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National Concrete Burial Vault Association, Inc. 900 Fox Valley Drive, Suite 204, Longwood, FL 32779-2552


Vol. 19

No. 3

August 2004

Address Correction Requested

In this issue. . . • • • •

Manufacturer’s Profile ................4 Industry Calendar........................6 Meet New Director ....................17 Certified Plants..........................20

Serving the deatth care industry since 1929

The Burial of a President: A Behind-the-Scenes Diary An NCBVA member’s account of the days leading up to the burial of former President, Ronald W. Reagan. Page 9

Earn Your Way to Hawaii– Share Your Knowledge


f you would like to attend NCBVA’s 2005 Annual Convention in Hawaii and would like to save a few bucks doing so, here’s a way to “work your way to the convention.” The National Concrete Burial Vault Association is seeking volunteers to make presentations related to the burial vault industry during the convention slated for February 21-23, 2005 at the Wailea Marriott on the island of Maui. “We are particularly interested in receiving submissions related to such subjects as business operations, marketing, and transition planning, but we are not limited to these areas,” said Convention Chair, Linda Darby-Sempsrott. Presentations must be 60-90 minutes in length and be accompanied by an appropriate PowerPoint® visual presentation. If you are selected to make a presentation, you will receive a complimentary registration to the entire conference valued at approximately $500 (airfare is on your own). Members who would like to make presentations must submit a suggested title and a 100-200 word description (abstract) of the proposed presentation to the conference committee no later than October 1, 2004. Include your name, company and telephone number along with the abstract and mail to Tom Monahan, CAE, Executive Director, National Concrete Burial Vault Association, 900 Fox Valley Drive, Ste 204, Longwood, FL 32779. Contact the association office at (407) 788-1996 if you need additional information.

2005 Annual Convention February 21-23 • Maui, Hawaii Convention Rates: $195 Garden View, $210 Ocean View For Reservations Call: 800-367-2960



August 2004

August 2004



National Concrete Burial Vault Association “Serving the death care industry with the very best”

Dues Schedule


❐ Manufacturer Member Dues are based on total units sold for all locations of the company.

❐ ❐ ❐ ❐ ❐

Please check appropriate level: 1-999 Units ........$170 1000 - 1999 ........$260 2000 - 3499 ........$350 3500 - 4999 ........$435 5000 and more ....$525

Key Contact____________________________________Nickname_____________ Title ______________________________________________________________ Company Name _____________________________________________________ Street Address _______________________________________________________ City _____________________ State _______________ Zip __________________ Phone ___________________________ Fax ______________________________ E-mail ____________________________________________________________ Company Web Site ___________________________________________________

❐ Associate Member ....$150 ❐ Franchise Group........$600

Payment Information Include payment with this completed form. We accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express

❐ Check is enclosed Please charge my

❐ Visa ❐ MasterCard

❐ Amex

Account #_____________________ Expiration date _________________

Mailing Information NCBVA 900 Fox Valley Drive Suite 204 Longwood, FL 32779-2552 (800) 538-1423 Fax: (407) 774-6751

❐ Check here if you prefer to have your mail sent to your home. Home street Address _________________________________________ City _____________________ State ______________ Zip ___________ Home Phone _________________ Home Fax ______________________ COMPANY INFORMATION ❐ Burial Vault Manufacturer ❐ Crematory

❐ Funeral Director ❐ Cemetery

❐ Doric ❐ Con-O-lite

❐ Eagle ❐ Trigard ❐ Provide Graveside services

❐ Wilbert ❐ Other

❐ Metal Vaults ❐ Plastic Vaults ❐ Fiberglass Vaults Offer sizes for ❐ Children ❐ Associate Member: Tell us in 25 words or less about your product/services

❐ Please enroll me in NCBVA today! Signature indicates that you have read and agree to abide by NCBVA’s Code of Ethics and the rules which govern the National Concrete Burial Vault Association. Signature is required before this application can be processed. __________________________________________ (Signature)

______________ (Date)

CODE OF ETHICS We believe that concrete is an ideal material for the construction of burial vaults for the interment of human remains and that a properly constructed concrete burial vault is worthy of acceptance by the public. Our sales and advertising policies will be governed by standards acceptable by the public and the funeral profession and by principles advocated by the National Concrete Burial Vault Association, Inc. We pledge fair trade practices to our competitor whose product we will not disparage. We shall conduct our business on sound business principles, striving to build a relationship of respect and confidence for the burial vault industry with the public, with the funeral director and with the cemeteries management. We will abide by the rules and regulations of the National Concrete Burial Vault Association, Inc., thereby contributing to a stronger and greater national industry.



August 2004

Vault-Master VHV LES S


August 2004 National Concrete Burial Vault Association, Inc. 900 Fox Valley Drive, Suite 204 Longwood, Florida 32779-2552 (800) 538-1423 Fax: (407) 774-6751 President J.C. Clifton Quality Burial Vault Co. Houston, TX President-Elect Graham MacLeod Detroit Wilbert Vault Co. Detroit, MI Secretary/Treasurer Darren Baxter Baxter Burial Vault Service Cincinnati, OH Immediate Past President Dan Hicks Hicks Industries Miami, FL Directors Martin Begun Eagle Burial Vault Association Detroit, MI Warren Chandler Master Grave Service, Inc. Bogart, GA Michael Crummitt Crummitt and Son Vault Co. Martins Ferry, OH Linda Darby Sempsrott Trigard Vaults / Greenwood Plastics Danville, IL Stephen Hatfield Hicks Industries, Inc. Mulberry, FL



LONG MACHINE CO. 519 N. MAIN AVE., MAIDEN, NC 28650-1123 (828) 428-2648 • FAX (828) 428-8606

Hubert McQuestion Lakeshore Burial Vault Co. Brookfield, WI Todd Swihart Saginaw Wilbert Vault Corp. Saginaw, MI Steve Vincent J.P. Vincent & Son, Inc. Galena, IL Scott Watts Watts Vault & Monument Co. Des Moines, IA Curt Zamec Wilbert Funeral Services, Inc. Forest Park, IL

Executive Director Thomas A. Monahan, CAE Certified Association Management Company Longwood, FL Legal Counsel J. Scott Calkins, Esq




New Florida Law Requires Names on Burial Vaults

NFDA Produces Brochures in Spanish

Gov. Jeb Bush has signed the Florida Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services Act, giving Floridians more choices and more protection when buying funeral and cemetery services. The Act requires cemetery operators to survey and plot new grounds, establish minimum grave sizes and put names on vaults. It also establishes a monument dealer inspection program, allows monument companies to join funeral homes, cemeteries and cremation service companies in the pre-need funeral services industry, and consolidates the regulation of the industry under the Department of Financial Services.

