Calumet Park Blog

Calumet Park Funeral Chapel celebrates fall with a wonderful Trunk or Treat event…

Which pumpkin should I choose?

Calumet Park Funeral Chapel on Taft in Merrillville celebrated Fall with a fun-packed Trunk or Treat Celebration on Saturday, October 4. If you missed it, join us next Saturday at our Hobart Funeral Chapel just north of the Apple Orchard on County Line Road. Last years Hobart had tons of fun and lots of kids in costumes and would love to see you there.

A big thank you goes out to all the organizers and participants at the Merrillville festival.

2nd Annual 5k walk / run at Calumet Park Cemetery was a good time for all….

Male open winner – Aaron Cook at 19:52.8

Female open winner – Nora Filler at 28:52.4

Male Master winner – Tim Pionczynski at 23:46.6

Hunter Vogel 2nd overall and 1st in age group (17 years old) at 23:10.4 and brother ,Ian Vogel finished 4th overall and first in his age group (13 years old) at 25:49.8

Most senior participant – Daniel Moran at 57:27.6 (let’s hear it for the 70+ crowd!)

Go to www.thtiming.com for all results.

Thanks to all who helped organize this event and a special nod of appreciation to Sandy Ferris, Kevin Music and Marcia Ochoa for running the check-in tables and to Tim McClure and his crew in traffic and parking duty.

Hope to see you and your friends next year. Also, don’t miss the Trunk or Treat tailgate fun at the Merrillville Chapel (on Taft in Merrillville) on October 5 and at the Hobart Funeral Chapel (on County Line Road near the Apple Orchard) on October 12. Both begin at 11:00 a.m.

 

 

5K Run/Walk for suicide awareness will be held at Calumet Park Cemetery on September 28

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You are invited to participate in Calumet Park Cemetery’s 2nd Annual Light the Darkness 5K run/walk. Go to www.runsignup.com to register (click on Find a Race, then click on Light the Darkness, and then click To sign up). The event will be held on September 28 at the cemetery located at 73rd and Taft in Merrillville. Plan on arriving at 7:00 to check in and get your number and T-shirt and be ready to run at the 8:00 a.m. starting gun.

Last year’s event had official 116 entrants with medals for 1, 2 and 3 places awarded for a number of age divisions along with trophies for the overall winner for men and for women.

The map shown is the path that the race will take for your use in the event that you would like to do some conditioning runs prior to race time. The funds that will be raised will go to either Operation Combat Bikesaver, Inc or Path, Inc. You may do some research on-line to see the important work that both of these groups do for suicide awareness and prevention. If you have any questions, feel free to call 219-769-8803 and ask for Daniel Moran.

For donations, go to jasonz@combatbikesaver.org

For info on our website, go to http://mycalumetpark.com

https://runsignup.com/Race/IN/Merrillville/LighttheDarkness5Krun

 

The real un-sung heroes at a cemetery….

Jeremy Grant (Assistant ground supervisor) and Tim McClure (superintendent)

Cemeteries and funeral homes are much more complicated than might be expected by the general population. For now, I would like to let you in on what it takes to make a cemetery worthy of being named the number one cemetery in the country for 2018.

Calumet Park owns over 400 acres of land. As of this year (founded in 1928 with first burial in 1929) approximately 175 acres of land have been developed for burials. In these 91 years, we have completed the final arrangements and burials of 50,746 individuals, or an average of 573 burials per year.

Calumet Park requires a triple check system for locating the proper grave to be prepared. Once the location is confirmed as being 100% correct, a team digs the grave, usually with an oversized backhoe. The dirt is taken away from the area as many people do not like to think of so much dirt piled on their loved one. An outer container is placed in the freshly dug grave, usually a vault of varying degrees of protection against the entry of water and insects and other gravesite elements from penetrating into the casket. It is designed to hold up the earth from caving in, and is required for every ground burial at Calumet Park. Graves are approximately six feet deep.

The lid is placed to the side until after the committal service is complete. There is a set-up involved that ensures against the collapse of the grave before dirt is brought back to cover the grave. Next, a lowering device is set over the open grave from which the casket will be lowered into the vault at the appropriate time at the conclusion of the committal service. A committal service simply means the gathering of friends and relatives to witness the commitment of their loved one to their final resting place.

The next step is to place “greens”, or artificial grass, around the grave to improve the appearance of the grave for the committal service. Finally, a tent is set up that helps to shield the immediate family from the elements…rain and intense heat in the summer. Once the committal service is complete and the funeral director thanks all for coming, those in attendance are dismissed. The grounds crew then comes back to the site to complete the burial and place the flowers on the mounded earth left to settle. The set-up procedure is reversed and the burial is complete. Over the following couple of weeks, weather permitting, additional dirt is brought in to level the grave with a final layer of topsoil, grass seed and a special covering to speed up the growth of grass seed, placed on the fresh grave.

