know yet if any of the contacts made will lead to future board members. We are thankful that our outreach at On Board in 2015 attracted Cecile Richard, who has since been serving on our board and is now our President.


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On October 30, 2019, official FCAWM documents were transferred from Sandy Ward, who has served as President since October 2009, to our newly-elected President Cecile Richard, who has recently served as Vice-President. Sandy’s term as a Trustee continues two more years.

We are delighted to announce that Elizabeth Bristow has been added as a new Trustee, appointed October 30 to fill a vacancy.  She had attended the Annual Program, and expressed interest in serving on the board.  For a photo of the current Trustees, including Elizabeth, see  “Who We Are” (under About Us).


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Our Annual Meeting & Program on October 20th was educational and FUN. See report and more photos by clicking:

  “Caskets and Coffins and Shrouds, Oh My!”

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September 2019 has been a very active month, with outreach at the TRIAD Health & Safety Fair September 10, a Board meeting September 16, a presentation at the South Hadley Senior Center September 18,  writing and editing of our Fall Newsletter, and planning for our special Annual Program October 20 in conjunction with our Annual Meeting. 

We also have been collaborating with our colleagues in the FCA of Eastern Massachusetts on several projects with state-wide focus. We’re preparing for a workshop and two days of outreach at the Massachusetts Councils on Aging conference October 2-4. We’ve prepared an update of Lisa Carlson's pamphlet “Your Funeral Consumer Rights in Massachusetts” and we’ve engaged a web designer to help us create a state-wide website to serve as an information resource and a portal to our helpful consumer-focused organizations. Stay tuned!


June 13, 2019. Our Spring newsletter is being distributed today.  Email notices went to 122 subscribers this morning, while the print run of 520 paper copies was delivered to the Post Office (bulk mail) this afternoon. We’ve posted a pdf (with photos in color) on this website; see Spring 2019 Newsletter.  

Contents include: 

  • Greetings from the Board of Trustees (group photo)
  • Susie Maddern, Trustee  2012-2019
  • Education and Outreach
  • News from FCAEM: launch of new website and logo
  • Expanding Options Beyond Burial or Cremation: News from WA
  • Green Burial Massachusetts, Searchable Database of MA Cemeteries
  • Coffin Building Workshop
  • Spanish translations of FCA resources
  • Recruiting New Board Members
  • Updating Funeral Rule to the 21st Century
  • Report of 2018 Annual Meeting & Program, and announcement of the 2019 Annual Program coming October 20, 2019.  Save that date!


June 10, 2019. Good news from Green Burial Massachusetts (GBM): progress has been made towards establishing a conservation burial ground, and GBM now invites interested people to pledge financial support towards this project.  A survey designed to gauge potential levels of support is now (June 10-30) accessible on their website:


May 11, 2019. Our colleagues in the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Eastern Massachusetts launched a new website and demonstrated it today at their Annual Meeting in Cambridge. You can see it at their usual address:  

They’ve updated and expanded the section on "Caring for Your Own Dead” and made many other improvements. 


May 9, 2019. FCAWM volunteers will be at the Northampton Senior Center’s Health & Safety Fair, 10am -2pm today. We also expect publication of our ad in the newspaper supplement “Funeral and Estate Planning Guide” in the Daily Hampshire Gazette May 9 and the Amherst Bulletin May 10.


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Coffin Building Workshop

Joan Pillsbury has invited carpenter Chuck Lakin of Maine to bring his Coffin Building Workshop to western Massachusetts. He agreed to do so if we have eight (8) interested participants, each paying $200 for the materials and instruction. YOU would then have your own "plain pine box” for future use. Note: plan to bring a roof rack or truck to transport your coffin home. For photos and more information about Chuck Lakin, see his website: . 

Interested?   Email us at or leave a message for Joan on our FCAWM voice mail: 413-376-4747. Please reply by April 27, 2019.  We hope to have this program in May 2019 (date to be determined after interest is assessed). [Update: interest has been strong; the workshop is scheduled for June 30, 1-4 pm in Greenfield.] This workshop is sponsored jointly by Green Burial Massachusetts and the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts.  

For more on the idea of building one’s own coffin, see Sandy’s Blog entry, "Build it yourself?” 


April 2019.  Our Board of Trustees met on March 25 and welcomed Jim Couchon, a new member who volunteered to help this organization. We appointed him to fill a vacancy on our board until October, when board elections will again be held. That brought our board to seven people, a good group.