In an effort to serve the growing Hispanic population, the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) now offers consumer brochures in Spanish. The brochures serve as a resource to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about funerals. There are five brochures available in both Spanish and English. The Hispanic population in America grew 58 percent from 1990 to 2000, according to US Census.

Queen’s Funeral Plans Stolen An embarrassed royal press officer kept a low profile last month amidst reports that top secret plans for the Queen’s funeral arrangements had been stolen from his car. Thieves apparently got the plans unknowingly when they stole a briefcase from the man’s car. Plans for the Queen’s funeral are generally known to be codenamed “London Bridge.” The Queen is fully aware of such plans and is understood to have reacted to the news of the theft with good humor. Index of Advertisers American Cemetery Supplies, Inc ......6 Axis Corporation ..............................16 Bekaert ..............................................14 B & L Cremation Systems, Inc...........8 Cemetery Funeral Supply ................18 Crescent Bronze Powder Co.............18 D & C Equipment ............................18 Doric Inc. ............................................6 Edgmont Metallic Pigment Co. ........13 Holland Supply Inc. ............................7 Long Machine Co. ............................22 Matthews Cremation ..........................2 Mixer Systems ..................................11 Newline ............................................19 Plastic Plaque....................................12 Romix Chemical & Brush ..........12, 14 Trigard Vaults....................................15 W. C. Cardinal ..................................24

Backman President of Aurora Aurora Casket Company has appointed William Backman III to succeed Bill Barrott as president. Barrott will continue in his role as chairman of the board. Backman will become the seventh president of the company, which was founded by his greatgrandfather in 1890. Dear Readers, We at the National Concrete Burial Vault Association Bulletin would love to hear from you. Specifically we are looking for press releases from you so that we can continue to address issues and topics that are directly facing you. Do you have an idea for an article of interest to other manufacturers? Why don’t you take a few minutes and send us a press release about your happenings? We’re interested in details about special events, individuals who deserve recognition, awards, and new services you are providing. Suppliers: let us know about your new products and services. Color or black and white photos are also welcome. If you are unsure about how to write your press release or article, don’t hesitate to give me a call at (407) 788-1996 or e-mail me at It would be my pleasure to assist you. Looking forward to hearing from you, Jan Monahan Editor



August 2004

August 2004


A Vault Manufacturer’s Profile This is the first in a new series for The Bulletin in which we will feature NCBVA members

Then In 1917, Dan Houk’s Great-Great Uncle Henry is ready to deliver vaults in his REO truck.

Diversification Leads to Success For Spokane’s Wilbert Precast By Sylvia Heidemann NCBVA Staff Writer There’s a heap of history connected with the fourth-generation business now known as Wilbert Precast Inc., Spokane, WA. Way back in 1906, Dan T. Houk’s greatgrandfather, along with others having a pioneering spirit, decided to move far away from civilized Indiana. He and his brother (Dan’s Great-Great Uncle Henry) took the top burial vault designs of the time and headed for the relatively unexplored business territory of Spokane. The brothers set up a precast shop for the burial vaults, but also diversified into other types of concrete products to give them a good base of income. The products, of course, were an appropriate fit to the era: horse watering troughs, hitching posts, laundry tubs and trays, and the like. The two men had steady work and made a good living, eventually hiring an employee. The company remained a three-man operation from the 1940s (when Dan’s grandfather took over) until 1961 when Dan’s father bought out his grandfather. “My Dad was a real marketer and salesman,” says Dan. “Over a 30-year period he was responsible for really growing the business. During that time, we expanded into three locations. At our peak of production in the 1980s, we were shipping 4,500 vaults and graveliners a year within

And Now

Dan Houk stands proudly in front of a wall of Redi-Rock recently completed for a residence.

a 400-mile radius of Spokane, even going into Central and Western Montana.” Under the leadership of his father, the company began diversifying even more. A graduate of Washington State University’s architectural school, Dan’s father began designing precast mausoleum crypt components. The company started a

construction division and still builds mausoleums all over the country today. From 1906 to 1947, the company was known by various names. In 1948, it became Spokane Concrete Vault Company. In the 1940s, the company patented an endseal, complete unit that was very well received. This line was phased out when

Shore Vault & Precast Co. Exmore, VA Simerly Concrete Products, Inc. Bristol, TN Simerly Vaults, Inc. Knoxville, TN Southern Ohio Vault Co. Portsmouth, OH Southern Vault Service Blakely, GA Spoerr Precast Concrete Sandusky, OH Sunnycrest, Inc. Auburn, NY Suhor Industries Cedar Hill, TX Suhor Industries Parsons, KS Superior Burial Vaults, Inc. Salt Lake City, UT Superior Vault Co. Bryantown, MD Superior Vault Co. Charlestown, IN Superior Vault Company LTD Mississauga, Ontario, Canada Swan’s Concrete Products Westbrook, ME Tennessee Vault & Grave, Inc. Dechard, TN Tucker Vault Co. Farmington, MO Turner Vault Company Toledo, OH Vanden Boomen Burial Vaults Inc. Appleton, WI Vanden Boomen Burial Vaults Inc. Wausau, WI Vault Service Griffin, GA Vincent and Sons Galena, IL Washington Wilbert Vault Works Inc. Laurel, MD Warga Concrete Products Inc. Fort Wayne, IN Watts Vault & Monument Co. Des Moines, IA Wayne Burial Vault Co., Inc. Indianapolis, IN Welte Vault Co. Danbury, IA Western Carolina Vault Co. Fletcher NC West Plains Vault & Mfg. Co. Pomona, MO Whitman Vault Co. Whitman, MA Wicomico Vault Co., Inc. Salisbury, MD Wieser Precast Stewartville, MN Wilbert Burial Vault Co. Atlanta, GA Wilbert Burial Vault (The James Co.) Waycross, GA Wilbert Vaults of Houston, Inc. Houston, TX Williams Vault Company Emporia, VA Willmar Precast Co. Willmar, MN Zeiser Wilbert Vault Co. Elmira, NY

