Return to Main Page Visit

Have a question for our Expert?

Fullerton Funeral Home Is Here to Help!

Traditional Services

It is important to recognize that funerals are for the living. It is through this process that a number of emotional needs are met for those who grieve. A traditional funeral will most generally consist of a visitation, with the body present in a casket, a service at the church or funeral home, and an interment in a registered cemetery. The funeral and visitation declares that a death has occurred and commemorates the life that has been lived, and offers the family and friends an opportunity to pay tribute to the one they love. The gathering of friends and family provides the emotional support so needed at this time. Psychologists have established that until a bereaved person truly accepts the fact that death has occurred, no progress can be made in resolving their grief. Viewing helps to fulfill that need. Most funeral homes provide a wide range of products such as caskets and vaults for this type of service. The funeral home will also charge for the use of their facilities, staff, and equipment, along with the transportation vehicles. Fees paid to third parties such as flowers and cemeteries can be arranged with the funeral home.


Cremation is one form of final disposition chosen by some people. This is actually a process of preparing the body for final disposition whereby the body is reduced by intense heat over several hours to a few pounds of small skeletal fragments. These cremated remains are usually placed in a memorial urn which may be buried, placed in a memorial niche, or kept in some other location, such as a home.

Fullerton Staff

James M. Fullerton, BSMS, CFSP, FD&E
Jim has been in funeral service since 1977. He has been very active with several different fraternal and service organizations in Mason City and currently serves as a Trustee and nation wide Membership Chairman for the National Foundation for Mortuary Care, a non-profit disaster foundation. Jim is so well grounded in his values and beliefs and his commitment to excellence is obvious. He is the head coach--- awesome responsibility but also a great opportunity! Coaches inspire their team to play their best all day every day. This takes constant and consistent support from him and his willingness to invest. His experience in operating the business from all avenues and having served in all capacities gives him the knowledge and ability to manage and deal with people, meeting deadlines, and making sure families are served with the respect and care they deserve. He graduated from Rudd-Rockford, Marble Rock High School, North Iowa Area Community College and the University of Minnesota. Jim is married to Kelly "Klatt" They have seven children between them, Alyssa, Taylor, Samuel, Olivia, Annika, Benjamin, and Ella. All attend school in Mason City.


He is responsible for the strategic issues, external relations, and overall corporate governance. His role is to synthesize all sources and set and maintain the company's goals and objectives, which become, in their composite form, the company's vision. The CEO must also play a role in supporting that vision both by example and by internally communicating it's nature and focus. The CEO will ensure that our corporation meets both the employee's and the families needs.

123 2nd St. SE, Mason City, Iowa
Mason City Phone: 641-423-8676 or 1-800-547-4038
401 Blunt, Charles City, Iowa 641-228-4211
120 S. 3rd St., Rockwell, Iowa 641-822-3191
302 W. Main, Rockford, Iowa 641-756-3311
Visit Our Website:

Ask the Expert a Question

Fill out the following form and the Expert will post your answer!
Your name
State (required)
Country (required)
Email Address
Security Code:
(type the number in the box)

Most Recent Questions & Answers

Q: How do I find out if it's legal to scatter my Father's ashes at Carolina Beach? His request was to be scattered from one of the fishing charters.
A: You can do two things. One check with the charter boat captain. I would suggest you ask around. Not all boats do this. Those that have done it on a regular basis will know the rules. A blank look from the captain should give you and answer to if they have done this before. You also will want the GPS coordinates of where you actually scatter the cremated remains. The other is contact a local funeral home in that area for the rules. They probably use someone or could recommend someone. I am going to take a guess that you need to be in international waters to scatter. Most states have rules about where and how far out you must be. If you are dropping an urn and not scattering there are different rules also. This is to keep the urns from washing into shore during a storm. Make sure the captain does not turn around and go through the area that you scatter in or dropped the urn. That is kind of a NO-NO. For obvious reasons. If you scatter I want you to know that the cremated remains are not "ash" they are bone fragments that are reduced to powder. The cremation container will also be mixed in and that will be ash. Some of the particles will be heavy and some will be light. Make sure you are upwind when scattering so that they will blow away from you. The others will sink rapidly. I hope this answers your question.

Q: I was interested in maybe becoming a mortician and I was just wondering what the average hourly wage is, and what exactly the job intels.
A: As a licensed funeral director/embalmer your work week will consist of making removals, preparing the deceased, meeting with families to make arrangements, calling the participants for the funeral, typing the book, memorial folders and legal paperwork such as the social security forms, veterans forms, and death certificates, dressing, cosmetising, adn casketing the deceased meeting again with the family for first viewing and working the rest of the visitation, conducting the funeral and graveside services. Then in the slow times you can reset chairs, vacumn, clean the bathrooms, cars, and preproom. You will work days, nights, and weekends, You will be on call on a rotating schedule. All this for around 30 to 50 thousand a year. BUT, it is the most rewarding career in the world. Helping people at their worst time in their lives is the best kind of ministry that I can think of. I hope this helps with your question.