Tim McClure

There is a tremendous amount of cemetery maintenance that is tended to every day. There are well over 100,000 markers, upright monuments, shrubs, trees and seemingly unending acres of grass to be mowed. Think of what is involved in making your own lawn look nice and usually a yard is not filled with things rising up from the land that need to be trimmed around. There are over 5 miles of two -way roads that have to be maintained, including snow removal and pot hole repair or repaving of blacktop throughout the cemetery as needed

Trucks and backhoes and earth movers of different sizes are used daily along with hand tools and snow removal equipment. As in life outside of the cemetery, machines break down and need to be repaired or replaced at some pretty hefty price-tags. There are many different skill levels needed to keep it all going. Tim McClure, superintendent and Jeremy Grant (assistant super) work with a crew of permanent workers and in the spring, summer and fall, the work force doubles to help keep pace with the never-ending job of grass cutting and trimming.

Add to all of the daily tasks, the grounds crew is responsible for setting flush markers and foundations for upright monuments, along with the setting of those monuments. This is backbreaking work and must be handled with care and precision.

At Calumet Park, the grounds crew helps to take care of ground maintenance at our three funeral homes as well as building maintenance on three funeral homes, two crematories and a massive office/administration building. Clean-up after storms, including downed trees and branches, along with continuous sweeps of the cemetery to empty waste cans is part of the daily routine.

Many times, the people in green shirts deal with complaining family members when a marker is not at the level that they want it to be at. An expensive and time-consuming part of running the cemetery is keeping up with this concern. Calumet Park Cemetery offers free leveling of markers by simply stopping at the office to write up a work order. It is financially impossible to raise and level every marker even once per year, and even if you did spend the millions it would take to do so, the initial markers would have sunk again or have grass go over them.

Throughout the year, Calumet Park has many community-oriented events, from Memorial Weekend to Butterfly Release program to 5k runs to Veterans Day activity to Fishing for Memories programs to fireworks. Who else but the grounds crew is there to set up what needs setting up, to control traffic, to ensure proper reverence is paid to those interred here and to make safe all who attend.

So, the purpose of this story is that these men and women work extremely hard and extremely conscientiously for the benefit of every family that chooses Calumet Park as their final resting place. As I write these words, the heat index in the region is 110 degrees. The team sweats it off, drinks a lot of water, and work on as your servant. In winter, with windchills last year as low as 40 degrees below zero, burials still needed to be made, snow still needed to be removed, trash still needed to be cleared and so on and so on.

The old saying of walk in another man’s shoes before you criticize their work hold true in the case of the grounds crew. I totally appreciate the hard labor and success this team of worthy people exercise on a daily basis (5.5 days per week). So, when you see one of the workers out in any and all kinds of weather, it is ok for you to thank them and what the heck, offer them a bottle of cold water if you have one to spare. They are working for each and every person and their families that elect to use Calumet Park and all affiliates.

Lastly, without you as trusted and loyal families, there would be no need for any of us inside the gates of Calumet Park to even show up for work. So, we thank you for your patronage.

For information on pre-planning your cemetery or funeral arrangements, call 219-769-8803 and check us out on our website at https://mycalumetpark.com

 

Butterfly release ceremony at Calumet Park a huge success even with 90 degrees temps….

Calumet Park Cemetery hosted its 11th annual live butterfly release ceremony on Saturday, July 20. In spite of extremely high temperatures, 850 butterflies were released after Rob Vogel read the Legend of the Butterfly. Participants in the production were band members John Ochoa on piano and vocals, Ronnie Murphy on guitar and Gary Shellton on drums and vocals. They were joined for one song written and sung by Daniel Moran, GM. Paul Vogel, CEO had a beautiful message and prayer, Kim Jones, Funeral Home Liaison, shared a very emotional reading.

Following a some random pics of the event (click on any pic to enlarge):

Daniel Moran with Jerry Davitch, author and columnist for the Post Tribune.
Dianne Correll, Sandy Ferris and Kathy Gonzalez
John Ochoa
Ronnie on guitar and Gary on drums.
Richard Stake, Family Service Counselor
Paul Vogel, CEO
Kevin Music, funeral director in training and administrative assistant at Rendina (owned by Calumet Park Cemetery.
Rob Vogel, BOD member
Brant Vogel, “Roadie and videographer” and BOD member
Board Members Julie Calhoun, Kim Jones and Ed Klein
Brant on the camera, BOD member
Matt and Carl Paunicka, members of the Board of Directors

Carl Paunicka and Sue Lynch, Portage mayoral candidate and former office manager at Calumet Park.

