Despite the ongoing pandemic, a local funeral home has continued to expand the services offered at the facility. Earlier this year, the Engle-Bowling Funeral Home in Hazard had a crematorium installed on their property, adding cremation to their list of services offered.
Wayne Ed Bowling, the owner and funeral director of Engle-Bowling Funeral Home, said they had the crematorium installed in May, but had been planning it for a while.
“We had been looking at it for about a year, and it was just something we decided this area needs,” said Bowling.
Engle-Bowling Funeral Home, he said, services most of the surrounding counties. Before his funeral home had the crematorium installed, the next closest crematoriums were located in Pineville and Pikeville, said Bowling.
“We're located here kind of right in the middle of those two locations in the Queen City of the Mountains and I thought we deserved it,” Bowling said. “It's been good for our county, I think, and I'm very proud of it.
“The main reason I wanted to offer it is we don't have to take the families' loved ones out of town, out of county and outsource it to a third party. It meant something to me to be able to let the family know that their loved one never leaves our care,” said Bowling. “I feel the people of Perry County deserve the best, we should have a crematorium here and that's why I did it.”
This opportunity, said Bowling, has allowed them to expand their knowledge and services provided.
“Here in the mountains, we were used to strictly burials, so it's been a different aspect of the business that we've learned,” said Bowling, explaining that he and his staff had special training and got certificates for completion. “We are the newest crematory in Kentucky.”
Engle-Bowling Funeral Home, Bowling said, is a full service funeral home, offering traditional funeral services, celebrations of life, memorial and graveside services. In addition to those and the new cremation services, the funeral home also offers pre-need planning and sells monuments, memorial and keepsake jewelry and gifts and caskets and cremation merchandise.
The funeral home, said Bowling, also has a walk-in cooler morgue on the property, which can hold approximately 20 bodies if needed, as compared to the hospital's four body unit and coroner office's two body unit.
“We also have out there a walk-in cooler morgue, which is something that I'm pleased to have on the property,” said Bowling. “I hope and pray to God that never happens and we never have to do that, but I like to be prepared if something (did happen).”
Many customers, he said, are curious about the new cremation service, so information is available on the funeral home's website, as well as upon request.
“A lot of people are inquisitive about the process, especially along the lines of pre-arranging their funeral,” said Bowling. If requested, a staff member of the funeral home, he said, can take people on a tour of the crematory and show how them it works to explain everything.
Throughout the years, he said, the idea and occurrence of cremation has been becoming more accepted.
“We have seen, especially in the last two years, a spike in the number of cremations in this area,” said Bowling. “Beforehand, it was there, but not at the rate that it is now, as far as cremation versus burial goes. It's more accepted now, I think that's generational. A lot of the older folks, it wasn't accepted.
“One thing that I think has spiked the cremation rate is the availability of cemetery space. Your family cemeteries are filling up and the perpetual care cemeteries we've got here in Perry County, most of them are full. We've still got a couple that are operating and selling plots, but those as well are starting to become scarce,” Bowling said.
Since May, said Bowling, the funeral home has cremated approximately 60 individuals.