Q: How long is a body maintained in a casket (coffin) after it has been buried?
A: Your question will depend on several factors. One is the skill of the embalmer. Second is what the cause and manner of death were. If the embalmer did a very good job in embalming and the body died of normal natural causes then the person will last for a very long time. The other factors is type of casket and vault. If they are quality sealing units then the person will be kept clean and dry. No graveside elements such as dirt and water (which contain bacteria) can enter. Dampness and bacteria are the two factors that make a person decompose. The temperature below ground is pretty much constant in winter and summer. Heat will also be a factor but only when bacteria and moisture is present.
I have seen people disinterred 20 some years after death and look very good. I have seen people that have been buried for two or three years that were very bad.
Hope that helps with your question.

Q: Can you walk me thru a Cremation step by step including what the body goes thru? I am thinking very strongly of using this. I am in Hospice now.
A: Many people confuse the word cremation with service. They are two different things. Cremation is a form of final disposition just as earth burial is a form of final disposition.
The cremation process is the same whether you have a service or not. It is the same with or without embalming.
Cremation follows these general guidelines. Each states rules may vary as to what is required.
The first step is receiving written permission on a crematory form from all of you next of kin. This would include spouse and children. In almost all states a cremation permit from the local medical examiner or coroner will also be required. This is to make sure that no hanky-panky has occurred. There is generally a fee for this permit. The person is placed in some form of rigid container. This may be made of cardboard or wood. The reason for this is that a person must be pushed into the crematory and not pulled. The crematory will be pre-heated to a set temperature prior to a person being placed for the cremation. Ours is set at 1600 degrees. Once the crematory has reached the proper temperature then the person is placed into the chamber. All manufacturers of crematory rate their machines on pounds per hour. A 150 pound person will take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to reduce. Following the cremation process the crematory will need to cool down before the remains can be removed. This often takes an additional 2 hours.
When we remove the remains their is still large bones left. They crumble easily because the water has been evaporated. These remains are then further reduced using mechanical means. This is so that all of the remains recovered will fit into and urn or temporary container. A 150 pound person will have approximately 8 pounds of remains. The urn needs to be a minimum of 300 cubic inches. This is about the size of a 3 pound coffee can, just as an example. During the entire process a stainless steel tag is kept with the person. The tag has an identification number on it that will never be reused. This is the only form of identification that we have following cremation to make sure that the person we say is them, is.
There is no way to recover all remains from the cremation process. This is what is referred to as micro-mixing. However every effort is made to recover the remains. The biggest fear of most people is that they will be cremated with someone else. This is almost an impossibility. If you saw the size of the chamber you would realize that it is only big enough for one person at a time.
I hope this helps with your question.

Q: What does it take to fix a body up for a wake? From the time of death to the time of rest in the ground.
A: A person is removed from the place of death and taken to the funeral home. Embalming is preformed. After arrangements the person is dressed, cosmetized, and placed in the casket. Viewing or a visitation is held, the funeral conducted and then the person is buried or cremated.

Q: I am interested in knowing how a body is prepared for burial.
A: I am including a link to the Wyoming Funeral Directors Association. They have one of the best links to the history of embalming which also includes the answer to your question. Excellent article.

Q: How much does it cost to go to embalming school?
A: Type in Mortuary Colleges in your search bar of your browser. All of the schools will be listed and you can check on the ones you are interested in. Prices vary as well as whether you are going for one year or two. Different states have different rules for becoming a funeral director/embalmer. Check with your state association on the rules for your state. Some of the mortuary colleges also list by state the rules that are required.

Q: i want to become a medical examiner. I'm from South Carolina. What would be a good college to go to for that? How long would I have to go? What do I have to get my degree in? What classes would I have to take?
A: I do not know if you have a medical examiner or coroner system in South Carolina. But to answer your question a medical examiner must be a licensed physician either as a MD or DO in most states. That would mean that you need to go to medical school. If you want to be a pathologist then you will take additional years of schooling and internship for the pathology above and beyond your MD or DO. If you want to be a forensic pathologist then there is an additional 2 years in the forensic field and working in a medical examiners office to complete that. All in all you will have about 12 years of schooling and internship after high school.
I hope that assists with your question.
Jim Fullerton

Q: I am interested in becoming a mortician as soon as I get the nerves to overcome the 'last movement'. A lot of people tells me that the dead make a last movement when the embombing fluid is injected. Is that true?
A: Go for the schooling. Fear is usually diminished when you know the truth. The movement that you ask about is rare (very rare) at best. It is caused by a couple of things. One is the medication that the person is on or takes just before death. The medication and the actual death changes the PH in the body. The PH goes from pretty much neutral to basic and then rises over a period of time to acidic. Our embalming fluid is slightly acidic so that the transfer of fluid through osmosis works better. In some rare cases we have an acid/basic reaction in the muscle tissue. A deceased can not sit up (rumor) but we may have a slight movement in muscles that are used a lot. The further in the time frame from time of death to actual embalming diminishes the possibility of this reaction. The other time we may have a reaction is if the deceased was doing heavy exercise or work at the time of death. This creates the same PH problem.
Thanks for the question.