National Concrete Burial Vault Association, Inc. Member Application for Plant Inspection

Name of Plant __________________________________________ Plant Mailing Address_____________________________________ Plant Street Address______________________________________ Plant Telephone__________________________________________ Fax Phone Number_______________________________________ Owner’s Name___________________________________________ Evening Telephone_______________________________________ Plant Manager/Contact Person_______________________________ Evening Phone__________________________________________ Types of Outer Burial Receptacles Produced ❐ Top Seals ❐ Air Domes ❐ Sectionals Other________________________________________________

Please return this application with full payment to: The National Concrete Burial Vault Association, Inc. 900 Fox Valley Drive, Suite #204 Longwood, FL 32779-2552 (800) 538-1423 Fax (407) 774-6751 As an NCBVA member in good standing, the total of your Plant Certification Inspection will be $1295 (Recertification, $495). Full payment should be enclosed with your application.




August 2004

NCBVA Certified Vault Manufacturing Plants NCBVA proudly recognizes the following companies which have a current standing in the Plant Certification Program

 Abel Vault & Monument Co. Canton, IL Abel Vault & Monument Co. Pekin, IL American Concrete Industries Bangor, ME American Vault Co. Cleveland, OH American Vault & Concrete Prod. Detroit, MI Arnold-Wilbert Corp. Goldsboro, NC Arrow Vault Co., Inc. Lafayette, IN Atlas Concrete Products, Inc. Orlando, FL Babylon Vault Co. New Windsor, MD Badger Burial Vault Co. Eau Claire, WI Baumgardner Products Co. Akron, OH Baxter Burial Vault Cincinnati, OH Baxter Vault Co. Baxter Springs, KS Beck Vault Co. Rome, NY Beier Burial Vaults Columbus, WI Brewster Vaults & Monuments Millville, NJ Brown-Wilbert, Inc. Morris, MN Brown-Wilbert, Inc. St. Paul, MN Bruns Norwalk Vault Co. Saint Louis, MO Brutsche Concrete Products Battle Creek, MI Brutsche Concrete Products Benton Harbor, MI Buckeye Vault Service Mansfield, OH Bush Concrete Products, Inc. Muskegon, MI C & M Precast Kerrville, TX Calumet Wilbert Vault Co. Inc. Gary, IN Carolina-Doric, Inc. Florence, SC Central Burial Vaults, Inc. Marlow, OK Central Burial Vaults, Inc. Oklahoma City, OK Central Burial Vaults, Inc. Tulsa, OK Central New York Vault Co. Cortland, NY Century Vault Co., Inc. Barnstable, MA Cheboygan Cement Products Co. Cheboygan, MI

Chesapeake Burial Vault Co. Ingleside, MD Christy Vault Co., Inc. Colma, CA Cooper Wilbert Vault Co. Middletown, DE Cordeiro Vault Co., Inc. Vallejo, CA Costello Vaults Smith Falls, Ontario, Canada Creter Vault Corp. Flemington, NJ Crummitt & Son Vault Corp. Martins Ferry, OH D.G. Robertson, Inc. Williston, VT Dardanelle Vault & Monument Dardanelle, AR Delaware Valley Vault Co., Philadelphia, PA DePue Wilbert Vault Savannah, GA Deihl Vault & Precast Co. Orangeville, PA Detroit Wilbert Vault Corp. Detroit, MI Doody Burial Vaults, Inc. Winchendon, MA Doric Concrete Vaults Inc. Garden City, KS Doric Concrete Vaults, Inc. Great Bend, KS Doric Concrete Vaults Inc. Osage City, KS Doric Huntingburg Vault Co. Huntingburg, IN Doric of Kansas Vault Iola, KS Doric of Nashville, Inc. Nashville, TN Doric of Northeast Arkansas Jonesboro, AR Doric of South Texas Elsa, TX Doric Concrete Vaults Limon, CO Doric Concrete Vaults, Inc. Newton, KS Doric Manufacturing Co. Boaz, AL Doric Mississippi, Inc. Vicksburg, MS Doric-South, Inc. Demopolis, AL Doric Vault of Eastern NY, Inc. Hudson, NY Doric Vault of Western NY, Inc. Depew, NY Doric Vault Co. Griffin, GA Dura Vault North Bend, OH Eagle Burial Vault Co. of LA Ruston, LA Eagle Burial Vaults Perry, GA

