Legacy and Compassion: Member Spotlight

The complete interview originally appeared in the winter issue of OGR’s quarterly magazine The Independent.

Kenneth W. Freitag, the fourth generation of the Freitag family, speaks with pride about carrying on the traditions on which the Freitag Funeral Home, Bridgeton, NJ was founded. Their commitment to each and every family they serve is a testament to the long and distinguished record of service to the greater Bridgeton community. OGR sat down with Kenneth to discuss how their OGR member firm approaches serving the families in their community.

Why do you believe that funeral service is important?
“Our funeral home is part of the fabric of the community. It is where family and friends come to share in the difficult events associated with the death of their family member. Many refer to it as a place they receive comfort and compassion. Family members often recount their experiences with us and feel we are part of their family. We take a great sense of pride in being an institution in the community, much like a church, hospital or school. We are always there when others need us.”

What is the most rewarding part of working in the funeral service industry?
“Continuing the legacy established by my great grandfather, my grandmother and my father are part of the rewarding feelings I have and cherish, especially the older I become. Also, having individual family members reinforce the important role we have played in making all pre-need and at-need experiences go smoothly. We are in some ways concierges to the requests of everyone with which we come in contact. Arranging the hundreds of details surrounding the funeral experience, to answering multiple questions ranging from grief management, to driving directions to the funeral luncheons. One of the most gratifying parts of what we do physically is restoring a person, ravaged by sickness or injury, to a “better” appearance, therefore providing a more positive final physical memory.”

What does your funeral home do in order to create a strong community presence?
“We want families to think of us first when the subject of death arises, for death education and questions regarding prearranging. We see ourselves as the ‘death experts.’ Advertising and sponsorships are part of the thought process, but we also want everyone in the community to view us as the ones who have the answers to questions about funerals. Creating meaningful funeral and memorial ceremonies help with a strong community presence. We always offer our best efforts, attempting to exceed expectations.”

What growing trends have you noticed in the funeral service industry? How do you keep up with these changes?
“We see a more selective consumer base. Like all other parts of the service market, our families are kind and compassionate, but they also want what they want. When I first began my career, the world stopped for a family when they had a death. Now decisions are carefully considered, but they are mostly made around the convenience of the remaining family members. Recently, a family desired to schedule their loved one’s traditional funeral, which had been prearranged several years earlier. There were minimal decisions to make, the largest of which was when to have the funeral. They went through their schedules and there was not a ‘good’ day in an entire week, so they waited ten days for the best day for them. We, of course, accommodated their wishes and realize many families are worried about a lot more than honoring the deceased. We always say funerals are for the living, and for some families, funerals are not as pressing a matter.

Other changes and trends we have seen are more cremations and creative solutions to our consumers’ requests regarding cremation. Also, green and natural burials are increasing. Despite a changing world and how we view that changing world, there is still no substitute for being kind, compassionate and, above all, a good listener.”

What do you value most about OGR? Why did you become a member?
“Our firm’s membership to OGR was inherited by me as a fourth-generation funeral director. My dad, Harry A. Freitag, joined OGR because he saw the ability to network and he truly believed in the “Golden Rule.” My continuance with OGR is as simple as the original tenants, “Service not measured by gold, but by the golden rule.” I often ask other organizations we work with (hospitals, nursing homes, cemeteries, newspapers, etc.) one simple question, “If this was your mother or father would you treat this situation the same way?” Empathy and treating others the way we would want to be treated is the most important feeling to transfer to those around us. A simple teaching from the Bible, while rudimentary, is still so paramount.”

What are three future goals that you have in mind for your funeral home?
“1. Goal one would be to be more vigilant with our aftercare program. We offer follow-up conversations with our families and written correspondence but want to do more.

2. Goal two is to work on ways to streamline the cremation process and the explanation of options to families. We are well aware of the growing trends to traditional ground burial and are spending increasing amounts of time reviewing alternatives until the right “hybrid” option is picked by each family.

3. The last goal, as it should be, is to stay ahead of all trends in technology and types of services we can provide. As I mentioned earlier, human interaction will always be the key to everything we do. For that there is no substitute.”

Thanks to Kenneth Freitag of Freitag Funeral Home in Bridgton, NJ for sharing his thoughts and for being a valued member of the International Order of the Golden Rule (OGR).

OGR is a trade association for independently owned and operated funeral homes in North America and overseas. Interested in learning more about us? Visit www.ogr.org.

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