Email to Jerry Davich, writer with the Post-Trib regarding this year’s Butterfly Release on July 20 at Calumet Park Cemetery…

The letter shown below was written to Jerry Davich regarding this coming week’s live butterfly release ceremony. This is the 11th annual event and this year close to 900 people have signed up to attend. I feel there might be something in this email for any readers of this blog so I am sharing it with you all.

Hello Jerry,
Just shy of 900 signed up for butterfly release for Saturday. We will see how many show with temp expected to be above 90 next week.
Anyway, the song I wrote is attached. In all my years in this business, God and lack of understanding why someone we love dies seems to be two of the most shared thoughts that I hear. Either there is an eternal love and trust in God that He knows what He is doing or a turning away from God, or at lease an anger with Him, when a loved one dies.
My first encounter with death was at 9 years old. We lived in the country in up-state NY. My cousin’s dog got distemper and his father told us to go dig a grave in the woods and then take the dog out and shoot it. I guess he thought that would make us men. We dug the grave and my cousin pointed the .22 rifle at his dog but could not shoot. He stood there crying, rifle inches from his pet’s skull, and trembled. I grabbed the rifle, pointed and shot the dog. We cried, filled in the grave, and never went to that part of the woods again.
A couple years later, when I was 11, my dad died from a perforated ulcer. Stupid reason to die but we had no money for him to go to the doctor. He already had seven kids, and on the day of his death, the family doctor (without knowing that dad had died) called my mother to tell her she was pregnant with her eighth kid…congratulations, he is reputed to have said to her. Irish Catholics, don’t you know! No money, no insurance, no dad, no running water, no bathroom but a falling apart outhouse…why be mad at God?
In high school a couple of classmates died in accidents and a friend of a friend died from suicide. Then, on to the Army and Vietnam. It was kill or be killed there as one fought sworn enemies with guns, and weather that nearly suffocated one from the high temps and intense humidity. I stopped making friends there during my year and a half in country as a way to avoid the pain of loss when a friend would die in action…as a number of them did die. Add in an uncle that was killed by a train, a mother and sister that died from cancers (both big smokers), my wife and I losing our first child in a miscarriage, the loss of her parents, a step-father passing from brain cancer all the way up to co-workers and bosses dying and you can see that I have a lot of shared grief and personal losses in my 70 years.
Anyway, ten years ago I met a woman who lost two daughters within months of each other (one by drugs and the second by car accident while texting). She came to work here for awhile as a family service counselor. I felt obligated to fire her after a year; not because she wasn’t doing a good job because she was doing a good job. But what I observed was that being around death and dying everyday as a counselor at a cemetery seemed to prevent her from learning how to live without her 20 and 22 year old girls.
I wrote the song as a culmination of many talks with her during that year. She had so much trouble understanding why her girls were taken so young. I also witnessed her intense belief in God. She was absolute in her belief that she would see them again in heaven, and trusted God’s decision to end their lives on this plane when he did.
So, in a way, this song was penned by me but written by these many experiences of death. When you go to work every day and feel the pain of so many deaths, it is imperative to have a strong belief in something bigger than life. I absolutely believe in God, and Jesus, and the whole eternity thing. When I went though my own cancer a year and a half ago and a kidney was cut out and tossed, I surprised my family with having no fear of what might happen. I even went so far as to talk to God and I told Him that if this is what had to be, then I trusted Him. I remember telling Him that I would prefer no pain but if that was part of the plan, then I offered it up to Him. Guess what? A happy ultimate ending as the cancer is gone, but funny old God, there was pain x 100.
I am sharing this story because I am not the best singer but sometimes it is important to know why a song is written and some of the meaning behind the words. Dylan was not a good singer by most accounts, but he was a wordsmith like few others before or after him. I do not claim to be the next Dylan, but my song and my interpretation of my song comes from my soul.
Hope to see you Saturday. Even if we do not get together, I respect you and know that you have family here. So, this song is as much yours as it is for all the people that brave the heat to let a butterfly go free to carry their secret longings up to heaven.
Respectfully, Dan

11th Annual Live Butterfly Release Ceremony coming up July 20 at Calumet Park Cemetery…

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The 11th Annual Butterfly Release Ceremony is coming up soon. It will be held on July 20 at 11:00 a.m. at Calumet Park Cemetery on the corner of 73rd and Taft in Merrillville (1 mile north of Route 30 on Taft). This is an hour long event that celebrates the memory of those folks that have preceded us in death. There will be live music, readings, and live butterflies for each person in attendance. To be sure you get a butterfly, call before July 10 to reserve yours. The butterflies are compliments of Calumet Park so please call now to 219-769-8803 to help us get an accurate count of the number of butterflies that must be ordered. There were 600 butterflies released last year and we would love it to be a thousand or more this year. Remember to bring a lawn chair or blanket for your comfort as this is an outdoor event and must be held, rain or shine, as the butterflies must be released. Thanks and hope to see you there.

