News & Events

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.) 

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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)

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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.  

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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.) 

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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 – funerals.org – 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: https://www.funerals.org/resources/faq-pamphlets/ 

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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.

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June 8, 2016:  We have NEW telephone number:  

413-376-4747

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.

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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.

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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."

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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  http://deathcafe.com/deathcafe/3226/

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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: greenburialma.org.

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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. 

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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.

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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?

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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.

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

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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: yadi.rivera@state.ma.us.  Questions on this meeting should be directed to the Board office at (617) 727-9970. 
                 http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/licensee/dpl-boards/em/

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.

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

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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."

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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.

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

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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.      

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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). 

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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.

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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.