From Southern Calls, Volume 8 | June 2015
Collecting dust in the basement of the Texas Funeral Directors Association was a hodgepodge of funeral memorabilia and artifacts collected by Robert Waltrip and other funeral directors associated with the professional organization. “We all felt that the items should be showcased,” says Waltrip, who originally planned to partner with the National Funeral Directors Association to open the nation’s first museum dedicated solely to funeral service history.
After purchasing Commonwealth Institute of Mortuary Science, Waltrip decided to construct the museum on the school grounds. “Many of the items on display were either donated or saved from funeral homes we have acquired over the years. The first old funeral coach is from Drake & Son in Chicago.”
Founded in 1992, the museum boasts 30,500 square feet of exhibition space. Among the displays are a collection of antique hearses and horse-drawn carriages, the coach used during the funerals of Presidents Ford and Reagan, an astounding array of memorial folders and programs from celebrity funerals and even several rare and unusual caskets. One of the caskets was custom designed to accommodate three people and has a particularly morbid history. “The construction was commissioned by a father who had lost a child,” says Bob Boetticher, who serves as vice chairman and CEO, having been associated with the museum since its inception. “The father planned to murder the mother, commit suicide and have the child placed between them, but they never followed through. They even asked for their money back, and the funeral director refused.”
An outstanding, constantly evolving collection of undertaking antiquities, oddities and memorabilia, the National Museum of Funeral History provides an extraordinary glimpse that combines both history and morbid curiosity. The National Museum of Funeral History is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit governed by a board of directors and is perhaps the largest funeral museum in the world.
Check back every Friday for another nugget of funereal miscellany!