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Photos - 169

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Although not part of Release, I just loved this scene last week near the 5 acre lake at Calumet Park Cemetery

Reminder of three upcoming events at Calumet Park Cemetery…mark your calendars…..


Now that’s a nice catch!

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How cute…come for the memories.

You are invited:

June 23 at 11:00 for the Fishing For Memories event. Almost a guaranty to catch a fish. For kids 12 and under with a parent or guardian. Snacks, drinks and bait will be provided as a courtesy. Located within Calumet Park Cemetery at the corner of 73 and Taft in Merrillville just one mile north of Route 30 on Taft.

July 20th at 11:00. Eleventh annual live butterfly release program. Join with so many others who wish to celebrate and remember a loved one who has passed. Call before July 8th to be sure to have a live butterfly reserved for you. Enjoy live music, select readings and a wonderful way to spend a morning with others in a shared experience.

September 28: Mark your calendars for the 2nd Annual 5K walk/run for suicide awareness. Last year’s event saw 116 people of all ages compete for medals in their age groups. Dr. Lisa Gold was the feature speaker and she shared her story that you can see by going to Dr. Lisa Gold on Google.

If you have questions on any of these events, feel free to call 219.769.8803 for more information.

New addition to Calumet Park Cemetery…

The Bumblebee – specialty loader to move earth with the least damage to the lawns of Calumet Park Cemetery
Alex Dominguez driving the new earth mover, affectionately nicknamed “the bumblebee”.

From October through April, graves do not get seeded as grass will not grow during the winter months. Generally in Spring, after the last thaw, the grounds crew goes to work to level all graves from those months, put down a layer of topsoil, grass seed and topped with an erosion blanket.

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Normally by Memorial Weekend all are completed and the grass is on its way to match the surrounding lawn. This year, with all the rain (record rainfall in May) that NW Indiana has received, all the graves are not seeded as of the first part of June. A check in the area with local farmers and you will find that they, too, are way behind on planting their crops due to the wet soil.
We ask that our families be patient. It does nobody any good to not have this very important step in the burial process completed. Calumet Park Cemetery has over four hundred acres of land, with 170 developed. During the course of October to June, there have been 421 immediate need families served by Calumet Park Cemetery, with each grave needing individual attention to get the grass as desired and deserved by our patron families.
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Add to all of those burials the ongoing task of new burials, cutting grass and trimming shrubs and bushes, and the normal routine of maintaining a cemetery, this year has been very challenging. With all the rain comes quicker growth of grass which increases the need to make sure the cemetery is worthy of the families that come to us.
Also, when the grounds are soaked, it takes more than one or two nice days to have the water seep deep enough or drain away. When the grounds are soft, their sponginess makes it impossible to drive heavy vehicles laden with dirt fill across the surface without tearing up the grounds. It is for this reason that Calumet Park invested in “the bumblebee” which will make it possible to get the heavy dirt needed to fill in a grave to the grave.
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Every family is important. The loss of a loved one moves their passing to the highest degree of attention and respect in their survivor’s minds and hearts. However, since this is true of all who have passed, Calumet Park cannot move one families needs before needs of another family. It is our absolute goal to take care of every family. We have not found the magic wand that lets us sweep across the entire cemetery, say a magic word, and have every grave filled in and grass planted at the same time.
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It pains each of us that work at Calumet Park when we see so much rain as we know there will be discomfort, delays and many other challenges that occur due to inclement weather. We do our best and our grounds crew is absolutely dedicated to be worthy of the trust that families put in them. As good as they are (number one cemetery of the year for the country for 2018), they are human and do the best that is humanly possible to meet the needs of every family that enters this sacred place.
On your next visit to the cemetery, do a slow 360 degree spin and see how nice the land is maintained all around your space. Your grave will blend in as time passes as it has for all you see for as far as you can see. It has been this way since our founding in 1928 and it will be for all time.
For information on prearranging for your cemetery and funeral needs, call 219-769-8803.



Spring has arrived at Calumet Park Cemetery in Merrillville, Indiana…Happy Mother’s Day to all…


Administration Building

Check out other posts in this blog to see the Spring newsletter, or stop at the office on your next visit to the cemetery. The entire Memorial Day schedule is included. If you have questions,

call 769-8803.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mom’s of the world. Thank you for all you do. Calumet Park will present a bouquet of flowers to all visitors to the cemetery on Mother’s Day until we run out. Hope

your day is great and thanks to all who come visit their Mother’s at whatever cemetery they are in.

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers…..