Esterly Burial Vault Co. West Reading, PA Evans Eagle Vaults, Inc. Leola, PA Everlasting Vault Co. Randallstown, MD Florida Wilbert, Inc. Jacksonville, FL Fon du Lac Wilbert Vault Fon du Lac, WI Forsyth Bros. Fithian, IL Forsyth Bros. Concrete Prod. Terre Haute, IN Gettysburg Burial Vault Co. Gettysburg, PA Golden Eagle Vault Co. Rocky Mountain, VA Grable Vault Co. Logansport, IN Graffius Burial Vault Co. Sinking Springs, PA Granite State Doric Newport, NH Gray Bros., Inc. Kansas City, KS Hairfield Vault Co. Hickory, NC Hardy Doric, Inc. Chelmsford, MA Harn Vault Service Massillon, OH Harris Precast Laporte, IN Heilman – Wirtz, Inc. Cedar Hill, TX Hicks Industries, Inc. Miami, FL Hicks Industries, Inc. Mulberry, FL Horton Precast Gerard, PA Hydraulic Dolly, Inc. Altoona, PA J.P. Vincent & Son, Inc. Galena, IL Jacson, Inc. Henderson, TX Jefferson Concrete Corp. Watertown, NY Josten Wilbert Vault Co. Sioux Falls, SD Lakeshore Burial Vault Co. Brookfield, WI Lavaca Vault Co. Lavaca, AK Louisell-Davis Vault Service Chattanooga, TN Ludlow Burial Vault Co. Ludlow, MA Lycoming Burial Vault Co. Inc. Montoursville, PA Marion Vault Works Marion, IN Markham Burial Vault Services Richmond, VA

Markham-Carter Vault Service Smithfield, VA Master Grave Service Athens, GA Memphis Burial Vault Co. Memphis, TN Mercer Vault Company Fredericksburg, VA Milan Burial Vault, Inc. Milan, MI Minnick Services Corp. Fort Wayne, IN Moore Wilbert Vault Co. Evans, GA Murray Vault Co. Austin, AR Neher Burial Vault Co. Springfield, OH Nor-Don Vault Co. Inc. Strafford, MO North Central Mich. Vault Srvc. Cadillac, MI Norwalk Vault Co. Johnstown, PA Odon Vault Company, Inc. Odon, IN Omaha Wilbert Vault, Inc. Omaha, NE Ostwalt Vault Co. Concord, NC Palm Vault Co. Ada, OK Panhandle Vaults Wellington, TX Pennyslvania Concrete Vault Co. Greensburg, PA Perfection Vault Woodson, IL Phenix Vault Phenix City, AL Pioneer Vault, Inc. Doylestown, PA Poplar Bluff Doric Vaults, Inc. Poplar Bluff, MO Precast Concrete Products, Inc. Blissfield, MI Precision Precast Inc. Pittsfield, MA Quality Burial Vault Co. Houston, TX Rex Vault Service Newton, IL Rocky Mountain Monument/Vault Sandy, UT Saginaw Wilbert Vault Corp. Saginaw, MI Sam Green Vault Co. Lynchburg, VA Saline Vault Co. Sweet Springs, MO Santeiu Vaults Inc. Livonia, MI Sheldon Vault Co. Sheldon, IA Shenandoah Valley Vaults, Inc. Dayton, VA

August 2004 the company bought a Wilbert franchise in 1961 and became known as Spokane Wilbert Vault Company. Regional Supplier Of Concrete Products In its most recent name change, Wilbert Precast Inc. manufactures about nine models of Wilbert’s burial vault line. Although it produces nearly 3,000 burial vaults and related products annually, the company is actually a regional supplier of a wide variety of precast concrete products. Dan realized that the diversification philosophy established by his forefathers made good business sense, so the company also manufactures concrete manholes, septic tanks, oil/water separators, grease traps, catch basins, dry wells, wall panels, steps, meter and valve utility vaults, parking bumpers, and a broad variety of custom castings. Dan is always looking for products to add to keep the diversification going. His latest venture, started in mid-2003, is RediRock, a retaining wall system. When Dan’s father retired in 1992, Wilbert Precast had 30 employees. Today, the company has 75 employees, a new plant in Spokane, and additional plants in Lewiston, ID (about 100 miles south of Spokane), Wenatchee, WA (160 miles west), and Yakima, WA (200 miles southwest). This gives the company an effective radius of about 200 miles for the burial vault industry. Every plant is within 70 miles of being able to service Wilbert’s clients. Surprisingly, many of the western states that appear to have a lot of wide open spaces have high cremation rates. (The latest percentages of which Dan had been informed were approximately 70% in Montana and 55% in Washington.) Nearly all the funeral homes in these states have crematoriums. As a direct result, Wilbert Precast sells a high volume of burial urns and urn vaults. Motivate & Communicate As president of Wilbert Precast, Dan enjoys the role of general manager. He likes to keep his managers motivated and up to date on what’s going on in the industry. While he thinks he may border on over-

NCBVA BULLETIN communicating sometimes, he feels his method has really paid off. “We have an exceptional staff,” says Dan. “Of our 11 key managers, most have been employed by this company for 15 to 25 years or they have had long-time careers with other precast companies. They are so experienced in providing our brand of service that last summer, when I took a threeweek motorhome trip, I only received two calls from the office.” Concentrating on communications skills among employees is a daily thing, but Dan also holds semi-annual meetings of all employees. The new plant in Spokane has a conference room that can hold 60 people for dinner. In the spring and fall, employees from the three branch plants are housed for the night in Spokane, treated to a company dinner and presented with a “state of the company” address. “I think it’s important to share with people where we’ve been, where we’re at and where we’re going,” says Dan. “I also spotlight our victories—the things we’ve done really well. I’m glad to be a member of organizations such as the NCBVA, which does a good job of keeping us informed of what’s going on in the industry all over the country and around the world, actually. I’ve been in the business for 24 years, and I know we were members of NCBVA long before that.” Besides trying to find time to use the motorhome he bought last May for family outings, Dan tries to work in an occasional game of golf. Each of these pastimes takes a backseat to daily family activities, however. Dan and his wife Lori have two sons in high school and a daughter in middle school. “They are into all kinds of things,” says Dan. “We are constantly on the go, taking them to sporting events, lessons, and church activities.” Wilbert Precast Inc. is an impressive operation. (Visit their Web site at to see photos of their manufacturing plants and products.) Dan Houk contributes positively to the public relations image of the burial vault industry. A good businessman and leader, he promises his customers that his company is committed to excellence, and plans to deliver quality products and outstanding service for another 98 years.


