Funeral homes adjust amid pandemic
By Kaitlyn Clay, The Corydon Democrat, [email protected]
Generations of families and community members go to funeral homes to say their goodbyes. It’s a place to share words of comfort, pay last respects and congregate with others. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic regulations, funerals have looked much different the last several weeks than what many were used to.
Chris Brown of Brown Funeral Home in Milltown said he is trying to find the balance between the state guidelines, which are changing over time, and allowing families to mourn the loss of a loved one. Because of the ability to gather in somewhat larger groups than before, Brown recently increased the number of people allowed in the chapel at a time from 10 to 25.
“I have started allowing public visitations but with the guidelines still in place for the number of persons allowed in at a given time,” Brown said. “My expected time for opening back up would be whatever the State of Indiana allows, and we will be following their guidelines. I want to be attentive to the families I serve and still be respective to the public and to vulnerable persons that are susceptible to this virus.”
Gehlbach & Royse Funeral Home in Corydon started offering its services broadcasted via a radio station. This allows people to show their respect to the deceased and still attend the service, just in their own vehicles outside of the funeral home.
Jonathan Windell, vice president of Gehlbach & Royse, said the idea was to initially broadcast over a speaker, but it eventually turned into the radio option they offer now.
“Once we published our first service advertising the loudspeaker option, we pretty quickly got a call from Larry Shickles with the Harrison County Parks Department,” Windell said. “He said he saw what we were trying to do and offered an FM transmitter for us to use.”
Windell explained that Shickles and Harrison County Sheriff Nick Smith had planned to use the FM transmitter for a church service, but they ended up going another route. He also noted that once someone obtains an FM transmitter, all you have to do is channel the frequency and people are able to tune in to the specific channel. The signal reaches roughly a half mile in distance, which Windell said is most of downtown Corydon.
“This transmitter was the answer to my prayers,” Windell said. “It gave us the capability to be together safely, in real time. Families can celebrate and grieve knowing they aren’t alone. It’s been devastating seeing families not get the closure and support they need and in such an unsure time.”
Recently, Gehlbach & Royse acquired its own transmitter to broadcast funerals for as long as it desires. The funeral home expects to maintain the policies of the state until further guidance is given.
Jerry Love of Love Funeral Home in Palmyra also echoed the sentiments of the others, saying they want to be able to serve families in need and are looking to a time when this is behind us all.
“We are continuing to serve our families to the best of our abilities with the limitations and restrictions that are in place,” Love said. “We are following the governor and the Indiana state board of health guidelines on social distancing and the number of people allowed to attend the private funeral service.”