EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
MARBLE FALLS — Walking into Putnam Cremation Advocates on the second floor of Market on Avenue H makes a person stop and wonder, “Where are the caskets?” It is, after all, a licensed funeral home.
“We have some,” said Jessamyn Putnam, referring to a closed-off, large closet in one of the rooms, “and we offer those services, but what we’re really focused on here are cremations.”
The office space, however, counters just about everything you probably imagine when you think of a funeral home, even one that focuses primarily on cremations.
That’s the direction Jessamyn and her husband, Chris Putnam, owners of Putnam Funeral Home in Kingsland and now Putnam Cremation Advocates in Marble Falls, want to go.
“The funeral industry is very traditional,” Jessamyn said. “So, often, when people think of funeral homes, they think of the Adams Family, stained glass, and a room of coffins,” she said. “But what we’ve found is that the customer is changing. The consumer dynamics. Our funeral consumer wants something different.”
The “different” that customers apparently are looking for isn’t just what a funeral home looks like but what it offers. Putnam has noticed a trend as more people seek cremations over the traditional funeral with a coffin, viewing, and burial.
“What we’re finding is more people want something less formal, more intimate,” she said.
People are forgoing traditional funeral elements such as visitations and burials.
Like weddings, funerals or memorials are even moving out of the church.
The Putnams designed Putman Cremation Advocates to offer people other options, maybe even ones they didn’t know existed. From the moment a person walks into the office, they find a bright and open room with three smaller offices on one side. Everything, Jessamyn said, is designed to put people at ease — whether they’re coming in to discuss pre-arrangements or plan a service for someone who has recently passed away.
“I know this is an uncomfortable time for people if they are coming in to talk about a loved one who has died, or even if they want to learn about pre-arrangements,” she said. “One of our goals is to take as much of that discomfort or pressure off them. We’re here to assist and guide them in any way we possibly can.”
While she can arrange traditional funerals at the office, the main focus is cremations. Putnam and her husband have witnessed the trend of people seeking cremation over burial. It’s something national statistics bear out. According to the Cremation Association of North America, in 2000, the cremation rate was 26.2 percent, but in 2015, that had grown to 48.6 percent. The National Funeral Directors Association stated that the rate of cremation surpassed that of burial in 2015 with 48.5 percent for cremation and 45.4 percent for burial.
The NFDA projects cremation will increase to 51.6 in 2017 (42.3 percent for burial), and by 2030, more than 70 percent of people will be selecting cremation over burial.
Along with offering cremation services, Putnam Cremation Advocates has the only crematory in the Highland Lakes at its Kingsland location. They only handle cremations they arrange, and don’t send out bodies for cremations.
Jessamyn knows that death is an uncomfortable topic, which is why she created a very different atmosphere in the office. She’ll work with people and families to plan a service or celebration of life.
“I’ll find ways to make it personal and reflective of the person,” she said. “We’re personalizing this because that’s what our clients want.”
Taking care of the survivors doesn’t end when the service is over. In fact, Jessamyn said taking care of the people involved goes beyond just offering them a cremation service and urn; it extends to so much around a person’s death. Following a death, the family might find themselves with lots of questions about taking care of the deceased’s estates, finances, and other things. They don’t offer legal advice, but Putnam Cremation Advocates can help families begin dealing with those types of documents. In pre-arrangements, they can help clients get things in order so there isn’t such a burden on their loved ones after their death.
And then there’s just dealing with the grief itself.
“We know about all the different grief services in the area, so we can help people toward those if they need it,” Jessamyn said. “Because it’s not really about finding closure; it’s about learning to live your life without that person in it.”
Whether someone wants a more traditional service with cremation or is looking for something else, Jessamyn said she and the staff will work to find the right option.
“Sometimes, they don’t think they can do something or thought there was only the traditional type of service,” she said. “Part of what we also do is educate people and the community.”
That can be educating about cremation or the different ways to remember a loved one.
Putnam said the Highland Lakes is blessed with so many good funeral homes that have staff who care about people. The Putnam Cremation Advocates is another part of that service, even if it’s not what a person imagines a funeral home should look or feel like.
“Dealing and talking about death, it is uncomfortable and not the easiest thing to talk about,” she said. “But they can walk in here, and we can take that burden off them.”
Go to cremationadvocates.net or call (830) 798-8413 for more information. Putnam Cremation Advocates is located at 206 Ave. H, Suite 204, in Marble Falls.