Q: If you own your own land, is it permissable to have your remains buried on your own land with a headstone? Also, would it be permissable to have your family scatter your ashes on your own land?
A: Iowa changed the law about burial plots about 10 years ago. At this time, a person may only be buried in a recognized cemetery. This includes city owned, church owned and privately operated registered cemeteries. All cemeteries used for burial must be registered with the state.
Cremated remains are a different situation. In Iowa the actual act of cremation is considered final disposition. A family may choose to bury on their own land or scatter. This may be done on your own property or public held land. You may not spread cremated remains on private property owned by someone else without their permission. The act of scattering is an irreversible decision and needs to be weighed carefully prior to doing it. The remains cannot be recovered. I would also be careful in case the law changes for what ever reason that cremated remains may become classified as a hazard. Cremated remains can be split up. I have had families spread a portion, keep a portion and bury a portion. This may be an option for some people. Also contrary to popular belief cremated remains are not ashes but consist of bone particles and weigh about six pounds. They are heavy and will not be spread by the winds.
Thank you for the question.

Q: I want to be an embalmer in Iowa. I don 't want to have to take a lot of classes that don't apply to direct embalming like a 2 year degree before being introduced to the embalming techniques. Can you tell me what the Iowa Law requires for a student just interested in the embalming and not in funeral director?
A: In Iowa you must hold a dual license. That means that you are licensed as both a funeral director and an embalmer. There are people who only embalm and those that just funeral direct. You will need to take the two years pre-requisite and then mortuary college and serve and apprenticeship to be licensed in Iowa. Other states such as Missouri have two separate licenses. To be an embalmer you must do just as you would in Iowa. However to be licensed as a funeral director you can go straight from high school graduation to a mortuary college for one year and then pass state and national boards and serve your apprenticeship. It actually takes more education to be an embalmer than a funeral director.

Q: I know funeral directors are very busy. What is your advice (to a trained, certified Funeral Celebrant) on the best way introduce myself to a home's funeral director for employment as general helper and Funeral Celebrant or contract with them on an as-needed basis? I've made a mid-life career change to your industry and would appreciate your input.
A: I would suggest that you put together a resume. If you don't know how to there are people at the college and high school that will help with this. Call the local funeral homes for an appointment and then talk to the owner. Present the information and see if they need help. If they don't you have still presented the idea that they may think about. Make sure your address and telephone number is correct on the resume. Make sure they know how you may be of service to them and help them provide service to their families.

Q: Do you have to go to a particular college to become a mortician or can you go to any state college or university?
A: Most states require a minimum of a high school diploma and an "AA" Associates of Arts degree prior to going to mortuary school. Some state are also requiring a minimum of a Bachelor's degree. Mortuary college itself is almost always a stand alone program. However, the school may be attached or with another college. To locate your closest school go to your browser and type in Mortuary College or Mortuary School. To find the regulations for your state or the state you are interested in being licensed then go to your state Funeral Directors Association. You may also call a local funeral home to give you further information on this.

Q: Since I attended my first funeral at 9 years old, I have wanted to work in the death-care industry as a Funeral Director/Embalmer. After playing in the education and fitness fields at 26 years old, I am now back in school to achieve my ultimate goal. My question: If we decide to have a baby while I am working as an embalmer will I be exposed to any chemicals or bacteria that could affect the baby? I know that proper percautions are taken when caring for someone who had a disease or sickenss. My question is more in general, like everyday things one would not think about unless they are in the position. Also, would being pregnant hinder my job performance? This site is wonderful, Thank You for your time.
A: There is no scientific proof of any damage being done to yourself or the baby by the chemicals that we use in a preparation room. Funeral Homes are required to do air testing in the preparation room. If the exposure level is to high then corrective action must be taken and warnings posted. This rule occurred several years ago and the compliance was mandatory. With precautions and diligence, your exposure is reduced down to miniscule amounts that are way below national standards. The chemicals are diluted to begin with and further dilution occurs when we do the embalming. The standards are set more for manufactures of the chemicals than the end user.

Q: We are making a funeral collage of our Mother. One of my sisters wants to start the collage with my motherís grandparents, then her parents and then my mother. And then proceed through all my motherís children and then grandkids. Some of these photos do not include my mother in them. My other sister and I feel that this is too much. If we are to do this should she be in every photo? We feel this day should be about remembering her and the things that she did. What do you suggest is the right thing to do?
A: Most collages are about the person's life and what makes them the person that they are. We encourage pictures of others as well as the person. Kids, pets, home, garden, church, all of these things make up the person. I would encourage you to include what you are comfortable with. If you are making this to show at visitation or church service, I would strongly suggest that you make it between 8 and 12 minutes. You may then use this as a base to increase to give to family and close friends. That video may be as long or short as you would like. Each picture shows for about 5 to 7 seconds each with transitions. You can add the music you want and go from there.