Unfortunately, we lost a long-time board member a few days later. Susie/Suzy Maddern had a stroke, and she died on the morning of April 1. According to her wishes, her body was donated to the Anatomical Gift Program at the UMass Medical Center. She often spoke positively of the memorial service UMass Medical had held years ago for her mother; medical students thanked the families of the loved ones whose bodies had been donated to help with their education.


January 25, 2019.  The national Funeral Consumers Alliance has now begun to publish some information in Spanish. 

A translation of FCA’s brochure “How to Pay for a Funeral” is now viewable on their website: 

              Cómo cubrir los costos de un funeral

and also available in printable, tri-fold format

This brochure explains the payment terms at funeral homes along with sensible ways to stay within a reasonable budget without falling prey to expensive short-term loans to finance an affair that’s out of the family’s reach. 

We thank FCA for doing this.  ¡Gracias!

We look forward to additional Spanish publications, especially the 35-page planning guide "Before I Go, You Should Know...” which is scheduled to be ready this spring. It will be titled “Ante De Despedirme, Does Saber…"


December 28, 2018.  Our Board of Trustees will be meeting January 2, 2019, reviewing recent events and progress, and making plans for the coming year. 

Apologies for the temporary disappearance of this website (intermittant outages from late on Dec. 22 through Dec 27). The web-hosting service we rely on had made a “routine” upgrade, and that change disrupted access to this website. Their techical support – after many tries – did manage to get it working again. Sorry for the inconvenience.  (Our phone and our email worked throughout.) 



September 25, 2018.  Our Fall Newsletter is here! Distribution began with posting of the pdf (with color photos) on our website yesterday, reproduction of the printed copies (grey-scale photos) last night, bulk mailing of 522 copies this afternoon, and email notification to an additional 105 subscribers today.  We will have additional printed copies available at our October 14 Annual Meeting


September 20, 2018: Our 2018 Price Comparison is now accessible online! You can view it in Directory & Price Survey section. Click here for the 2018 page. 


September 16, 2018: We are preparing to release our 2018 Price Comparison Report that will reveal data collected from the General Prices Lists (GPLs) of funeral homes in our region. Our volunteers have analyzed the results, and we are now formating the price chart and explanatory notes for publication on this website.  Stay tuned!

Other volunteers are helping to gather data about local cemeteries in conjunction with Green Burial Massachusetts. The goal of this joint project is to create a searchable online database of active cemeteries in Massachusetts. Consumers interested in natural burial will be able to learn which cemeteries allow “green” options. To hear more about this, come to our Annual Program October 14, 2-4pm, at Rockridge Retirement Community in Northampton.


June 6, 2018: Our Spring Newsletter is ready. Our e-subscribers have been notified (via MailChimp). Our print subscribers will receive copies via nonprofit bulk mail later this week, if all goes well with production today and tomorrow. 

This newsletter announces the date, time and topic for our next Annual Meeting. We have now updated the webpages about Annual Meetings, upcoming and past; the Annual Meeting Archive now lists programs from 2004 to 2017.


April 9, 2018: Our “More Information & Links” page has just been updated. Broken links have been fixed or removed, and better resources added. Please let us know if you encounter broken links anywhere on this website. Thanks!  Website maintenance is an on-going challenge for small volunteer organizations like ours. Green Burial Massachusetts, for instance, is having trouble this month with their newly re-designed website; they ask for patience as work continues to fix that site.  


February 2018:  MassLive and the Springfield Republican newspaper published a two-part series about unclaimed bodies and the need for reform in Massachusetts. "Abandoned bodies, Part 1 : Poor, unwanted spend months waiting for burial” by Phil Demers was on the front page of the Sunday Republican 2/4/18. This long detailed report continued the next day in Part 2, "Who buries Massachusetts' poor? State pays so little only a couple of funeral homes will take them” 

FCAWM President Sandy Ward wrote to local lawmakers urging reform.


December 19, 2017. A reporter from Ch. 22 News (WWLP, Springfield) requested an interview, seeking tips about how consumers can protect their rights (and funds) when making pre-need arrangements. He was responding to the closure of yet another local funeral home. Sandy Ward explained that funds put into pre-need contracts belong to the consumer, and must be held by a trust company, bank, or insurance company, NOT a funeral home. State regulations changed in 2017, forbiding funeral directors from accepting or holding any pre-need funds.

After that interview was completed, the reporter, Matt Caron, asked a question about “green” burial, and then engaged Sandy in a second interview, for some future report. 