NEW INVENTIONS High Tech Messages From the Grave Robert Barrows of Burlingame, California, has filed a patent application for a videoequipped tombstone that will let cemetery visitors watch messages from the dead. The hollow headstone is fitted with a flat LCD touch screen. It also houses a computer with a hard disc or microchip memory that allows the deceased to speak from the grave through a video message. The tombstone would draw its electricity from the cemetery’s lighting system. And to avoid a grave’s soundtrack clashing with the one next door, people can also listen through wireless headphones. If his patent is granted, Barrows hopes that when people make out their will, they also leave a parting video with their lawyer. They could also choose how grandiose to make their video monument: a standard flatscreen TV or perhaps a high-definition plasma screen in a more extravagant mausoleum.

Clay Tag Tracks Cremated Remains A North Dakota cemetery manager has come up with an invention he hopes will ease the minds of family members concerned about the cremated remains of loved ones being properly identified. The Cremation Identification Assurance tag, invented by Tom Shafer, is an orange clay tile with a black identification number stamped onto it. The tag is placed on the midsection of the body to be cremated. The clay marker is removed only after the cremation process is finished and is then attached to the box containing the ashes of the deceased. A data card with a matching identification number, the name of the deceased, and the address of the funeral home is kept on file at the funeral home so the ashes being returned can be verified. Shafer began conceiving of a better way to track cremated remains after learning about the incident in February 2002 where hundreds of bodies sent to TriState Crematory in Noble, GA were found buried, stacked in storage sheds and discarded in a nearby woods and lake. It took approximately six months for Shafer to create the marker and another three months to receive a patent for it.



August 2004

NCBVA Calendar October 5-10


Solving Problems for Families and Funeral Directors When Details Mean the Most... Quality Lined, Concrete Burial Vaults Artfully Crafted Olympian Bronze and Stainless Steel Premium Vaults Cremation Urns and Urn Vaults “Daisy” Infant Combinations Quality, Dependable Graveside Service Find out more about being a Doric “Problem Solver”


Selected Independent Funeral Homes Annual Convention The Queen Elizabeth Hotel Montreal, Canada

October 18-20

NFDA Annual Convention Opryland Hotel Nashville, TN

November 15-16

Casket & Funeral Supply Assn. Crowne Plaza at Union Station Indianapolis, IN

Jan. 18-21, ’05

World of Concrete Las Vegas Convention Center Las Vegas, NV

Jan. 29-Feb. 1, ’05 Monument Builders of N. America Annual Monument Industry Show Memphis Cook Convention Center Memphis, TN Feb. 21-24, ’05

NCBVA Annual Convention Wailea Marriott Maui, Hawaii

August 2004


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New Gearbox, Motor & Disc, Brake..................$1,750.00 New Disc-Brake System Standard NEMA Greater Speed Loaded 12 or 24-Volt Electric Motor

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$2,250.00................New Gearbox, Motor and Brake System We can refit your kart with our new system or you can do it yourself. Call for more details: (636) 463-2062

New Vault Turntable from NLD & M ..............................$650 The Vault Turntable lets you hand turn a vault 360 degrees in either direction for easier access to tight spots.

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August 2004

August 2004

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August 2004

August 2004



Meet The Board

New Director is Third Generation In Watts Family Vault Business By Earl J. Brutsche At the NCBVA Annual Convention in February in Las Vegas, Nevada, Scott Watts of Watts Vault & Monument Company, was installed as a Director of NCBVA. I had the pleasure of visiting their facility in Des Moines, Iowa in July to do a plant inspection for certification. In this issue, we’re reinstituting “Meet Your Board” as a regular feature in “The Bulletin.” To know Scott a little better, let’s go back a few years and start at the beginning…. Keith and Bernice Watts founded Watts Vault & Monument Company in 1957 in Montezuma, Iowa. Their son and daughterin-law, Craig and Lyndal Watts, took over ownership of the business in 1986. In June 1991, they expanded the operation with the purchase of Dude’s Central Hawkeye Vault Company in West Des Moines, Iowa. In 1995, they also purchased E & D Vault of Chariton, Iowa. A new 35,500 square foot central manufacturing facility was built at 4920 NE Hubbell Avenue in Des Moines in 1999, but they still maintain distribution and sales facilities in Montezuma and Chariton. The building in Des Moines is made of steel frame, tilt up pre-stressed concrete walls with 1800 square feet of office space. They are proud to say that this building is the first state of the art facility in Iowa with an education center, pouring of concrete daily and a vault racking system. Their fleet consists of 24 diesel powered Chevy and Ford trucks, 3 Chevy minivans and 19 Long, Axis and Marion vault trailers. The third generation is also very involved in the family business. Their son Scott manages the Des Moines operation, while son Greg manages the Montezuma facility and longtime employee Ed Jordan manages the Chariton facility. Their daughter Angie and daughter-in-law Julie handle the daily business and monument sales at the Des Moines office, while Greg’s wife Brenda handles

In Memoriam Charles W. “Bud” Willbee Charles W. “Bud” Willbee, who co-owned and operated Willbee Concrete Products of Jackson, Michigan, passed away at home on July 14, 2004. He is survived by his wife Patricia, three daughters, Marsha Erickson of Winter Park, FL, Sara Battles and Patty Friedman of Jackson, MI, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by son Charles W. Willbee, Jr., and brother Richard S. Willbee. He was 81 years old. A member of NCBVA, Willbee also served his country in the United States Army during WWII at the invasion in Normandy.