Q: I am a senior in high school and I am looking to become a mortician. What I am wondering is, what are the schooling requirements and how can I get started? Iíve been searching and I have been unsuccessful in finding anything of use for me.
A: I don't know what state you are from, but a starting point would be, go to your state web site and type in funeral director or embalmer and you should come up with the name of the division that handles this. This would be your starting point. You can also type in the search engine your state name and funeral directors association. This will bring up the association which will give you more information. If in doubt just call the local funeral home for the addresses and telephone numbers. They will be able to tell you the rules and regulations too.

Q: Iím 16 and if you have ever seen Family Plots, maybe you have seen my dad on the show.. He is Matt. Anyways, I want to be a funeral director. Do you have any tips for me?
A: You already have started working towards being a funeral director. Ask your dad questions. That's how I became a funeral director. I was 16 and the scout master was the local funeral director. I just asked and asked and asked. Are their any other funeral directors at work that you could talk to? Most are great people who would love to tell their stories. Ask them what the most memorable funeral or family was. Who was the worst and why? What is the worst case they have every embalmed? Things like that. Write down your questions first and make sure they are questions that they can not answer with a simple yes or no. Don't do it when they are extremely busy. If your dad works alone ask him who he is friends with in the district that you could talk to first. I started working at the funeral home when I was 16.
Good Luck

Q: How much does a coroner get paid?
A: Most coroners and medical examiners are paid on a case by case basis. Larger jurisdictions may have full time coroners or medical examiners.
The fee varies all over the place.

Q: Is it possible for a person to be completely incinerated in a vehicle fire? I know temps are around 1500 degrees Farenheit. I am a volunteer firefighter and no one on our department is sure if a preson could be reduced in a car fire.
A: There is considerable charring, but a car fire does not last long enough to completely incinerate a person. Appendages and the head will burn completely in some cases. The trunk usually survives due to the mass of tissue and organs. The liver is usually the last thing to burn completely. It takes about 1.5 to 2.5 hours at 1500 degrees to completely cremate someone of approximately 150 to 250 pounds.

Q: I'm interested in becoming a mortician or a coroner could you inform me of the difference between the two? What requirements that I would need to meet? Also what kind of schooling I would need to complete?
A: A mortician will care for the dead through embalming, arranging, and conducting funerals. A Coroner investigates a death to determine cause and manner of death and the positive identification of the person. To become a mortician you will more than likely need two years of pre-mortuary science or a four year degree depending on the requirements of the state you live in. You will then attend a one or two year mortuary program with the passing of National and State boards. Following that you will serve a one year apprenticeship.
To be a coroner you need to be elected to the position. Most jurisdictions then require you to attend a death investigator course.

Q: If I work in a funeral home as a assistant or office work would that most likely have me working during the day and not at night?
A: Most likely you would be working days. Because Funeral service is variable and has a great need for flexibility, there would possibly be some evening work (visitations) and weekend work. Funeral homes have staff available 24-7.

Q: I had a relative die in a house fire, and for the funeral the casket had to be closed. Is it because the casket was closed that clothing was not necesary or because he was not embalmed? Is the body just placed in the casket naked,or is it left in the body bag and then placed in the casket.
A: If the family did not choose embalming then the person was probably left in the human remains pouch. If we do the embalming and the person is badly injured they would be placed in a new pouch which would be placed inside the casket. If the injuries were severe enough we could not dress the person at all. We try in all cases to do what we need to do with the greatest respect and empathy for the family.
I hope that this helps answer your question.

Q: I'm am interested in becoming an embalmer, is there any online classes available for this? What would you recommend I do?
A: Many mortuary colleges now have their classes on line. However there are practical aspects to mortuary college and they require the student to attend class two to three days a week for those particular classes. I would contact the school you are interested in and ask them specifically what they offer. If you don't know what schools are close, do a search for mortuary colleges on the internet.

Q: When someone is cremated is there a viewing either before or after the the act/ putting them in an urn?
A: Some families choose to have a viewing prior to cremation. This could be private or public. If a family wishes to view us placing the person in the crematorium we certainly will make arrangements for that. Some people scatter the cremated remains and again they have an opportunity to see what they look like at that time.

Q: What is "mechanical means" for final cremation stage?
A: The final stage of the cremation process is where the larger bone fragments are reduced by pulverization to reduce the mass to a size that can fit into an urn. This is completed by the use of rollers or a spinning blade much like you would find in a food processor only larger and the pan and blade are made of stainless steel.