On November 29, 2017, we participated in the On Board matching event at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Springfield. On Board provides an opportunity for nonprofit groups to connect with potential new board or committee volunteers in a “speed dating” format. Joan Pillsbury, Sandy Ward, and Cecile Richard represented FCAWM and made many new contacts.

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Cecile, our current Vice President, had been recruited via On Board in 2015. She eagerly greeted new volunteers, such as Nicole Coakley:

Nicole and Cecile


October 2017. Welcoming a new Trustee!  Lynn Lovell was elected to our FCAWM Board of Trustees at our Annual Meeting October 15. 

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 Lynn Lovell and Sandy Ward

Lynn volunteered to serve for a one-year term. This photo was taken October 16 after Dr. Roger Kligler’s talk in Northampton. We are glad to have Lynn on board.


Sept 28, 2017. Our Fall Newsletter is now available. Click here. In it we provide details about our Annual Meeting and Program, which will be Sunday October 15, 2-4 p.m., at the Rockridge Retirement Community in Northampton. Our theme this time is CEMETERIES: Answering Questions About Cemeteries

Bring your questions!  Panelists will include local volunteers with experience as caretakers or commissioners of local cemeteries, and special guest Joshua Slocum, a nationally known advocate for consumer rights (and Executive Director of the national Funeral Consumers Alliance) who has lobbied to include cemeteries in the federal Funeral Rule.  

See our Annual meeting page for more information.


July 27, 2017. Good news: as of today, funeral directors in Massachusetts must comply with the revised state regulations about Pre-Need Contracts.

"The provisions of 239 CMR 4.00 shall apply in full to all Pre-Need Funeral Contracts which are established on or after July 27, 2017.  

For background about why we care about this, see our Spring Newsletter (pp.4-5,  "Aftermath of the Ryder Scandal”).  For complete text of the regulations, see 239 CMR 4.00: Pre-Need Funeral Contracts and Arrangements.

June 7, 2017. Our Spring Newsletter is going to press this week. The 8-page newsletter is now viewable on this website, and can be downloaded or printed, if you prefer. See the Spring  2017 Newsletter.

It announces (on page 8) our 2017 Annual Meeting and Program to be held Sunday October 15, 2017, 2-4pm.  Mark your calendars now. We'll have a panel answering Questions about Cemeteries. Today we have updated our page about cemeteries.

May 2017. We staffed an information table at the Northampton Senior Center's Health and Safety Fair, May 11, 10am-2pm.  That same day, the Daily Hampshire Gazette published its annual Funeral and Estate Planning supplement. We bought an ad in that supplement, and submitted two articles: "How much will my funeral cost?" by Sandy Ward and "Should you prepay for your funeral?" by Josh Slocum.  On May 12 that same supplement was distributed with the Amherst Bulletin.

March 6, 2017.  The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) released a new report today:  "Nation’s Largest Funeral Home Company Charges High Prices and Refuses to Disclose These Prices On Their Websites." Josh Slocum of the Funeral Consumers Alliance and Stephen Brobeck of CFA spoke at a joint press conference at noon. See the full press release on the CFA website. 

Consumers strongly support the idea that funeral homes should be required to disclose prices online, according to a recent survey that Josh reported. No such disclosures were found on websites for the Dignity Memorial (SCI) funeral homes, a chain that charges higher prices compared to independently-owned funeral homes in the same nine metropolitan areas surveyed. In Denver, for example, the median price for simple cremation was $3065 at SCI vs. $1723 at the non-SCI businesses.   

This is National Consumer Protection Week.  Sandy Ward of FCAWM will be speaking at the Williamstown Senior Center March 10 at 1:00pm ("Things to Know Before You Go"), and at a training of hospice volunteers in Amherst earlier in the week. 

Josh Slocum is coming to MA soon and will be the featured speaker at the annual meeting of the FCA of Eastern Massachusetts on March 18, 2:00pm, at the Friends Meeting House, 5 Longfellow Park, Cambridge, MA. See FCAEM website for details.


February 7-8, 2017.  National Public Radio aired a 2-part report about deceptive pricing of funeral services.  For more information, see blog entry.


The Board of Registration in Embalming and Funeral Directing has posted this announcement on their website: 

Updated Board Regulations
Effective January 27, 2017, The Board of Registration in Embalming and Funeral Directing updated the following regulations at 239 CMR 3.00 through 5.00.

This is the culmination of a long reform process, with several hearings and meetings in Boston at which volunteers from FCAWM and FCAEM gave input.