Scott Watts the operations of the Montezuma office. In March 1998, James Russell joined the company as Marketing and Education Director. With his help they implemented the education center for funeral directors and pre-need staff. Funeral directors can receive up to 20 CEU hours through the education center. Watts’ offers a complete line of burial and cremation products to the industry. Trigard, Doric, Eagle and Clark Steel burial vaults are maintained in inventory to serve the needs of funeral directors throughout Iowa. As a retail monument company, their granite comes from all over the world. They offer a wide selection of both granite and bronze memorials in all price ranges. In February 2004 they expanded with monuments to the east of Iowa with the acquisition of a building in Iowa City. This location serves the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area. In 2002, a complete line of bronze, copper, steel and wood Trigard Caskets were added that are sold only thorough funeral directors. Watts offers daily delivery to most customers. With the addition of caskets to their line, in January 2004 Lowell Coburn joined the staff as a sales consultant. Lowell is a licensed funeral director and recently sold his interest in his funeral home to his partner. With a very knowledgeable staff of employees, the company today handles over 4000 interments per year throughout Iowa. The company employs seven employees at the Montezuma location, two at the Chariton location, 14 at the Des Moines location, five at the Iowa City location, two sales consultants and the owners, Craig and Lyndal Watts. In February 2004, they were very proud and honored to have Scott Watts installed on the Board of Directors for the NCBVA. Scott started in the company at a very young age while helping his Grandpa Keith with burials. The love for this business got in his blood and has been with him ever since. He continued to help with the company during summers and after school growing up. After graduation from high school, Scott moved to the Des Moines area where he took some college courses while continuing to help out at the Des Moines shop. After the Chariton location was purchased, Scott became the manager of the Des Moines location. Scott and his wife Julie live near Runnells and have two children, Carson – 5 and Cailey – 2. Scott enjoys following NASCAR races, hunting, fishing and spending time with his family. They attend Adventure-Life Reformed Church in Altoona where they are actively involved in small groups, Bible School, nursery and grounds upkeep. Scott and his family are looking forward to next Feburary and meeting with not only board members but the other members of our association.




August 2004

August 2004



The Burial of a President A Behind-the-Scenes Diary By Dennis Welzenbach When former President Ronald Reagan died on Saturday, June 5, 2004, Service Corporation International (SCI) was selected to be responsible for the arrangements in his funeral. As a result, some NCBVA members were involved behind the scenes. To follow is an edited diary concerning the transportation of the burial vault, preparation of the burial site, and the President’s interment at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Monday, June 7 Talk among exhibitors and attendees at the annual Missouri Funeral Directors Convention in St. Louis, Missouri focused on the death the preceding Saturday of our nation’s 40th president, Ronald Reagan. Naturally, there was more than casual interest in the funeral and burial details, including speculation about the casket and burial vault that would be selected. A phone call from Bob Boetticher of Service Corporation International (SCI, Houston, Texas) to his old friend Joe Suhor in the Wilbert booth confirmed that SCI would be responsible for the arrangements in the Reagan funeral. A Marcellus Masterpiece casket and a Wilbert Bronze burial vault had been selected. The casket was oversized, however, and wouldn’t fit in the selected vault. Personnel at the Wilbert booth began asking more questions: “Can a Wilbert Bronze, which comes in a #30, be made into a #34, or is there an oversized vault somewhere that’s available?” All agreed that the very best should be appropriated for the late president. Talk was transformed into action when Bob Boetticher asked Suhor Industries to act as consultant in the arrangements of the appropriate vault and its entombment at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Someone remembered that Roland Wilbert in Marion, Iowa, had poured several #34 Wilbert Triunes. Calls were made. Yes, a vault was available. Mark Shalz then called Jim McAlpin at Moberly Wilbert Vault, which was the closest plant to Marion, to see if he could get the vault the next day and bring it to Kansas City. But what about transporting the vault from Kansas City to Simi Valley, California? Mark Shalz immediately spoke up, “I can take it.” I also volunteered to go along. Both of us knew this was a privilege for any American, as well as the unique honor of a lifetime. At that time, we had no idea of the extent of our involvement or the size of the funeral that would take place in just a few days.

Tuesday, June 8 Starting today, the picture became much clearer. In the evening, the vault would be in the Kansas City Wilbert Vault plant, where the final clean-up, painting and preparations for travel would be made. Bob Luikart and Patty Loyall, when notified of the circumstances, were committed to stay late cleaning and preparing the vault, which had been in inventory for several years. This vault had to be perfect. In the meantime, Mark Shalz was discussing the possibility for a Legacy American flag to cover the carapace; Andrew Welzenbach was downloading a copy of the Presidential Seal for the carapace, in case that was approved; and the standard WilbertBronze Triune markings were also readied and would be available for departure on Wednesday. Joe Suhor was coordinating involvement with Bob Boetticher, the lead director, who was now in Simi Valley. They discussed the carapace options that needed approval before applying. While the funeral director’s staff believed the Legacy Flag or Presidential Seal would be a

Photo courtesy of Dennis Welzenbach

The Ronald W. Reagan burial site at the Presidential Library good addition, there had yet been no approval from the family. At this late date, it was not certain if approval could be obtained because the planning of the ceremony had begun and arrangements for a trip to Washington, DC and a return to Simi Valley were already in the works.

Wednesday, June 9 Transporting the Vault From Kansas to California In the morning, final preparations were made for loading the burial vault onto the one-ton pick-up truck usually driven by Mike Anderson, the St. Joseph plant manager. A one-ton truck is stout enough to carry the vault without a trailer, so it would not be necessary to stop for DOT weigh scales. There was also room enough for the necessary equipment (straps, spreader bar, etc.) and luggage. To protect the vault from damage, styrofoam was placed in the truck bed so the vault would not shift. A special plywood cover protector was built to sit on top of the vault. Plastic wrap was put around it as a buffer. A blue tarp covered the entire unit, and was strapped securely from corner to corner. At 2 p.m., the truck and cargo rolled out of Kansas City for the long trip. Non-reclining seats and one-ton suspension can be hard on th e body. There was rain in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Calls came in during the trip to offer us encouragement and assistance. The only stops we made were for fuel, food, drink and switching of drivers. Twenty-six hours later, after traveling through three time zones and seven states, Mark and I arrived at 40 Presidential Drive in Simi Valley.

