More families opt for simple cremation as economy slows |

More families opt for simple cremation as economy slows

Rob Sabo
Northern Nevada Business Weekly

The steep cost associated with traditional funeral services and interment has many Northern Nevadans opting for simple cremation for themselves or for their deceased family members.

And the tight economy causes even more of them to take a second look at funeral expenses.

The number of people who choose cremation long has been much higher in Nevada than other regions of the country, says Michelle Kress, operations manager for Walton’s Family of Funeral Homes, which manages 11 funeral parlors in Northern Nevada and one in Susanville, Calif. Burials in southern and eastern states typically outnumber cremations four to one, but in Nevada, she says, 75 to 80 percent of people choose cremation. One factor is price.

Costs for funeral services and burial can vary greatly depending on the services that are requested. A plot at Walton’s Carson Gardens Cemetery on North Roop Street in Carson City, for instance, starts at $2,300, while burial space at the 138-year-old Mountain View Mortuary at 435 Stoker Avenue in Reno starts at $1,300, says counselor Samantha Olson.

Basic burial services cost $3,300, and a marker or headstone will add at least $1,700, Olson says. Most people choose to purchase a headstone rather than let a gravesite stand unmarked.

“Cemetery property is one of largest expenses a person has to go through,” she says.

Conversely, cremations can cost anywhere from a radio-advertised rate of $395 for one Reno-area provider to $600 to $800 for cremation at cremation societies or funeral parlors in the area. Sometimes cremation is a personal choice; sometimes it’s financially driven.

“Most people already have an idea whether they want to be buried or cremated,” Kress says. “But some people that we see really do want to be buried but might not be able to afford all the choices they want.”

Traditional burial services typically include visitation or a celebration of one’s life at a funeral home or church, funeral services at a cemetery, followed by a wake. Costs are associated with each – and oftentimes those costs aren’t budgeted in advance.

“Unfortunately death is something people don’t like to think about, so it turns out to be an unplanned-for expense,” Kress says. “When a loved one dies a lot of people don’t know how to pay for that.”

Joann Busam, co-owner of Truckee Meadows Cremation and Burial Services, says her business is at the lower end of the funeral services cost structure. Still, she says, many people she sees cannot afford even basic cremation services.

“We do the best we can for people,” Busam says. “Oftentimes hospice care will call us and say, ‘These people are having a hard time,’ and we will see what we can do for them.”

Busam says families may choose to have funeral services and a wake at their homes or in parks to curb expenses. Truckee Meadows Cremation and Burial Services also works with many veterans, who often choose interment at Veterans Cemetery in Fernley and whose families use the chapel at the Ioannis A. Lougaris VA Medical Center in Reno.

“If you are a little creative you still can have some kind of dignified service and not spend a whole lot of money,” she says.

Pre-arranged funeral services take the financial burden off the living, says Walton’s Kress.

“If grandma had everything pre-arranged and paid for, the family can have all the services and they don’t pay a thing; for people that is such a relief.”