In the past 40 years, the number of funeral directors who are women in the United States has jumped from 5 percent to 43 percent, according to the New York State Funeral Directors Association. D.O. McComb & Sons Funeral Homes and its local Dignity Providers currently employ six women funeral directors. All of these women developed a passion for helping others that led them to this industry.
Sixty percent of today’s mortuary science students are women, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. The historical scarcity of female funeral directors comes from the physical nature of the job. Funeral directors have to lift and transport bodies, something women were not thought to have the strength to do. Attitudes and society have changed and that is reflected in the number of women pursuing degrees in mortuary science.
When asking these women why they chose the funeral industry, they each explained in their own way that they were drawn to help others in their time of great need.
Leah Fulton, funeral director with D.O. McComb & Sons and the local Dignity Providers, served as a staff sergeant for 8 years in the U.S. Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. During her tenure, Fulton deployed as the mortuary affairs liaison with the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment and the 593rd Corps Support Group. She considers it a true honor to serve veterans, soldiers and their families.
“I always felt called to this profession,” Fulton says. “I wanted to help others in their time of grief and consider it a passion to honor a life lived.”
Kayla Battishill, funeral director with D.O. McComb & Sons and the local Dignity Providers, went to IPFW and received her bachelor’s degree in music and was going to go into Music Therapy. As a child, her piano teacher played at funeral homes for visitations. Battishill would go with her to the funeral home when she played for families. She would watch the funeral director take families up to see their loved ones for the first time and I thought to myself as a small child, “I wish I could be that person that was there for families during this difficult time.”
She carried that passion with her and pursued her degree in mortuary science. “Being able to take care of them like I would my own family and make such a terrible time in their lives easier is what’s most rewarding to me as a funeral director,” Battishill says.
Women are often excellent candidates for this profession as many families find a female presence both comforting and reassuring. Having both male and female funeral directors on staff can offer more varied insights and perspectives regarding a family’s needs.
Throughout the decades, the role of the funeral director has changed and grown. As families choose many different ways to celebrate the life of a loved one, funeral directors’ responsibilities have expanded to include orchestrating personalized and unique services that include special touches reflecting a loved one’s life.
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