Custom caskets with special touches are made in the Heartland

Custom caskets with special touches are made in the Heartland
By: Lauren Keith

It's only been in recent years that you could personalize a funeral service, at least when it comes to gravestones and monuments. When you select a casket, they're are only a few different models to choose from. That is until now. A funeral home in Anna offers something new and something made in the Heartland! 
At Crain Funeral Home, customers can now choose three different custom caskets: Patriotic, Camouflage, or the Sacred religious mode.  It's something that's only been available here for the last year. The men behind the idea laugh, as they admit this all started as a joke among friends.
"Jokingly I said to him, I ought to bring a casket up here and see what you could do with it!" said Bryan Crain, funeral home owner.
Crain's talking about his long-time friend, Darrell Sweitzer who operates B & D signs, just outside of town. Crain was watching Darrell apply camouflage covering to a truck one day, when he made the joke about applying it to a casket, but Darrell wasn't kidding around.
"I said I'd love to tackle this and see what I can do," said Darrell.
Just three days later, Darrell brought the finished casket back to Crain Funeral Home. Not long after that, the two partnered up, and the ideas for more casket coverings started pouring in, just like the customer's orders.
"So far the camo model seems to be most popular. We've shipped from Tampa to Georgia to Tennessee to Arkansas," says Crain.
However, Crain says the Patriotic model is almost  as popular as the Camo. That model is certainly one that's close to Darrell's heart, but it's not necessarily the easiest one for him to make.
"The hardest part was to get 50 stars on that!" said Darrell.
Do trust, all 50 stars are there.
"Well, I'm a veteran and I know what a flag is!" I definitely know how to make a flag and how to make it look right!" he says.
Darrell clicked away on his computer until the design came out just the way he wanted. Plus, it's not only the flag that must look right, the casket itself also has to be displayed properly. That's where Bryan comes in again. Together, he and Darrell made sure these coverings are functional during actual services. Plus, Brian showed Darrell how to remove, and then reassemble, the hardware off each casket, so the covering can completely cover it. It's a tedious task that must be repeated each time.
"I'm probably the only sign man in the Midwest that's dealt with more caskets!" laughs Darrell.
The pair also brainstormed on the designs. For instance, the sky in the Sacred model is the actual view from Darrell's own yard in Union county. Bryan and Darrell plan on adding some more personal touches to it. They're going to incorporate the Bald Knob Cross of Peace in their next design for that casket.
Perhaps the Camo model truly defines the phrase "Made in the Heartland." The coating comes from the Camoclad plant in the Pulaski county town of Mounds. Darrell's son-in-law just happens to work there. Darrell applies the coating at his sign shop, and Bryan coordinates the distribution.
"It's something customers can come in, not feel like they're overspending and still give their loved one a nice send-off," says Crain.
For now, Bryan and Darrell say they're content with the business they have. Darrell can make two Camo caskets in a day, but the Patriotic and Sacred models require a bit more time. The two say they still won't turn any business opportunity down. In fact, Crain laughs as he admits the pair hopes to bury the competition! 
From start to finish, these special caskets are truly "Made in the Heartland." Darrell and Bryan also ship the caskets locally. They take them to Postal Pal in Anna, where employees build special crates to ship the caskets down south, where most of their long-distance business is.  Again, Crain Funeral Home can ship the caskets almost anywhere, sometimes by working with other local funeral homes.