Q: How many college school years does it take to become a mortician?
A: In Ohio you can have a funeral directors license or an embalmers license. To be an embalmer you need a bachelor's degree and a 12 month accredited mortuary school, with a one year apprenticeship following mortuary college. To be a funeral director you need to attend mortuary college and one year apprenticeship or two year apprenticeship.

Q: I am currently enrolled in a Pre-Mortuary Program and plan on transferring to the University of Minnesota to finish my degree, but before I completely settle myself on this career choice, I want to know if there are any psychological effects to becoming a mortician. Thank you
A: I find the job very rewarding. Helping people as one of the most stressful times of their lives is great. There are long hours and a lot of detail work to what we do, which can make you tired. I know no job in any field that does not have some stress to it. If you have a good attitude and a willingness to be flexible and adjust to change you will have no problem becoming a funeral director.

Q: I am interested in a career as a mortician. What are the requirements to get my license in North Carolina? Also, how much do morticians get paid?
A: In North Carolina they have two licenses. One is Funeral Director and the other is Embalmer. You will need a high school diploma, plus 32 semester hours from or graduate of a mortuary science college approved by the board of Mortuary Science. You will also serve a one year apprenticeship before or after school. The average wage of an apprentice is 22-25,000 per year and for a licensed person it will run from 25,000 to 35,000, along with benefits.

Q: What are the different types of jobs a funeral director has? (EX. mortician, coroner, etc)
A: A funeral director makes arrangements, works visitations and conducts funerals.
An embalmer, embalms, disinfects, dresses and does cosmetics on people.
Some states have both licenses but most states are now duel which means you are both a funeral director and embalmer. The educational requirements are higher for the embalmer than the funeral director. Most schools you attend have classes for both. A funeral director or embalmer (or anyone else) can be a coroner but not a medical examiner. A medical examiner must be a doctor. A coroner runs politically for the office of coroner.

Q: I am interested in becoming a mortician and I would like to know from personal experience what it's like and as far as schooling what are the step in becoming a mortician?
A: Every state is different on their licensing requirements. But there are two basic rules of thumb. One you are required to have at least an AA degree with one year of mortuary college. The second requires a bachelors degree with one year of mortuary school. In all states you will need to serve some type of internship either before or after mortuary school. You will also need to pass state and/or national boards to become licensed. In most states it takes more schooling to become a licensed embalmer than a funeral director. The term mortician means a combination of both licenses. Please check with a local funeral home and they will be happy to help you with the licensing requirements for your state.
Your work will consist of being on call, embalming, and making arrangements and conduct funerals and memorial services. Some one need to be on call 24-7. And the work schedule will rotate between days and weekends. Some weeks you are slow and will work 30 hours and some weeks you may work 80 or more due to the work load at the time. There is probably no job in the world that is as satisfying than when you are helping others.
Thanks for the question.

Q: I am currently enrolled in a pre-mortuary curriculum, I was interested in pursuing courses for working for a coroner or forensic pathology...are these fields of study in any way related?
A: Yes and No. I have studied forensics' for years and am involved with several organizations in mass fatality disaster response. I would check with your local medical examiner or coroner. There is an excellent death investigator course held each year in St. Louis at the medical school which would expose you to forensic work. Most medical schools have courses in forensics. There are so many different fields in forensics to choose from. You could also talk to your schools teachers or counselors about this.

Q: I'm 16 years old and would like to become a Mortician. I'm looking at all my options and other things that have to do with becoming a mortician. What information or websites can you suggest for more information?
A: Wow, I became interested in funeral service when I was 16 too.In Florida you can be a funeral director and/or and embalmer. The state requires high school graduation and 12 month mortuary college program for funeral director and the same plus an associate degree in mortuary science. You must pass the national board exam. When that is completed you must serve a one year apprenticeship after school.

Here is the Florida Web site for more information.......

And this one will give you a listing of the mortuary colleges

On your search engine just type mortuary colleges and it will bring up a list for you also.

Q: When you pick a person up who has passed do they still make noises and is it a myth that people have sat up on funeral employees - My understanding is the muscles in the back are cut to prevent thos from happening is this at all true - and how do you keep the eyes and mouth closed
A: It is impossible for a deceased to sit up. There are sometimes some muscle movement due to changes in the PH of the body but there is not enough change to make a person sit up. This is one of the rumors in funeral service because it makes a good story. But, it is false. We never cut any muscles because a person can not sit up. To close the eyes we use a large cap very much like a contact with perforations in them. In most cases an eye cap is not even needed unless there is dehydration present. The mouth is closed with stainless steel or brass wire holding the mandible and maxillary together. Much like a doctor would if you broke you jaw and needed to have you mouth wired to keep it in place until you heal.
Thanks for the question

Q: How can I get a job in a funeral home?
A: There are a variety of jobs available at a funeral home from assistant to office work to licensed professional. If you are looking at a licensed professional then you will need to go to college, then attend mortuary college, pass your state and national boards and in most cases serve and internship. The other jobs require skill level, (preferably college) and on the job training. I would contact a local funeral home in your area for state laws and requirements. I hope this helps.