The most important question that can be asked is the one that you need answered. So, how can a FAQ sheet be put together that brings your question to the top of the list? A suggestion might be for you to scan through all the questions shown in this blog and find the one that you are looking for. You can call 219-769-8803 at any time (8:30-4:30 Monday thru Friday) if you need an immediate answer, which generally prompts a caller to ask follow-up questions. For non-urgent answers, read all the FAQ entries and you may discover questions that you had not thought about to ask but really wanted to know.

Click FAQ for inquisitive families

for answers to 67 frequently asked questions. Take a little time to read through these questions as you may feel comforted knowing a little about a topic that nobody likes to talk about…

 

Nobody is too tough to cry….

Nobody is too tough to cry

by Daniel Moran, G.M. Calumet Park Cemetery

I turned my car onto a rutted, dirt road.  About a quarter of a mile in, I passed a rusted gate hanging half off the hinges.  The house was really not much more than a shack with an old couch on the porch and windows that were in bad need of repair.  It was almost dark, that time when you can see a light on in a window when the sky is darker than it is light.  There was no garage and no car, so I was wondering if my appointment was even home.  I was there to talk about new windows, or at least storm windows, and a quick glance showed that the house was actually deteriorating around the frames so I was asking myself if we could even do anything for this homeowner.

I parked, picked my way past the rotted porch floorboards and knocked.  I confess, I knocked lightly as I was hoping nobody was home so I wouldn’t waste my time on this lead.  As I turned to leave, I heard a male voice shout that I should come in.  “Crap!” I thought as I turned the doorknob and tentatively entered the house.  “Hello, my name is Dan and I am from the replacement window company,” I said as I slowly obeyed the command.  The living room was very small, maybe 10 x 10 and there was a worn-out recliner straight on from the front door.

The man sat under a very low wattage lamp.  There was a small area rug, an old black and white TV, and a simple black phone on a tin tray table next to him along with an ash tray spilling out cigarette butts.  There was a pile of wood shavings on the floor in front of his chair and he was whittling something as I approached.  “Get a chair from the kitchen and come talk to me about my windows.   This past winter was brutal on me.”

I pulled up a chair and sat, and my heart was racing.  The man, we’ll call him Bob for this story, had no legs, a right arm with a hand that had nubs for fingers, no left arm, long, oily hair hanging down past his beard and an eye patch over his left eye.  His face was scarred and his voice was ragged, presumably from years of smoking.

I gave a quick presentation of storm windows because it seemed obvious he had little to no money, which turned out to be correct.  But in the time we were together, we found a common bond.  He was a door gunner in Vietnam during the TET Offensive in ’68, and went from a small-town boy to a torn apart body of a man whose heart and soul was ripped away along with his lost limbs and eye.  In fact, as I shared some of my story of being a ‘Nam alumni, he poured out his pain.  This meeting of veterans was in 1984, 14 years after his being torn apart from concentrated ground fire.  It was always the goal of the Viet Cong to take out a door gunner when possible to stop some of the devastating M-50 machine gun attacks from the sky.

He shared his story of being in the hospital for over a year, and of the complications from taking so many rounds.  At one point, he pulled up his shirt and showed his body; riddled with scars.  I cried as he related the pain, the loss of hope, the confusion, the loneliness and the isolation his life had become.  He nodded to a purple heart next to his phone and bitterly mocked what he got for his trouble as a soldier in Vietnam.

We talked for a couple of hours and I finally said I had to leave, but that I would be back.  I promised.  I told him that, one way or another, he was getting new windows for his house.  And I was good to my word as I split the cost with the owner of the company after sharing Bob’s story.  By the way, we had to give him a new fence, too, because I tore his fence up trying to back out in pitch dark as I was squinting through my reddened eyes from the experience of meeting Bob.

I am sharing this story because Memorial Day is upon us once again.  Many years have passed and nearly all of us “old timer Vietnam vets” still live out our night terrors.  For me, I took my uniform off in 1971…48 years ago.  But there are living vets from WWII, Korea, and all the mid-East wars right up to newly created vets leaving the service as you read this as people that served their country with pride, and dignity and honor.  These people, your grandparents and parents, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters and sons and daughters need to be remembered, particularly those whose deaths happened as a result of time served in our great military.  Veterans Day is meant for all of these people, and Memorial Day is for the departed.  However, I believe that there are many walking dead among us who lost a big part of who they might have been by fighting for this county, and they need to be honored and remembered every day.

I ask that all who read this article find time on Sunday, May 26 at 1:00, rain or shine, to come out to Calumet Park Cemetery and join with other like-minded people who wish to make a show of appreciation to our men and women of the armed forces.

People like Bob lost everything.  With his torn body, mind and soul, he had a lifetime that was so different than he could have ever imagined before he put on his first pair of Army boots.  He and all of his brothers and sisters in arms deserve an hour of respect and genuine thanks.

