The Hellgate Lance (Missoula, Montana) 1964-current, February 25, 1981, Image 8

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- 8 ~ Lince, Wednesday, February 25, 1981 _ Mortician Robert Bunch takes care of death after life By Alise Rudio Features Editor Robert Bunch used to be an ambulance driver. \But I decided to get out of it,\ Bunch said. \I wasn't good at taking the scream- ing and yelling. I couldn't handle the people suffering while I was driving and not being able to do anything to help. Es- pecially when someone died it would ruin my day, I mean week.\ So Bunch decided to \give the other half a · try.\ He became a mortician. Bunch is the only liscensed mortician at Missoula's new funeral home, Mountain View Mortuary. Mountain View, in its first year of operation, advertises that \funerals don't have to be expensive\ and had a successful opening year with 144 services. Bunch said that being the only mor- tician at Mountain View means long hours for him because a mortician is basically a 24 hour a day job. Because of the success of the new business Bunch said that hope- fully, in about six months they can in- crease their volume and hire someone to help. The process of a funeral involves many aspects and separate costs. The overhead cost of a funeral with casket at Mountain View is $1,080 and includes use of the building, embalming, use of cars, paper- work (such as obituaries), and everything necessary for the funeral . service such as the minister, organist, vocalist, and also contacting the undertaker. The cost of headstones and the actual burial is not taken care of by the mortuary. Burial costs include around $200 for a plot of ground, $175 for the opening of the grave and $150 for a concrete box which is required to put into the grave so the ground does not settle and creat~ sunken graves. Headstones greatly range in price but are generally a high cost because granite is scarce and shipping difficult. \Two years ago, white marble about 10\x12\ and less than a foot wide costs $95,\ Bunch said. But a larger monument that was typical in older cemetaries now can cost up to $30,000. Mountain View also handles crema-· tions, although they do not do the actual work. The overhead charge is $710 and in- cludes memorial services, paperwork, tak- ing to crematorium (Missoula has only one in town at Geharaty's funeral Home) and a wooden or cardboard box. The process of handling funerals begins with a phone call from the hospital after the family has chosen who they want to handle it. Then the body is picked up and taken to the mortuary to be either embal- med or cremated. EMBALMING PROCESS After acquiring the body it is brought to a small sanitary room in the back of Mountain View and it is placed on a white table with grooves and a head block is placed beneath the neck. \All veins and arteries are one connecting, closed ~ys­ tem,\ Bunch explained, \so we inject pressure through one artery and inject fluid into one artery. Where there are a number of sights.\ The fluid pumped into the body consists of on the average 16 ounces of formalde- hyde to two gallons of water in a continu- ous process until the blood has aH flowed down the grooves of the table to drain down the sink and the body is full of em- balming fluid. \The body is made of protein, it is much like when you boil an egg,\ Bunch said, \the white solidifies when you boil it. Formaldehyde coagulates the protein in the body. It. fixes the body.\ Embalming also involves the cosmetic value, in case the features are sagging or there is an offensive appearance. Bunch went to a cabinet in the embalming room, with its two sinks, pump, and three tables and took out a kit called \Professional Cosmetics for Professional Morticians\. The kit has paste colors to put flesh tones into the skin such as flesh, red, and yel- . low. There is also a tint jar used for people wh were generally healthy and do not need make up. Mountain View has four hairdressers on call to . wash and set the body's hair. Bunch said a number of hairdressers called when they first opened offering their services. Embalming bodies is something Bunch said he does not mind doing, even se- verely battered bodies. Bunch explained by using a boy who had been hit by a train as an example. \He was pretty broken up, but there's no suffering there. It's the family that is hard to deal with in this job . \With the body there is no pain. I can take it and put it back together to look good ,\ Bunch said, \Nothing you can say R b B h . . . Photo by Mike Miller o ert unc • the only hcensed mort1c1an at Mountain View Mortuary, has seen 144 funerals pass through his buslness in its one year of operation. corrects what happen, but you can correct ket is around $3000. the bodies.\ The most popular casket is a white Another aspect of funerals is picking out a casket. At Mountain View caskets range in composition from wood to metal, , to solider metal, to copper, and to cloth covered wood which are the cheapest at around $300. Special features or lack of features change the price like the color (everything from silver to white to blue to orchid) and the material inside the cas- kets (satin, crepe, velvet) and caskeis with gaskets which protect the insides from water entering . The most expensive cas- Photo by Mike Miller metal gasket one . \It's psychological, \ Bunch said about picking out caskets from · the showroom. \We're in a metal age and the thought of having mother laying there in a box full of water is unbearable .\ By the time the funeral is over it seems that is awfully expensive to die . But Bunch has many rationalizations for the cost. \Expensive is a relevant term ,\ he said. \It is fairly expensive, but a lot is deter- mined by what the family wants. \ Bunch is quick to explain that he \is not a good salesman.\ He said he thinks mor- ticians suffer from bad press. \The image of a mortician as a shifty man waiting around for this poor widow so he can pray on her emotions and state of grief.\ \If funerals were bought in advance, they'd be cheaper,\ Bunch said. Bunch said that the cost of equipment goes up with inflation but people still want to maintain tradition or simply want to give their relative best possible send-off even if they don 't have the money. \There is a lot of guilt associated with- death,\ Bunch said and this is part of the reason of high cost funerals. Bunch also points to the attitude of death in America to explain the costs and the guilt and shock families and friends suffer from when a loved one dies. \People grow up not seeing death,\ Bunch said, \people die in hospitals or nursing homes and when a death occurs it's a real shock. The actual handling of the body is delegated. It is not something the family does itself.\ Still, being around death as an occupa- tion Bunch said he does not think Ameri- cans have a bad attitude toward death or are too sensitive. \ If we lose our sensitivity to death ,\ he explained , \ we become unfeeling . In the future I hope we still are able to cry when . someone dies .\

The Hellgate Lance (Missoula, Montana), 25 Feb. 1981, located at <http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/TheHellgateLance/1981-02-25/ed-1/seq-8/>, image provided by MONTANA NEWSPAPERS, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana.