These Are The 9 Most Innovative Funeral Professionals

Here at funeralOne, we are all about innovation. It is something we truly live, sleep and breathe by and we’re constantly looking change the profession for the better and make funeral planning a more valuable (and less complicated) experience for families. And we’re on a mission to bring that creative spirit to the entire funeral profession.


We’re not the only ones who have found success through innovation. Some pretty smart guys you may know of have also found success through being different, out-of-the-box thinkers. Albert Einstein said: “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” And William Pollard said: “Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.”

The way I see it, if we want to keep today’s changing families happy, there’s nothing left to do BUT innovate. Luckily, many in the funeral profession feel the same way. Here are 8 of the most innovative funeral professionals around.

1. John T. McQueen

Let’s start with John T. McQueen, a second generation funeral director and owner of the Anderson McQueen funeral home in St Petersburg, Florida. He’s always been a bit of a pioneer. His funeral home opened a cremation tribute center in 1997 to give the families of those being cremated somewhere to worship and visit with friends. That was pretty unusual at a time when cremation was usually an off-site, industrialized process.

More recently, his funeral home has been offering flameless cremation, using alkaline hydrolysis, a more environmentally friendly cremation method. This has proved popular with those interested in more eco-friendly funerals.

2. Caitlin Doughty

Caitlin Doughty is not like any other funeral director. She has made a career out of the lighter side of death and aims to get people thinking about death and considering it as a natural part of the process of life. To do that, she has a YouTube channel, Ask a Mortician, that has more than 42,000 subscribers, with videos regularly getting five digit viewing figures.


But there’s more ﹘ Caitlin Doughty is also the founder of an online blog that features a seasoned group of funeral professionals that regularly write about common questions and issues surrounding death. It’s called The Order of the Good Death, which sounds like something out of a fantasy novel. The lack of sales speak, plain talk and good humor (as well as a willingness to help people take care of loved ones at home) makes her a bit of a revolutionary. You can learn more about this funeral profession innovator in her recent book: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.

3. Caleb Wilde

Caleb Wilde also wants to change people’s ideas about death and he uses his blog, Confessions of a Funeral Director, to do it. He is an excellent storyteller who has been featured on some of the country’s top news sites because of his compelling tales on the trials and tribulations of the funeral profession. (Some of his super-informative guest blogging has been featured here on the funeralOne blog, too.) He’s not afraid to tackle any topic, and one thing’s for sure: whether you laugh or cry at some of his tales, you won’t be indifferent.


4. Neil O’Connor

Many people outside of the profession think of funeral professionals as mournful old men in suits – but we all know this isn’t always true. Neil O’Connor, who heads up O’Connor Mortuary (the oldest family owned and operated mortuary in California) proves it. In addition to his hobbies, he runs a firm that’s a byword in customer service – and gets funeral home marketing right, too.

O’Connor prides itself on its commitment and dedication to families, its involvement in the community, its respect for diversity and its quick response to all families’ needs. You can see the results on the firm’s Facebook page which features quotes and images about grief, healing and other aspects of funeral services, as well as multiple testimonials to their excellent customer service.

5. Walker Posey

Walker Posey is another person who rejects the traditional image of a funeral director. He is young, charming and truly understands the role that technology plays in connecting with families today. You’ve probably seen his work on our blog, where his first post dispelled the fears stopping funeral homes from getting a website. Everyone understands that now – but Posey was one of the first to start the discussion.

More recently, he has discussed how funeral homes can add value for families and give them another way to celebrate a life lived with tribute videos. Walker is an active and passionate advocate for the profession and for helping funeral homes to stay relevant in tech-savvy families.

6. Michael Schoedinger

When we talk about innovation at funeralOne, we often mention Schoedinger Funeral Home, headed up by Michael Schoedinger. The funeral home is always doing something new that other funeral homes can learn from. Back in 2009, Schoedinger’s made the news for offering webcasts of funeral services for mourners who were unable to attend in person.

Soon after, they revamped their web presence with our help to change the way they interacted with families online. The average time on site shot up from 7 seconds to more than 4 minutes, pre-need leads increased by 2000% and the site got 10 times more traffic.


Schoedinger’s has also used Facebook effectively to give an inside view of their funeral home, as well as sharing videos and useful articles. This, paired with their website’s social memorial websites that integrate with Facebook, has led over 47% of their new site visitors to originate from the social media site.

And there’s one more recent innovation: the funeral home is offering DNA memorials to preserve their loved one’s DNA for families in the hope of helping them fight serious disease later.

7. Wells Greeley

We’ve often said funeral homes need to think beyond viewing rooms when considering facilities for families. Wells Greeley has put this into action by turning an adjacent building connected to the funeral home into an event and reception center. The center can be used for almost any type of event. Now with this upgrade, instead of only being a place of death, the funeral home becomes a place of celebration.  


8. Sarah Wambold

Sarah Wambold (featured in our recent blog on funeral homes putting the fun back in funerals) is known as the anti-funeral director. She says it’s time to stop thinking like a funeral director and wants to change the way that funerals happen, starting with her own funeral home.

She’d love to have an art gallery in her funeral home and a space where families to listen to music, watch movies or anything other function that may be an important part of celebrating a life lived.

9. Amy Cunningham

Families who want a funeral service that’s out of the ordinary will want to connect with Amy Cunningham. She’s known for offering natural burials, home vigils, multi-faith services, alternative rituals – anything that makes celebrating a life lived more personalized and more meaningful.  This interview with Amy on the Seven Ponds blog is worth reading, as is her Inspired Funeral blog.


What do all of these funeral professionals have in common? A refusal to settle for the status quo. That’s the essence of innovation, as James Bertrand said: “Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating the future.”

What funeral service innovations would you like to see in the next few years, or have you already started implementing into your funeral home?!

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  1. Annette Berarducci

    Hi, our family has been in the industry for a century and I recently added a Cremation Care Center to our funeral homes. I have been trying to help people with end of life services through a difficult recession by identify the important parts of the memorial service for their loved ones and educating the consumer that it doesn’t have to be in a 12k funeral service. The important part of a funeral is the receiving of friends and family,sharing memories and stories to memorialize, with today’s technology it’s never been easier. I just shared a service with a young woman in Thailand who lost her dad here, she was able to attend the service right by her mom’s side the entire time. I have put my services and products online for people to be able to shop and compare prices and products in the comfort of their homes and even take the service back to their own homes if they so choose. I have also opened two smaller boutique style facilities specializing in Ultra Comfortable Ultra Affordable services.

  2. George Kerling

    I’ve often wondered why the ashes from a cremation can’t be mixed with sand,concrete and water..then turned into a memorial statue,cornerstone or garden decoration? Just a thought!

  3. Brian Stout

    I am the General Manager at East County Mortuary & Cremation Service in El Cajon, California and our mission here is to also “think outside of the box” and we educate our families on the different ways to personalize their services. Our philosophy is, if it’s legal and it can be done, we will do it! For example, I just had an article published in Nomis Funeral Home & Cemetery News’s January edition entitled “East County Mortuary Holds Viking Send-Off” about a couple who lost their 22 year old son after he fell from a freeway overpass. I educated them on how important it is to see their son and say their good-byes and then told them that we will make the “Viking Event” happen for their son’s wishes. This type of event provided a step in the right direction in the grieving process for this family as they said it was like receiving therapy and healing at the same time.
    We also had a lady who was in the Girl Scouts for 53 years and we transformed our chapel into a forest equipped with a campire (constructed with logs and special lighting) set up next to the casket because the family told us she enjoyed being a leader and taking her girls on hundreds of campouts. Also, every year we enjoy providing our “Candlelight Rememberance Service” to our families that include wine and appetizers (served by waiter and waitresses) and holiday desserts. It is well attended and very appreciated by our families.

    So, I enjoyed reading your article on the Most Innovative Funeral Professionals and wanted to let you know there are a few of us trying to make a difference and giving families a much deserved opportunity to remember their loved ones. Thank you for confirming our efforts to be innovative are in the right direction!

  4. Meryl Kos

    Putting “Fun” back in funerals?! I don’t find anything “fun” about the thought of arranging a funeral for someone i just lost. It’s insulting and i wouldn’t hire someone who wanted to lessen my loss by making it into a festive occasion! I might even want to sue them for emotional distress! How would you feel if you just lost your child or your spouse and the person you turned to help you through this turned around and tried to manipulate you into making the worst day of your life into a frigging party?? How about putting the “Respect, Class or Dignity back in funerals? That would be TOTALLY OFF THE TOP innovative! If these “Innovative” people you think are so great want to put “Fun” in something they should have been cruise directors or wedding planners!

  5. Rev. Truly

    As a minister in the Spiritualist faith I see a lot of families embracing this type of funeral service. they are not disrespecting their loved ones but literally celebrating the joy & time they shared together. A funeral is not for the person lying in the casket but for those left behind. Let them celebrate they way they wish & if you don’t like it, walk away. Besides no one can tell you how to grieve. I say if it helps you to cope, carry on. Keep up the great work innovators!

  6. Julia Gaunt

    I would like to see more mention of white dove releases from those funeral homes that have a professional available in their area. Families sometimes do not realize that this service is available through their funeral home unless the funeral directors mention it to them. As a professional dove releaser of 10 years, I would prefer to work with the funeral homes and their directors in providing this memorable experience that personalizes ceremony instead of having a family find me first and then inform the funeral director.

    We who provide this service are dedicated to bringing this to families because we see how it helps in their grieving process by witnessing and/or participating in the releasing of the doves.

    There are white dove release professionals throughout many locations in the US and Canada. Funeral homes who have included releases in packages and or encouraged families to consider this option are embracing yet another way for families to do something different from the “cookie cutter” funeral.

    BTW, what is environmentally friendly about releasing balloons?
    Check out for information on where those balloons and strings end up.
    Please if you can, release birds, not balloons! Tell your families, don’t wait for them to ask.

  7. Seguros de Decesos Baratos

    Awesome people, this kind of success happens when you mix creativity with empathy in your career or business. Plus, being a funeral director must be no easy job, dealing with that kind of subject is veery uncomfortable for many people. but these have made a great job, hope to hear more from them. Cheers from Spain, nice blog.