Oh, the wood shavings.  The picture of the wood carving of the wizard shown with this article was carved by good old, one eyed, one armed, no fingered Bob as a gift to me in March of 1984.  It took him a couple of months to whittle it from a branch that came down with his fence from my inability to back up a car when leaving his home that winter night.  It hangs on my office wall to this day as a reminder that there can always be something good coming from something bad.  Bob was willing to share a couple of his hours with me, and created a work of art kindled by our mutual respect for time served for this country.  To me, this simple work of Bob has always had more meaning than all the medals that were awarded to me for my work in Nam.

I never saw Bob again, but that time together still occupies a part of my heart that reminds me that nobody is too tough to cry.  Never forget that “there but through the grace of God go I”.

mycalumetpark.com

 

When a death occurs, who do you call?

When a death occurs at home or not in a medical institution: Under hospice care, call your hospice nurse. They will confirm your loved one’s death and consult with a physician if necessary. When you are ready to have the decedent removed from your home or other non-institutional place of death, contact your funeral home for further information and assistance.

Did you know that Calumet Park has three funeral homes for your convenience: Merrillville (219.736.5840), Hobart (219.940.3791) and Rendina Funeral Home (219.980.1141)

When not under hospice care and a death occurs outside of a medical institution, it is necessary to first call the coroner or medical examiner to confirm the death. This may be done by calling your local police or sheriff department at 911. Once the coroner or medical examiner has arrived, let them know of your preference to contact us for further information or assistance (or your funeral home of choice).

When a death occurs in an institution: such as a hospital or nursing home, the medical staff will generally take care of all necessary steps. All you would need to do is to notify the staff that you would like to have us handle the arrangements so that they can have you sign any necessary release paperwork. It is always your choice as to what funeral home you prefer. The institution will contact us to make arrangements so that we can assume custody of the deceased.

When a death occurs out of state or out of the area: If death occurs outside of Indiana or away from the region, please call us first so we can coordinate with a local funeral director at the place of death to have your loved one returned to this area. By being a member of several national associations, we can often save you money and added stress by having our firm make the arrangement to have your loved one brought back to Indiana. Likewise, if your loved one is from out of the area, we can help with arrangements to get them to a funeral home in their hometown.

By contacting us first, we will assist you by answering any questions you may have. We will listen and review the many available options that best meet your preferences and financial needs. We want you to know that you are not alone and our caring staff will help make your loss as easy on you as possible.

Please have the following information available when you call our funeral home for help:

1. legal name and location of the deceased and

2. your name, phone number and your relationship to the person who will be in charge of making the arrangements with a funeral director.

3. finally, for your meeting with your funeral director of choice, please bring the following to help in making the transition go as smoothly as possible – decedent’s legal name, sex, social security number, date of birth, date of death, birthplace (city, state, zip), if in military what branch, marital status, surviving spouse’s name, maiden name if wife, decedent’s occupation, complete address at the time of death, decedent’s highest level of education, if Hispanic origin (State of Indiana asks this for death certificate), what race, father’s name, mother’s name, and mother’s maiden last name.

4. When you meet with your funeral director, bring all of the info listed plus the following: burial clothing including undergarments and shoes, recent photograph, clergy name and phone number, copy of military discharge (DD214 or equivalent) when applicable to get all benefits from government and all the special discounts that Calumet Park and Rendina Funeral Home give, any applicable life insurance policies along with the phone number of your insurance agent, and the name of your cemetery of choice (Calumet Park – 2018 winner of best cemetery in the country would be an excellent choice) and deeds and contracts with the cemetery.

If you have any questions regarding anything you just read, please call 219-769-8803. Check out our new website at http://www.mycalumetpark.com

Spring is here…time to decorate graves for Memorial Weekend … check with the office please before you decorate

On March 20, Spring came to NW Indiana. And as soon as we get a few nice days in a row, many families start thinking of decorating the graves of their loved ones. As much as we understand the reasoning behind such activity, we want to remind everyone that there are decorating rules at Calumet Park Cemetery regarding what is and is not allowed in the cemetery.

In 1928, before the first burial was made, the founders of Calumet Park Cemetery had to decide on what type of cemetery they wanted to design; for the times they were living in, and for all generations to follow. Having to set certain rules as far as decorating graves was concerned, a great deal of debate went on as some wanted an “anything goes” type of cemetery, while others felt a park-like setting would offer the best place for showing respect and feeling tranquility when visiting.

Simple, uncluttered graves were as envisioned by the forefathers of the 400 acre cemetery in Merrillville, Indiana. The rules set down in 1928 have been strictly adhered to by the current generation of owners, all descendants of the original founders of Calumet Park Cemetery. A testament to those 90-year old decisions has resulted in Calumet Park Cemetery being named the Cemetery of the Year for 2018 by American Cemetery and Cremation magazine; also in their 90th year of publishing.

