Nonprofit group touts at-home funerals

VIROQUA — Charlene Elderkin wants people to know they have options when planning a funeral, some that hark back to the days when family members were laid out at home to say goodbye.

Elderkin and three other volunteers with Threshold Care Circle Services led about 14 people in a discussion about at-home funerals Tuesday night at Western Technical College in Viroqua.

The Viroqua-based nonprofit organization helps those who might prefer a respectful service at home, or perhaps a “green” funeral — environmentally friendly options that do not require embalming fluids and expensive metal caskets.

Costs for a standard funeral can be almost $10,000, Elderkin said, but that’s not the only reason some people choose to honor loved ones at home after death rather then use a funeral parlor.

“Many people say the money wasn’t what it was about, because the experience was so meaningful,” she said.

The nonprofit offers seminars on legal forms and legal rights, plus options and resources available to prepare a body for home visitation.

The organization is not against funeral directors, Elderkin said — they simply want to enlighten people about their options.

“A good funeral director will honor your choices,” she said.

Therese Laurdan, 42, of Viroqua said she was fascinated by the notion of recapturing a lost tradition.

“Sometimes you forget there are choices,” Laurdan said, “and things weren’t always a certain way. Birth, marriage, death — those are big rituals in our lives, and they’ve been taken over.”

Ann Thicke, 68, of Bangor said she recently lost her mother and was shocked by the high cost of the funeral to her family.

“We were wondering is all of it necessary,” Thicke said, “and is there anything we could do differently?”

From the Coulee Times Thursday, April 03, 2008

LEGAL MATTERS: New law provides more choice for funerals, burials

Though it might sound cold, a new Wisconsin law will actually bring peace of mind to many residents. The law, called Authorization for Final Disposition, allows Wisconsin adults to choose who will make their funeral and burial arrangements.

Prior law held that next of kin made all arrangements, regardless of the wishes of the deceased. That created a number of problems for unmarried couples, siblings of deceased parents and the clergy and funeral directors who were trying to sort out to whom they should listen.

For more of this story, click on or type the URL below:

Want to take advantage of the new law?

Download the Wisconsin Designated Agent Form at the Funeral Consumer Alliance website.

Instructions for using WI Designated Agent Form

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