Thursday, June 10 The Scene at the Library It was a beautiful day—78 degrees with bright blue skies. A small traffic jam had formed along the road as mourners parked, got out of their vehicles and placed bouquets of flowers and other mementos at the entrance to the Library. Just beyond the entrance was a temporary guard station where security personnel interviewed anyone who wanted entrance. Once

waived through this station, visitors were directed to another line where their vehicle would be thoroughly searched and then checked out by bomb-sniffing dogs. A Secret Service agent asked if we could remove the cover of the vault. When I told him it weighed 900 Continued on page 10



August 2004

August 2004



When we finally received our orders, we learned that we were to arrive at 10 p.m. on Friday and that we must be finished by sunrise on Saturday (6 a.m.). Everyone was confident that his part of the job could and would be completed. We believed there would be enough people and equipment to do just about anything in that window of time. Now it was time to go to the hotel, get some rest and await the events of tomorrow.

Gene and Brad Holtzclaw, father and son owners of Liberty Mortuary, both have attended Trigard University.

Friday, June 11

© Wilbert Funeral Services, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

The Wilbert Bronze Triune® was the burial vault used for President Ronald Reagan. The photo below shows the vault with the Presidential Seal and nameplate. pounds, he settled for searching luggage. Soon we were allowed to travel up the hill and onto the grounds. Once at the top, we met Bob, who worked for the construction company that is currently building an addition onto the Library. Because much of the preparation for the funeral and burial was construction-related, Bob was to be the point man for many of the duties. He directed us to the back of the Library, where we removed the vault from the truck and put it in a secure and private location. Then we were allowed to go back to the front of the Library to the west side where we visited the interment site. What a scene! Secret Service agents wearing black suits, sunglasses and earpiece hearing devices (made obvious by their squiggly wires) were everywhere. There were construction workers with forklifts, backhoes, hammers and saws. Caterers prepared for the reception that was to take place immediately after the funeral service. Landscapers hauled in temporary hedges and new plantings to mark walkways and make the Library grounds look fresh. Television crews set up cameras and sound systems and issued instructions to Library personnel to ensure that everyone would be in place and crews could get the best shots. A squad of riflemen practiced the 21-gun salute and the Color Guard marched around the Library and traced the steps they would be taking. We had more questions for Bob, who said he would talk to us again at the 4 p.m. conference call that was being arranged by Joe Suhor to coordinate final plans for the interment. This call had several parties on the line: the mortuary team from SCI; a cemetery team from SCI; the vault team from Suhor Industries; and Bob, the on-site construction superintendent. Because Bob Boetticher from SCI had overall funeral responsibility, he began walking through the process. Question: How do we get into the tomb that is underneath the Memorial? Answer: An excavation would be made on the west side, including tearing up the sidewalk that opened into the Memorial space. This was to be handled by an outside excavator who had a one-yard track hoe on site for this work. More questions: How would the concrete door be removed and where would it be put? How would the casket get from the ceremony back into the vault? And how would the vault be placed in the excavation site and then into the tomb? The answers to these questions wouldn’t be known until Friday night after the excavation was made. Although there were drawings of the tomb, few people were allowed to see them. The Secret Service was involved and security clearances were a primary concern. More questions: Who would bring all the equipment that might be necessary for this job of unknown magnitude? How long would all this take?

Naturally, we woke up on Central time instead of Pacific. Although we were tired, we knew our priority was to search stores in town for \equipment and supplies we would need that evening. After visiting building supply stores, various auto part and hardware stores, we purchased a set of chains, a come-along and some rollers to help get the vault into the tomb. We went back to our hotel and watched the funeral. Joe Suhor, however, had been fortunate to obtain Secret Service clearance and was invited by Bob Boetticher to ride in one of the funeral limos from Point Mugu Air Base to the Library. When the services at the Library ended around 9 p.m., Mark and I gathered our things and went to the truck to begin our drive to Simi Valley. Our hotel in Ventura was now the location of the funeral service team and close to the funeral home that was the limousine and hearse rendezvous point. It also housed the California Highway Patrol Motorcycle Division that provided escort service to the motorcade. The 30-minute drive up the Ventura highway put us at the base of the small mountain that the Library sits atop. We went through two more checkpoints by Secret Service, then to the parking lot adjacent to the Library. There, we met the funeral service team who informed us that on the opposite side of the Library there had been a large reception planned for the 700 invited guests. The family, however, evidently exhausted by the events of the week, left immediately after the Flag Ceremony. The guests boarded their buses and headed back home, too. Because there was all that food and not enough people to eat it, we were invited to join the party. Principally, the unintentional guests were the service band, service choir, and the many armed forces and Secret Service personnel who had participated in the ceremony. It was here that we met the SCI cemetery crew that came to assist in the burial. They were well equipped, experienced, and led by Javier Berumen. After our late-night snack, we went back to the parking lot and stood around until we were given the nod to go. We then walked toward the east side of the Presidential burial site. At that point, we were waved through by two Secret Service agents and walked the semi-circle from the back to the front of the Memorial area. Halfway around, Mark and I stopped, looked to our right and saw the casket containing President Reagan. We were within arms length of it. We looked at each other with wide eyes and walked on. Four Secret Service agents stood over to the north side, talking among themselves, but making sure we passed without doing anything that would be considered out of bounds.

Burial Preparations Begin As we looked around the site for interment, we noted that others were anxious to start work, but at that point, we were without direction. The cemetery and excavation crews were ready. An event crew was setting up a 20 x 30 tent to shield the operation from long-distance camera lenses. Mark and I went behind the Library to retrieve the vault. Bob, the job site superintendent, fired up his huge backhoe, lifted the vault, and, with our help and care, began to move it to the front of the Library. Once the vault got to the parking lot, it was transferred onto a smaller forklift and driven down the sidewalk to a location approximately 75 feet from the casket’s resting place. At this point, the Library curator was concerned that little progress was being made. It was just after midnight and not enough had been done, in his opinion. He had previously given us a 6 a.m. deadline for total completion and, based on his stern look, he intended to keep this deadline. We were told there would be absolutely no pictures taken or Continued on page 12

“Trigard University was the most eye opening experience we have had in the funeral industry. The ideas and support we received from Trigard was second to none. We both plan on coming back every year, even if we have pay for the trip ourselves.”