Our Annual Meeting and Program was held Sunday October 23, 2-4pm, at Rockridge Retirement Community, Northampton. A panel discussed Cremation: Pros, Cons and Environmental Impact

Copies of our 2016 Price Comparison chart with Funeral Home prices for Immediate Burial, Direct Cremation, Embalming, and selected other services were handed out at the meeting. (Click highlighted title to view the pdf on this website.) 


October 6, 2016: Our Fall 2016 newsletter is now available online (PDF format). The newsletter is being mailed (or emailed) to members and friends on our mailing list. Printed copies will be available at our October 23 Annual Meeting and Program. (Invitation to meeting)


September 12, 2016: The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) released a report titled, "Cremation Services: Highly Variable and Misleading Prices, Lack of Disclosure, and Violation of Federal Rules."  See the press release or the full report. Of 142 funeral homes and cremation businesses surveyed in 10 metropolitan areas in 2015, prices for Direct Cremation ranged from $495 to $7,595.

See Sandy's Blog entry on Cremation Pricing for discussion of this national report and what our local study found about cremation pricing. 

October 4, 2016 update: Our Fall newsletter (coming soon!) will include a chart of prices for Dierct Cremation. We've worked hard in recent weeks to create this special chart, which will reveal more information about what is, and isn't, included in the price charged by each funeral home.  


September 8, 2016:  We have recently completed the analysis of the General Prices Lists (GPLs) received from funeral homes in the four counties we serve. The response rate to our 2016 Price Survey was 71%, an excellent return. We have compiled the data and are in the process of formatting it for release to the public. We'll post information on this website tonight. (Use the "Directory & Price Survey" tab above.) 


At the national Funeral Consumers Alliance conference in Atlanta, GA, June 23-25, 2016, Josh Slocum gave a demonstration of the improved FCA website, redesigned recently. The address remains the same – – but the content has been rearranged. In the Consumer section, you'll find basic articles that are easy to read online.  If you prefer the printable pamphlets (pdf format), they are still available, but found under Volunteers (select Resources, then FAQ Pamphlets). Or you can use this direct link to the FAQ Pamphlets: 


June 14, 2016: The latest issue of our newsletter is being mailed today. A pdf copy is now available on this website: Spring 2016 Newsletter.  Content includes "A Tale of Two Caskets," an article about Death Cafés, a report of our 2015 program "Five (or More) Shades of Green"  and our fall elections, as well as announcements of our next Annual Meeting & Program (October 23, 2016), our new phone number, and an update about Green Burial Massachusetts, Inc.


June 8, 2016:  We have NEW telephone number:  


This number goes directly into a voicemail system where you can leave a message at any time. (We don't have office staff or office hours; this "smart" voicemail system will work 24/7, automatically notifying us via email whenever a message awaits.)  We have volunteers who, on various schedules, will respond to your inquiries. Please be patient as we adapt to this new system.

For years we have relied on the generosity of one loyal volunteer who handled  all calls for FCAWM. The previously-published number will continue to exist, but a message there will refer callers to this new number. We'll revise our publications as soon as possible to complete this transition.


May 11, 2016, 6:00pm - 9:00pm, Sandy Ward will lead a one-evening non-credit course at Holyoke Community College called Consumer Tips: Choices for Final Arrangements. This is part of HCC's Living Fully at 55+  program offering short, affordable introductions to issues in the Third Chapter of Life. Call 413-522-2123 to register ($29 fee), or come to the Reception Desk, 2nd floor, Kittredge Center; park in Parking Lot E.

May 12, 2016, 10am-2pm:  FCAWM will staff an information table at the annual Health & Safety Fair at the Northampton Senior Center.  Free.

May 12-13, 2016: The annual Funeral and Estate Planning supplement to the Daily Hampshire Gazette and Amherst Bulletin newspaper will be published. Pick up a copy and look for an article by Sandy Ward about FCAWM. We also submitted an ad this year, our first in several years. 

May 19, 2016, 10:00am:  Sandy Ward will give a talk at the Amherst Senior Center.


April 23-24, 2016:  Green Burial Massachusetts will have an information table at the Franklin County Better Greener Living Show, 10am-4pm at the Franklin County Fairgrounds. In honor in Earth Day, there will be 16 workshops, including one on Saturday at 2pm led by Carol Coan:

Greening Your Final Footprint
"After a lifetime of living as sustainably as possible, how will your mortal remains be disposed of? Conventional burials or cremation may not be the greenest choice. Learn what green burial is, how it differs from conventional burial, and how green burial may be carried out. Find out what your options are for having a green burial if you live in this part of Massachusetts. Carol Coan teaches classes at GCC on consumers' rights and options for after-death care. Carol is co-founder of Green Burial Massachusetts, which is actively working to start Massachusetts' first green burial ground."


