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Tracy K. Hall for the ATR: Funerals, what to expect in a pandemic

By: Tracy K. Hall

How does the Coronavirus effect funeral rituals? Greg Hancock, the Sumter County Coroner as well as the owner of Greg Hancock Funeral Chapel, Lorena Barnum Sabbs, a funeral director for Barnum Funeral Home, Lynn Hancock Harris, a funeral director for Hancock Funeral Home and Scott Aldridge, a funeral director for Aldridge Funeral Home  are remaining in close communication with local, state and national authorities in an effort to provide services to our community. Each funeral service provider has addressed their efforts to maintain service to the community. Along with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), service providers are looking to professional association groups, such as the National Funeral Directors’ Association to offer guidance on how to keep funeral goers, as well as their staff, healthy and safe.

Greg Hancock Funeral Chapel, 142 Southland Road, Americus: “We will make each family aware of the current guidelines as we are notified of a death. We will be scheduling only one family gathering in our facility at a time and will need additional time to thoroughly clean our facilities following each gathering. We will work with each family within the CDC guidelines to be as accommodating to their wishes as possible.”  You can expect funeral rituals to look a little different until the Coronavirus threat has been contained. Greg reports funerals and memorial services will be limited to family only events or graveside services. Friends and family who wish to pay respects to the deceased should be limited to small groups of ten or less. Greg encourages the community to take advantage of funeral homes’ websites. Such websites typically make it possible to view the obituary, send a condolence, share a memory or watch a video memorial tribute.  Greg Hancock Funeral Chapel’s website can be found at: greghancockfuneralchapel.com. They can be reached via telephone at: 229.924.9888

Hancock Funeral Chapel, 427 South Lee Street, Americus: “As funeral homes, I think we will all agree that first and foremost we need to ensure that we are doing our best to serve our families in a safe environment. This may mean limiting attendees or postponing memorial services, making funeral arrangements by telephone or skype, etc. We will just have to adapt our services to meet the needs of the many and be proactive, all working together to try to slow the spread of the virus. We understand that people feel the need to attend funerals for those they love. With this in mind, we plan to offer the option of a small family gathering at the time, to the best of our ability, followed by another service once the restrictions are lifted. We have the advantage of technology in order that no more than ever before, we are able to be ‘together’ even when we are apart. People can always express their condolences via our website or Facebook, and we will offer Facebook Live as well as video. Our goal is to keep providing the service we always have and trying our best to offer a calm peaceful environment for grieving even amidst all the turmoil of the uncertain days we are facing right now.” Hancock Funeral Home’s website can be found at: hancockfuneralhomeinc.com. There telephone contact is: 229.924.3645.

Barnum Funeral Home, 217 Ashby Street, Americus: Barnum Funeral Home has been in operation for 115 years, with Darrell Sabbs representing the 5th generation of Barnums to provide the service to the community. Lorena Barnum Sabbs states Barnum has been using technology for some time now and the community is able to view funeral and graveside services via Facebook Live. They will continue in this manner, as well as others, while the virus is being contained. In addition to these streaming services, as with other funeral homes, they too will be limiting gatherings to 10 or less at a time to be compliant with the CDC and profession association standards. At present they are building a “virtual viewing room.” The home has taken advantage of their large external windows in which the community may view the body of their loved ones, as well as see video tributes without entering the funeral home. Ms. Sabbs reports there will be indicators showing those wishing to pay their respects where to stand in order to maintain the six-foot distance as suggested by the CDC. In addition, during transportation times for the family, they will be provided masks as well as individual hand sanitizers.   To view their services, you may visit their Facebook page. Their website is barnumfuneralhome.com and they can be reached via telephone at 229.924.2958.

Aldridge Funeral Home, 612 Rees Street, Americus: Scott Aldridge reports “At need and pre-arranged arrangements will be conducted at the funeral home but will be limited to immediate next of kin. All other funeral related business will be conducted either by phone or email (aldridgefunerals@hotmail.com). We are available 24 hours a day. We will conduct only graveside/memorial services outside and with immediate family and extended family members in attendance and in small groups. Public visitations have been suspended until further notice. Private viewings will be available for immediate family and will be limited to small groups at any given time.” The website for Aldridge Funeral Home is: aldridgefuneralservices.com and the phone contact is 229.928.8683.

West’s Mortuary, 731 North Lee Street, Americus: At time of printing, West’s Mortuary could not be reached for comment. However, West’s has a Facebook page as well as a website. “West’s Mortuary maintains a tradition of personal attention to our families’ needs and individual desires. We offer professional direction of services, whether held in a funeral home, church, temple, synagogue, cemetery, mausoleum or private home.” West’s Mortuary website is: westsmortuary.com and they can be contacted via telephone at 229.924.2343