Trigard University is dedicated to assisting dealers and funeral directors by providing the necessary tools to make their firms succeed in today’s competitive environment. Trigard University creates the feeling of lodging at a bed-and-breakfast inn. We offer fully furnished bedrooms, meeting rooms, food and beverage accommodations, outdoor activities and convenient parking. Also, guests from participating states can earn up to 7 CEU’s by attending a session at Trigard University. When staying at Trigard University there is no cost. We believe by investing in you, we all stand to benefit by building relationships which are supportive as well as successful. For more information or to schedule a stay at the University call us at 217-477-5732.

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August 2004




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August 2004

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Continued from page 10 cameras present during the evening. We were then asked to identify ourselves. The curator said if we were not an essential part of what was going on at any particular time, we would be asked to retreat to the parking lot until we were beckoned again. (As it turned out, Mark, Joe and I were able to stay on site for everything that was done.)

Beat the Clock Everyone understood there was no time to waste. The vault was opened and prepared to receive the casket. Once again, the forklift was started up and the cover of the vault was removed with the chains we had brought. Then, by the light of our flashlights, we began to peel off the plastic film that protected the bronze from being scratched during handling. The curator and a Reagan family representative came over to look inside the vault and investigate what we were doing. One side of the plastic coating had been pulled off to reveal the bronze. As we shined light on the vault, one of them exclaimed, “Isn’t that awesome?” Mark and I looked at each other and knew instantly that the long journey, the lack of sleep and the late nights were all worth it. The two gentlemen began to help pull off the plastic. When the plastic was completely removed, we began to wipe the bronze finish clean. Then, we set three 2 x 4s crosswise on the vault to act as casket rest for the pallbearers. We placed four cloth straps that would be used for the lowering across the top of the vault. It was time for the casket to be brought to the vault for installation. All the funeral service personnel were dressed in black suits, white shirts and red ties. They were all well suited for communication, too, with earpiece devices that looked very similar to those used by the Secret Service.

August 2004

August 2004


Saturday, June 12 Delivering Ultimate Service It was now after midnight and everyone was getting anxious. We had been waiting for an event crew to set up a tent to the west of the site to provide privacy. Because of the difficult hillside location, valuable time was being lost in set up. The curator decided to eliminate the tent. As an alternative, he had half of the portable light towers that were being used to illuminate the area turned around to shine light back out into the surrounding hills. As a result, anyone with a long-distance camera lens would not be able to focus on what was going on. Again, privacy was paramount. Once this was done, we were ready to begin the interment. The eight pallbearers and Joe Suhor went to the casket bier on the Memorial site, picked up the casket and brought it over to the burial vault, setting it on the 2 x 4s we had cut as temporary casket rests. At that time, Mark took the head of the casket and I took the foot, and, along with the pallbearers, lifted up the casket, pulled out the 2 x 4s, and held the casket briefly before it was lowered into the vault. Paper towels were used to wipe down the dew that had accumulated on the casket through the evening. Then the forklift and a set of cover chains were used to lift the cover and seal the vault. Only the funeral service team and Suhor Industries personnel were at the committal site during this entire process. There were no cameras allowed except for the curator’s, who officially documented the interment. No one was allowed to be included in these photos. After the vault was sealed, the excavation and cemetery crews from SCI came back. The excavators began to access the tomb, which is underneath the Memorial site. Digging took approximately one hour. The poured concrete tomb had been made for President and Mrs. Reagan almost 15 years ago. Some of the framing materials, nails and other debris had been left behind. These were removed, along with a small amount of water that had seeped in, and the floor was swept clean. The floor had to be as clean and smooth as possible because the vault




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Photo courtesy of Dennis Welzenbach

(Left to right) Mark Shalz, Joe Suhor and Dennis Welzenbach, Suhor Industries, Inc. would be pushed more than 20 feet by brute force on rollers in a similar fashion the Egyptians had used in building the pyramids. The excavator utilized a hook, picked up the burial vault, moved it into position and lowered it into the west end of the tomb. Some temporary blocking was set up to hold the vault before removing the chains. Rollers were placed in the tomb in front of the vault and the excavator was utilized to begin nudging the vault and its contents into the tomb. When the end of the vault was totally inside the lip of the tomb, Suhor Industries and the SCI cemetery crew pushed the more than 5,000 pounds of President Reagan’s casket and vault into their final resting place. This took about 20 minutes. The rollers were picked up from the back end of the vault and placed in the front as progress was made towards the end. Once at the end, about 20 pounds of crushed ice was placed on the floor of the tomb so that the vault could be levered off with pry bars from the pipes onto the ice. When the ice melted, the vault would rest in the exact place it was intended.

Burial Complete— With Dignity & Ahead of Schedule Once the vault was entombed, the crews cleaned up their tools and all the temporary blocking. The door to the tomb was carefully reinstalled and backfilling began. It was 3:30 a.m. The final steps were now ahead: The excavation would be leveled off, tamped in and concrete forms readied, with new sidewalks poured by dawn. Because we were ahead of schedule, everyone knew all this could be completed within the time constraints. A page in history had been closed, and we had been part of it. It had been our honor to participate in the burial of our nation’s 40th president. I can say with confidence that President Reagan was interred quietly and privately, with dignity and solemnity. While we will never forget the week and its challenges, we hold in our memories the satisfaction of a job well done to highly discerning standards. Dennis Welzenbach is Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer of Suhor Industries, Inc., 10965 Granada Lane, Ste. 300, Shawnee Mission, Kansas 66211. He’s been involved in the burial vault industry for 18 years. Dennis is a CPA, licensed funeral director, and Past President of Wilbert Manufacturing Association. He and his wife reside in Leawood, KS.


Bulletin 2004 August  

Bulletin of the National Concrete Burial Vault Association