Q: What is the difference between a funeral home and a mortuary?
A: Really nothing. The terms are basically the same. We started out as Parlors which was an extension of the family parlor that was in the home where the deceased was viewed. Then the term switched to Funeral Home, again keeping the home part in the name. Then we became mortuaries. The name changed but the job remained the same. Now you see afterlife and funeral care center names being used. It's kind of similar in calling someone a funeral director or mortician.

Q: I am seriously considering on attending mortuary school. I would love to become a licensed funeral director, but I do not wish to embalm. I live in PA and would like to know if I can find such a job.
A: Many funeral homes employ people to either embalm or be a funeral director. Most of these business's will be located in larger towns that do a high number of deaths per year. It has been my experience that most newly licensed people start out as embalmers and work into the funeral directors role. I am not sure if PA has dual license or a single license. I would recommend that you contact the licensing board for your state or a local funeral home for further information. Funeral service is a great job. I personally like the embalming side better than the funeral directing, but it takes both to make the funeral home run properly.

Q: What clothing is the deceased dressed in for his funeral?
A: What ever the family chooses to bring to us. Most often it is clothing that the deceased normally wore in life. We carry suits and dresses for use by families that do not feel they have proper attire for the deceased.

Q: I am curious to know why do the deceased have to be buried in under garments and socks? If the casket is only half open, then why is this neccessary?
A: We spend our lives being fully dressed. Even though the casket is half closed you can still see a portion of the lower body.

Q: I am curious about what kind of cosmetics are used on the bodies of the deceased. Are cleansers and moisturizers used or just foundations, eye, cheek and lip colours?
A: We place an emollient cream on the person during embalming so that we prevent dehydration. The cosmetics we use are specifically manufactured for mortuary use and are highly concentrated which we then thin using the same emollient cream. Highlights for eyes, lips, cheeks (the warm areas) are also mortuary cosmetics or the deceased own cosmetics depending on the wish of the family and the embalmer. How we do cosmetics also depends on the condition of the skin and manner of death.
Thanks for the question.

Q: I want to be in the funeral service area. Is there anyway I can do that online without having to sit in a classroom at all?
A: I would suggest that you contact your area funeral homes and see if they have any openings. You would be doing general work and not licensed work but you could get a feel for what funeral service is really about. The drop out rate is about 30% because most people have no formal experience and are not aware of the hours, work load, and pay. Some people are generally happy just working at a funeral home and not being licensed. The experience would be very beneficial. Even if they have no openings you may ask about job shadowing for a week or so.
Most states require at least an AA degree before attending mortuary school. Some of the class room work can be done on line for both the AA and the mortuary school. At the end of your formal teaching you will be required to take both the National Funeral Service Boards and the State boards along with serving an apprenticeship under a licensed funeral director/embalmer.

Q: I was intereted in volunteering by doing the ladies nails that have passed on. Is this acceptable or do the nails even get manicured at the time of preparation or is it strictly a family preference?
A: At our funeral home we do everyone's nails. Men are sometimes more of a challenge than women's. I would contact your local funeral home about helping. I will tell you up front that most funeral homes do this work themselves because of their schedule. JMFullerton

Q: Are human bodies cremated inside a "coffin" or on their own?
A: In order to cremate someone they need to be in some form of rigid container as they are pushed into the unit and not pulled. The cremation container may be cardboard or a wooden casket. This is so that the container will also be reduced.

Q: What is the difference between an autopsy and embalming? Why is there a need to embalm? Are all the internal organs removed from the deceased and is formaldehyde poured in?
A: During an autopsy the organs from the thoracic and abdominal cavities are removed, examined and small slices are saved for microscopic and toxicology studies. The brain is also removed for the same purpose. An autopsy is conducted to assist in determining the cause and manner of death along with in some cases medical-legal questions.
During the embalming no organs are removed. Embalming is a two stage process. The first stage is when a formaldehyde base fluid is circulated by pump though the circulatory system. The second stage is the removal of fluids and gases through a long hollow tube called a trocar. This involves suction. Then a stronger formaldehyde fluid is placed into the cavity with the organs to preserve and disinfect the organs.
The whole purpose of embalming is to preserve, disinfect and restore the deceased.

Q: How much is a burial lot at Elmwood and or Memorial Park?
A: The majority of the graves in Elmwood Cemetery are $290 each with some sections being $310 or $330 each. At Memorial Park Cemetery the price ranges by section with a low of $225 to a high of $450 each. You may want to contact the cemeteries directly as the grave is only one part of your costs. You will also want to check and see what the grave opening and closing cost is, how much of your purchase price is put into escrow for future maintenance, and what does it cost to set a stone. There are some restrictions on size and types of stones at each cemetery. So it would be best to investigate all costs if that is what you are basing your purchase on. JMFullerton

Q: What is the proper title for the person that does the make up on the decased?
A: Depending on the licensing requirements of any particular state it would either be Funeral Director, Embalmer, or Mortician.