Sandy Ward has been invited to facilitate a Death Café at the Granby Free Public Library on April 26, 2016. So many people signed up for that cafe that they have added a second one: Wednesday April 27, 2016, at 6pm. To register, please call the Granby Library at 413-467-3320, or send an email message to the host via


Green Burial Massachusetts (formerly the "Green Burial Committee" of FCAWM and FCAEM) has, as of March 2016, incorporated with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a separate nonprofit organization with its own board.  Congratulations!  See their website:


December 2, 2015. We have updated our directory of crematories.  We have received word that the crematory in Guilford, VT, has closed; their phone number is out of service. We are now in the process of checking with each of the other crematories in this region to learn if there are other changes affecting consumers. Our "Cremation Options in Western Massachusetts" information sheet (found under Brochure) is being revised. 


A new report released October 19 by the Consumer Federation of America and the Funeral Consumers Alliance documents difficulties in obtaining funeral pricing information. These two organizations request that the FTC update the Federal Funeral Rule to require funeral homes to post information on the internet.   See the CFA press release.  

See also Sandy's blog entry.  This report is timely, as we gear up for our 2016 survey of funeral home prices in our region.


Our Annual Meeting and Program was held  Sunday, October 18, 2016, 2:00-4:00 PM, at Rockridge Retirement Community in Northampton. Green Burial Massachusetts presented a program called, "Five or More Shades of Green"  considering the environmental impact of various options and answer questions from the audience. Panelists included Carol Coan, Judith Lorei, Heather Massey, Candace Currie, and Sandy Ward.  

How "green" is conventional burial vs. natural burial?  How does cremation compare?  Green aspects of natural deathcare vs. funeral industry practices?  Come hear about the "greening-up" of a town cemetery, "hybrid" cemeteries, and a few new burial ideas that are being promoted as "green," but are they, really?      See Flyer for this program.  See also related article in our Fall 2015 newsletter and see Sandy's Blog entry: How green?


The regular FCAWM Board Meeting was tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, October 27, but rescheduled. (See our Board Meetings page for updates.) We wish to avoid conflict with an important hearing in Boston for the Aid-in-dying legislation: Oct 27, 2015, 1:00pm at the Massachusetts State House, Room A1-2. Details, map:  Joint Public Health Committee hearing. 


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This photo was taken at our "Strategic Planning Retreat" September 24, 2015. Board member Joanna Brown, left, organized the retreat and engaged a facilitator (pro-bono) to help us think. All of the present board attended. We invited former board members, too, to participate in a survey beforehand and join us in this exercise of thinking a-new about our organization.  Joanna will report the results at our October 18 meeting.  We had a good time.



We went to BOSTON June 16 and presented comments to the Board of Registration (pictured below), which welcomed us. Read Sandy's Blog...


Here's the invitation we saw online :  "The public is invited to a special meeting of the Board of Registration in Embalming and Funeral Directing ... 

Public Outreach Meeting on 
Regulations Governing Embalming and Funeral Directing

"The Board of Registration in Embalming and Funeral Directing will hold a public outreach meeting on June 16, 2015 to solicit ideas and suggestions for potential revisions to 230 CMR 3.00-5.00, the regulations governing embalming and funeral directing. This initial meeting is being held in light of Executive Order 562, issued by Governor Baker on March 31, 2015. For more information on this meeting, please select from the links below:

Public Meeting Notice (pdf)

Executive Order No. 562 (pdf)

Existing Regulations: 230 CMR 3.00 - 5.00 "

The special meeting will be held
Tuesday June 16, 2015 10:15  – 11:15 A.M.
1000 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02118

1st floor, Room 1D 

In addition, written comments may be submitted prior to June 22, 2015, by first-class mail, or by e-mail to:  Questions on this meeting should be directed to the Board office at (617) 727-9970. 

Note: We (FCAWM) will be organizing carpools. This is an opportunity to advocate for improvements on behalf of consumers. Let us know if you wish to join us. Even if you can't travel to Boston, you could help us prepare comments.


Our Spring 2015 Newsletter (posted online 5/26/15) announced the above public invitation and provides more information.


