What Is The Benefit of A Member Owned Cooperative Funeral Home?

Ellary:  I understand that The Co-op Funeral Home of People’s Memorial is a funeral home owned by the members of People’s Memorial Association. Will you explain what the People’s Memorial Association is?

Nora: The People’s Memorial Association was founded in Seattle in 1939. It was formed when a group of churches got together to try to find a solution to the high prices that their members were having to pay for funeral services. They thought there had to be a better way.

So, they approached one funeral home in town and said, “We’ll send all of our members to you, but you have to give them a set price that we’ll negotiate with you, a set price that’s a fair price for a simple service. You need to offer this newfangled thing called cremation (cremation was starting to come into the mainstream but wasn’t very popular at the time) if that’s what our families want. There’ll be no sales pressure, and you’ll make up for your loss of revenue from the discount you’re giving everyone by the volume of people we’ll send to you.”

Ellary: How long did that partnership between the People’s Memorial Association and the local funeral home last?

Nora: That partnership lasted for over sixty years until the funeral home got bought out. After Jessica Mitford’s book “The American Way of Death” came out in the sixties, the membership of the People’s Memorial Association grew to over 100,000. There was a lot press being generated, a lot of blow back on the funeral industry. So the membership got really big and extended beyond Seattle. There was also a similar memorial society in Central Washington and in Eastern Washington. In the last twenty years they’ve all merged; we’re all one organization, The People’s Memorial Association, that serves all of Washington.

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