Q: I can understand that sometimes there is restorative work done on a corpse, but can you tell me what is the big difference between make-up for the living and the dead...I have heard that the skin on the dead no longer breathes, and regular make-up will not stick to the skin and I have also heard that mortuary make-up is water, moss and maggot resistant...Is this true? Also, I recently read that usually while the embalming process is going on, the chest cavity is filled with chemically treated rags, to fill the body out and make it look more natural...Is this true? Could you tell me why this is done? I really appreciate this site and find it extremely interesting...Thank-you for your time...
A: Our mortuary cosmetics are concentrated more than over the counter makeup that women use. The reason for this is that during embalming the blood is removed. The blood in your body is what gives your highlight areas their color. We need to replace that color. We also use different cosmetics for a male than a female due to the fact most males do not ever wear makeup and we need to impart color and not covering.

The make up we use is either an oil base or a water base cosmetics. There are no additives. We keep our cosmetics pure by removing it from the container and not putting any back when we are finished.

We do not use rags in the embalming to fill out someone. If someone is emaciated at the time of death we use a tissue building liquid that attaches to the water in the tissue to fill out sunken areas.

Q: I believe the internal organs are removed when embalming? How are these disposed of?
A: You are confusing embalming with an autopsy. Only during an autopsy are the organs removed. Any organs returned with the deceased are put back after the autopsy and embalming is performed. During a normal embalming the organs are not removed.

Q: Is it safe to touch a dead person on the hands, or kiss their cheek at there funeral?
A: It should be very safe to touch a person who is deceased. During the embalming process the person receives a disinfection treatment by bathing that should kill most bacteria. However even on the skin of a living person there is bacteria that remains. If the deceased died from trauma or a debilitating disease there may be some restorative work done and you should avoid disturbing that work. It may have taken the embalmer hours and hours of work to restore the person back to the way they were and a misguided touch may destroy the work. I would never force anyone to touch or kiss a deceased. This could cause problems in the future. But if you want to touch that is a right decision for yourself. JMFullerton

Q: I am interested in working at a funeral home. I was wondering what jobs there are and what kind of schooling you have to do? Thank you.
A: There are many different jobs at a funeral home. Some require specific training and licensure. Some is assisting with various jobs. I would suggest you contact your area funeral homes to see what positions may be available and what you would be qualified for. JMFullerton

Q: I would like to be a mortician. I understand you can get your license online. Should I go to colleage or do online schooling?
A: There is a online training place for mortuary science. However, I do not have the address. I would try using your search engine. I would also do a close inspection of their pass/fail rate on the national exam. I do not know where you are from but I would suggest you contact a local funeral home and your state licensing board for specific requirements. They will also be able to steer you in the direction of mortuary schools that may be close to where you live. JMFullerton

Q: I heard about a family cremating their daughter then making her cremated remains into diamonds. Do you know of a Co.or web sight where I can find more info about it? Thank You
A: The company is called Life Gem. The process is a little more complicated than they state in their information. The cost for a diamond runs from $2,499 for a 0.20 to a 0.99 size for $13,999. You can get more information at

Q: Why do so many families continue to use the same funeral home in a specific area? Is it because of convenience or do funeral directors really become an integral part of the community?
A: In smaller communities there is often only one funeral home. The choice is generally that funeral home. Where there are more than one funeral home, the choice on which one is used falls into several categories but ranked usually by 1.) serving the family previously, 2.) knowing someone at the funeral home, 3.) reputation 4.) location. The other reasons are religious/ fraternal affiliation, recommended by others, quality of facilities, prearrangement, advertising. Funeral directors usually have a motivation to help others and that drives them to become a part of the community they serve through outside activities, memberships and community groups.

Q: I see you didn't list any prices in the question about the average cost of a Funeral. What would one expect to have to pay for a funeral?
A: Averages are made of high and low to come to a middle price. There are many variables to a funeral or cremation and is difficult to give an average price. When a person selects all of the items that they wish to have then we figure an exact price for those items. Individual funeral homes will price their services and merchandise differently but the overall price will be quite similar.

Q: If a person passes away at their home in one town, but the burial plot is in another community, does the funeral home charge to come for the deceased?
A: The removal will be made by the local funeral home, depending on the distance. If the funeral is held at another funeral home than in the community where the death occurs then the two funeral homes will make arrangements to transport the person to the community where the funeral and burial will take place.

Q: What is the average cost of a traditional funeral?
A: Unlike the commercials you see on TV the average cost of a funeral is based on many factors. On television they average all types of funerals from immediate cremation to traditional services to arrive at an average cost. We break each type of funeral into categories and then average them. Each category has itís own special items that need to be taken into account. They type of services of the funeral home and staff that is needed, merchandise items, and cash advance items all enter into the average. We also need to consult with each individual family and discuss what they need or want to determine an average. No funeral is just average, it is made of highs and lows dependent on what a family selects from the choices available to them. The type of funeral home, its staff and equipment also determines price and what types of services they perform.