Our FCA colleagues in eastern Massachusetts invited us to their annual meeting March 28, which featured Peter Stefan speaking on Funeral Rites and Reform.  He discussed his experience attempting to arrange a final resting place for deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. For more about his talk, see Sandy's blog entry. Many stayed afterwards for a Death Café 4-6pm: "Your chance to talk about death."


Green Burial Massachusetts has been hosting many showings of the acclaimed documentary A Will for the Woods. Next screening:

Sunday, April 26th, at 1:30 pm, Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield

These screenings are co-sponsored by Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust in partnership with Green Burial Massachusetts and the Petersham Cemetery Commission as part of a campaign to establish the first green cemetery in Massachusetts open to all. In the film, psychiatrist Clark Wang prepares for his own green burial while battling lymphoma. The film follows Clark’s dream of leaving a loving, permanent legacy by using green burial to save a nearby woods. Mount Grace is currently assessing suitable land in its 23-town region. "A property would need to be at least 50 acres with less than a 15% grade and easy access to a road." (If you know of a possible site, please email:  pollock [at] mountgrace [dot] org )  See the Green Burial Massachusetts website for more about green burial options in MA and the collaboration with Mount Grace.


On October 30, 2014, as Sandy Ward welcomed three NEW members of the FCAWM Board of Trustees: Pat Lynch, Trevor Boeding, and Joanna Brown. 


Trevor was elected to a 3-year term at the Annual Meeting on October 19.  Pat and Joanna subsequently volunteered to fill vacancies, and were appointed by Sandy, with approval of the board; their terms run until next fall's annual meeting, at which point they could run for regular terms. 

Officers for the upcoming year were elected:

                        President – Sandy Ward

                        Vice President – Joanna Brown

                        Treasurer – Joan Pillsbury

                        Secretary – Kathleen Winkworth   

See the Board Meetings page for information about the next meeting.      


The 2014 Funeral Home Price Survey is now available on this website. Joan Pillsbury, Chair of the Price Survey Committee, finished compiling the survey results on October 1, after an active month of outreach to funeral homes that had not responded to the original request. (Many still have not replied, but we are moving forward to present the data we've gathered.)  Webmaster Sandy Ward formatted the data for the web, creating sorted displays which were posted 10/3/14.  Next, we produced a printed handout in preparation for our public events on October 15 and 19.  Additions to the survey data were received in late fall and early 2015. Sandy posted REVISED price survey results on this website 2/19/15. 


NEW on our website (also as of 10/4/14): an updated directory of all funeral homes in western Massachusetts, now sortable by funeral home name, town, or county.  Links to the websites of these funeral homes were added on 11/28/14. 


FCAWM hosted a a free educational forum Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 1:00 - 2:30 pm: Dispelling Myths about Funeral Prepayments, at Rockridge Retirement Community, 25 Coles Meadow Rd, Northampton. Click here for a printable flyer (pdf). Panelists discussed pros and cons of "preneed" contracts, insurance policies, and Pay-On-Death accounts.  The panel included Sandy Ward of FCAWM, Morgan Mitchell, Funeral Director, Mitchell Funeral Home (Easthampton) and member of the state Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers (Boston), and Seunghee Cha, Elder Law Attorney, Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas, LLP (Amherst). 

We hope to repeat this forum in other locations in the future. 


Good news from the IRS came in a letter dated August 28, 2014.  Our 501(c)3 tax-exempt status, originally granted in March 2011 and covering the years since incorporation in 1962, has been approved (re-instated). 


The NATIONAL FCA Conference, held every other year, convened in Bloomington, Minnesota, June 5-7, 2014.  Several FCA volunteers from Massachusetts attended-- including leaders from both FCAWM and FCAEM.  The Conference included these speakers and panels:

  • Caitlin Doughty, an irreverent funeral director, producer of the informative-and-funny "Ask a Mortician" Youtube series
  • Minnesota Representative Carolyn Laine, funeral directors Verlin and Lisa Stoll, attorney Katelynn McBride of the Institute for Justice, and the FCA of Minnesota talking about how consumers, businesses, and lawmakers can work together to increase consumer choice and open opportunities for non-traditional funeral firms.
  • Jason Bradshaw, a funeral director who offers alkaline hydrolysis ("water cremation"), explained the process.

A field trip to Prairie Oaks Memorial EcoGardens, a natural-burial "green" cemetery just outside Minneapolis, was included.


On March 8, 2014, a revised version of this website was published. We hope you like the new banner on top, and the new arrangement of pages. Please e-mail us if you have any comments or suggestions for further improvements.  Thanks.