Cover story of December 2018 issue of American Cemetery and Cremation magazine

The photo shown above is filled with mementos, color, and creativity that meets the needs of the families buried there. But, multiply this scene by tens of thousands of graves and it would not be difficult to see the formation of a nightmare come to life. Many cemeteries in the country that have allowed an anything goes decorating policy are spending a great deal of time, money and effort in their attempt to find a legal way out of the chaotic appearances of their grounds after a couple of windy days. What looked pretty when placed soon becomes an eyesore and a maintenance nightmare.

If you feel that you need to be able to display whatever you choose, then we kindly invite you to search around NW Indiana for a cemetery that gives you comfort in this way of displaying your remembrance of your lost loved ones. If you want to have a beautiful, well kept, orderly and respectfully dignified final resting place, come visit us. Calumet Park Cemetery has so many choices to meet anyone’s need and price point.

Any one of our Family Service Counselors would be more than happy to take you on a tour of Calumet Park on the corner of 73rd and Taft in Merrillville. They will explain what decorations may be used on whatever section that you would be interested in. Simply put, no artificial decorations are allowed anywhere in the cemetery. Some sections allow planting of flowers and some permit only cut flowers in approved vases. The best advice would be, for anyone wishing to do something at a loved one’s final resting place, to check in at the office before spending money on items that are not permitted.

It should be understood that the grounds crew will remove and dispose of any unauthorized grave decorations (or mausoleum or niche) without contacting the owner of the burial rights. There are thousands upon thousands of graves in just the developed 175 acres of land, and over 50,000 burials. The sheer size of Calumet Park makes for a special challenge regarding maintenance, and having decorations that are not permitted only adds to the challenge.

If you have questions, please call 219-769-8803 and visit our website at mycalumetpark.com or facebook at mycalumetpark.

The day my dead dad saved my life….

It was an early June day in 1971.  Dad died in 1960 when I was but a boy of 11.

In May of 1971, I finished up my second tour of duty in Vietnam with the Green Berets, 5th Special Forces Group.  I was 22 then, going on 60.  This is not a story of Vietnam so much but how my Dad rescued me from thoughts of suicide.  Stay with me as this story has a happy ending.

Fresh home from the war, my war, as most people who have served have tattooed to their soul who have experienced man’s inhumanity to man up close and personal.  I joined the military in 1968, gung ho to save the world from communism.  I was an innocent, a person whose life was pretty simple up to those Vietnam days.  Post-Vietnam, I returned to my small-town life in upstate New York a changed person.

I was hardened by the things that I saw and things that I did and things that kept me awake at night.  I wanted to be a kid again, and have the experiences of the jungle sucked from my brain.  I felt like my insides were trying to run away from my body.  Anxiety, and what is now better known at PTSD gave me panic attacks.  I had disturbing thoughts and feelings and nightmares.

Before Vietnam, I was all over the God thing.  I believed in all the stories of the bible and all the wonders of Jesus that the nuns and priests brainwashed into us Catholic school kids.  For me, I attended Catholic school my entire life, so I was on board with God and heaven and hell and purgatory, venial sins and mortal sins, and what life was supposed to be about.

Except life away from the good ‘ol U.S of A. did not fit the mold.  So, the day came when I was going to stop running from the ghosts that haunted me every day.  I decided to go to St. Bonaventure Cemetery and tell Dad I was done with it all.  Life, as I could see it at that time, was too much.  I just wanted the pain to stop.  I found his grave and sat with my guitar.  And I talked to him.  I poured out my pain and sorrow and fears and dread.  I prayed that if there was a God, that it was time to prove it because I did not want to live any more.

Miraculously, a peace came over me.  It was almost like a movie flashing through my brain. All the good memories, the pre-war memories, flooded my body and took away my thoughts of suicide.  Dad was there and he saved me.  Dad and God.  Maybe Dad was God and God was Dad.  All I know is that having a place to go where I knew my Dad was at gave me physical, mental, and emotional strength to look for the good in life.

I have always been grateful that Mom laid him to rest at a cemetery as it offered a place for me to go to, and to contemplate life.  I truly believe that everyone should have that same feeling of being able to visit those people that were important to us in life.  I don’t get back to New York much lately, but it gives me peace just to know that Dad is there when I need him.  Even today, from many miles away from his grave, I can transport my being to his gravesite and hear him and God whisper of the glories of life and afterlife.  And what is that worth in silver and gold?

For information on preplanning, call 219-769-8803 or stop by the cemetery.  Its costs nothing to be educated.

Final Arrangements…and I do mean final!