Q: What is a funeral?
A: A funeral is a ceremony or gathering of family and friends to honor and remember a person who has died and is conducted prior to burial or cremation. This service of remembrance may be conducted at a religious place, funeral home, or other place of a families choosing.

Q: What is the difference between a traditional service and a memorial service?
A: Both traditional and memorial services are considered funerals as they have the same type of service, but a memorial service normally does not have a body present.

Q: Why does the process from death to final burial or cremation take so long?
A: The time period between death and burial or cremation is entirely dependent on the families wishes. The first step in the funeralization process is making arrangements with the family to determine the type of service, and final disposition that a family would like to have. The time frame is then set to accommodate the family and their friends. Immediate burial or cremation could very possible be handled within 24 to 48 hours depending on weather, and the hours of the cemetery or crematory.

Q: Would like some information on Cremation. Could you tell me what the average cost is for a body to be cremated and what is all included in this cost.
A: With a cremation service there are many more choices for services and final disposition than there are for a traditional funeral. To give an average cost each choice needs to be averaged by itself. We have seen cremation services run from approximately $1200 to well over $6000 for services, merchandise and cash advance items.

Each family has the right to chose what is right for them. If you want to arrive at a cost you would need to contact your funeral professional to discuss all the options that you want and then an amount can be figured to the penny. Cremation itself is only a form of final disposition, it does not include services and merchandise from the funeral home.

Q: I am a make-up artist who is interested in working at a funeral home doing the make-up needed on the deceased. Before I approach any funeral home, in my area, could you please fill me in on what I need to know... as far as , what might be expected of me. Is it a problem, that I only do make-up and am not licensed to do hair? I would like a job, but am not sure as to what would be expected of me? Thanks, Linda
A: I don't know where you live but you will want to check out the mortuary laws of that state. Some state prohibit anyone that does not have a license for embalming to be in the preparation room. Mortuary colleges also teach cosmetics. Most of the training in this area comes from working in a funeral home. Doing makeup on a living person versus a deceased is also quite different. Our cosmetics are a different mixture and are usually highly concentrated which we thin down as needed.

I would check with both your state mortuary board and with a local funeral home for more information. JMFullerton

Q: Before cremation, does the body have to be drained of fluids?
A: In Iowa a person must be embalmed if they are not cremated or buried within 48 hours of death. So no, a person does not need to be embalmed to be cremated.

Q: I am a recent high school graduate and was interested in becoming a make-up artist for the deceased, but I am unsure of where to begin. What schools I should attend and what would be more beneficial as far as career goes? I was interested in what your opinions are.
A: You can go to school to be a funeral director or a cosmetologist. Funeral homes do not hire outside people to do the cosmetics. The funeral director or embalmer does that phase of the funeral process. The products that we use are specially formulated to be used with the deceased and is not a normal cosmetic like Max Factor or Avon for the living. JMFullerton

Q: What if you want to be a make up artist for the deceased or to work in the mortuary?
A: Depending on the state that you live in, you may need to be a licensed funeral director and/or embalmer to do makeup. There are various jobs at a funeral home that do not require a license to perform. I would suggest that you make an appointment at a local funeral home to get the exact requirements for where you live.

Q: I have been a cosmetologist for 6 years and I'm very interested in working in the funeral homes as a hairdresser. How do I go about this? Thank You
A: Contact the your local funeral homes and tell them of your interest. Most funeral homes use outside hair dressers for hair but not for makeup.

Q: I need information for a class assignment on Cremation. I was wondering if you can tell me how it works, around how much it cost, and how many people choose cremation over burial. I would appriciate it a lot.
A: Cremation is a process that removes the water through heat. The crematorium is heated to approximately 1650 degrees. The deceased is placed into the crematorium until what is left is basically the bone structure is left. Usually within three hours. These remains are then further reduced by mechanical measures so that they will fit into a 300 cubic inch or less urn.

The cost is $275 dollars and a medical examiner cremation permit is required which costs an additional $75.00. These fees do not include funeral home charges which range from removal and cremation to full services, depending on the wishes of the deceased and their family.

In our area (Iowa) the cremation rate is approximately 14 percent state wide. Some areas of the country are approaching 50%. There are a number of reasons that people chose cremation of which, cost is towards the lower end of why.


Main Page

About Ask the Expert

This is your forum for finding information from and about or posing questions to certain professionals. Many of those professionals are affiliated with organizations that sponsor portions of our sites. As with all information on our sites, questions and answers are published for information and discussion purposes only. Such information is not a substitute for professional advice from an adviser familiar with your particular situation. We do not guarantee the accuracy, reliability or completeness of any information provided in our forum.


Globe Gazette


Dr. Jon Hardinger


Fullerton Funeral Homes

Web Site Design

Globe Gazette