Regardless of whether one prearranges for their cemetery and funeral needs (advance planning) or leaves such arrangements to those left behind (at-need), this article will offer some basic guidelines. When friends, relatives or new acquaintances find out that I work at a cemetery, the questions come with the main question being, “How much does it cost?”

To answer this question, I would have to ask a lot of questions in return, throwing the hot potato back at them. “How much does a house cost, or a car, or an engagement ring or even something as simple as a dozen eggs.” What is this guy talking about? Take the eggs, for example. Are they plain old, average sized eggs? Are they jumbo sized? Are they from free range chickens? And that is just trying to get to the answer of how much do eggs cost.

A better approach to the question of the price of a funeral and cemetery arrangements is to let a person know that they should not spend any more than is necessary to meet their needs, or their budget. And a budget is a funny thing as it was just proven during the government shut-down that most Americans are but a couple of paychecks away from being unable to meet their financial needs. Sadly, a great many of the people that come to us unprepared are shocked at the cost of dying. They lose the luxury of choice. If one does not have pre-needed their cemetery and funeral arrangements, have guaranteed insurance money to be available when they die, or they outlive their income, or if they have huge medical bills that empty the money stash set aside for a rainy day, they are out of luck.

So, setting the actual cost aside, lets explore all that is necessary to make complete cemetery and funeral arrangements. By the way, when it comes to funerals, the Federal Trade Commission requires funeral homes give you a copy of their price list when at a funeral home in person, or give you pricing on the phone when asked.

First, what do you want? Do you want traditional ground burial at a cemetery? If so, you will need a grave space, an outer container that the casket goes in, and an opening/closing of the grave. In addition, most people that select ground burial want to place an above ground monument or at least flush memorials that mark the location of a loved one forever.

At the funeral home, most people that choose ground burial want to have a visitation with viewing followed by a funeral committal service at their cemetery. A committal service is when you commit your loved one to a final resting place. In Indiana, a funeral director must be present any time a burial takes place with people gathered to say goodbye. For a funeral service with visitation, a casket would be necessary. Also, supporting products go hand-in-hand when a funeral is arranged which may include a register book for guests to sign in, prayer cards and envelopes, flowers and quite often, food and drinks.

When you add all of these things together, the average cost of cemetery and funeral goods and services is around $12-$15,000. Think of planning a wedding, and all of the costs involved. From a venue, to rings, to wedding dress and attire for the wedding party, to food and music and photography, to guest lists and places for them to stay, to invitations and more. Most weddings today run $20,000 and more…generally, a lot more.

A wedding is one of life’s biggest events and the final “biggest event” is one’s funeral. There are many of the same types of things to arrange as a wedding. The venue (what funeral home and what cemetery), the announcement (obituary), clothing for the decedent and for family that plan on attending, to music and clergy and on-and-on. Now days, people want a funeral to be an experience and not just a cookie-cutter service that is just like every other funeral they have ever attended.

There will be a lifetime of grieving and learning to live without the deceased loved one. A funeral is meant as a chance to gather with friends and family and celebrate the life that was lived. When a person passes, they do not just disappear from the world and from our memories. We all have a circle of friends and family that will also be grieving and that need a chance to say goodbye. Believe me, there is nothing that shouts louder that a parent or child or spouse or friend is gone than to see them lying in state.

Arrangements that funeral homes and cemeteries provide are based on the cumulative needs of any given population. In NW Indiana, seventy percent of the population still want a traditional funeral service followed by interment or entombment in a cemetery. The other 30% select cremation. Sometimes cremation is chosen because of money, sometimes for religious reasons and sometimes for ecological reasons. Regardless, many of those that go with cremation still want and still need a chance to say a proper goodbye. For those folks, they still want a traditional funeral service with all the trappings, to be followed by cremation.

Once the cremation is complete, the cremains (ashes) will be returned to the family for final disposition. That can be as simple as keeping them at home, or letting them blow in the wind, or scattered over Lake Michigan. But so many people have a need to be able to know where their loved one will be for eternity and want a place of peace and reverence that they can visit when the need arises “just to be near” their loved one.

Calumet Park, recent winner of the best cemetery in the country for 2018, has many, many possibilities that meet the needs, the wants and the pocket book of all who come to us.

Rather than try to make a list of meaningless pricing, you are invited to stop in at your convenience and one of our funeral directors or one of our family service people will be happy to take you on a tour of our facilities, and answer all of your questions. In addition, they can tailor an event, whether grandiose or simple, and give you exact pricing. It would be then in your hands to decide if you wanted to prearrange and freeze the price or go home and at least know what you would be up against financially to get what will best meet your needs.

Call 219-769-8803 to arrange a personal meeting with one of our professional staff members. And remember that is better to have your arrangements and not need them than to need them and not be able to afford them.