Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 32
 
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

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Iris Interiors


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It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton


FINAL DECISIONS: “The satisfaction of helping families in a time of need is important to me. I feel I can make a difference in someone’s life, and I’m grateful for that ability and to have compassion and empathy for people.” Ed Wilson, Director of Family Services of Franklin Memorial Park, is shown in the Chapel of Meditation Mausoleum.

Cemetery and Mausoleum Services Offered at Franklin Memorial Park

When dealing with the inevitable — that is, in terms of a final resting place — the help of caring and thoughtful cemetery or mausoleum representatives can make a big difference.

Whether one has planned ahead (always advisable) or is facing such a difficult decision at the time of a loved one’s death, the advice and guidance of someone with experience and compassion is crucial.

Such a person is Ed Wilson. Director of Franklin Memorial Park, he has been helping families make final arrangements for the past 11 years. After an earlier career in the textile equipment business, the New Jersey native made a definitive life change.

“I was a cancer survivor, and it changed my focus,” he explains. “I found I wanted to help people during especially difficult times. My dad always said I was the one who could help people when times were tough, and that somehow I knew what to say. I come from a compassionate Irish family, and I think that gave me this ability.”

New Spaces

Mr. Wilson assists people with information about all the options at Franklin Memorial Park, which is located on Route 27 and Cozzens Lane in North Brunswick. “Part of my ministry is to encourage people to purchase ahead of time,” he notes. “This not only saves money, but ensures that their family won’t have to deal with these decisions on the worst day of their life.”

Opened in 1923 as a cemetery, the 60-acre memorial park is owned and operated by Jonathan Pace. It added the Chapel of Meditation Mausoleum in 1974 (one of the first in the area) and the Chapel of Serenity Mausoleum six years ago. The latter is currently under expansion to add 300 new spaces.

Underground burial is still the traditional choice, but aboveground mausoleum entombment is increasingly in demand, notes Mr. Wilson. “It used to be thought that only the rich could do it, but now, aboveground mausoleums are becoming affordable, and can be available to many. Also, statistics show that the value of mausoleum property doubles every four years.

“Our two mausoleums are 80 percent reserved, and together will hold 6,000 remains. We are also continuing to expand. Eventually, we expect to have room for 20,000. In a mausoleum, because of the way the crypts are arranged, you look up, not down, as at the grave stones in a cemetery. Some people think this is easier on the people left behind.”

Mausoleum Choices

There are a variety of mausoleum choices, especially as to size of crypt and location, he adds. All crypts are overlaid with marble from Italy, and can hold remains or cremains, if the deceased has been cremated. In addition to the sealed crypts, there are glass front story niches in which urns are visible, along with memorabilia, mementos, photos, letters, etc. There is a great opportunity for personalization, and in some cases, communal urns, in which cremains are comingled, are chosen.

There are also large family estate private rooms, with crypts for several family members. Mr. Wilson notes that family and friends often come to pay respects on their loved one’s birthday, Mother’s Day, or other special occasions.

Both mausoleums have chapels in which funeral services are held, as well as candlelight services at Christmas and Easter, which are for family members and friends of those entombed or interred at Franklin. These are special for Mr. Wilson, who notes that “many people come, and we have singing and speakers. People look forward to these services.”

In the Chapel of Meditation Mausoleum, there is also a crematory, with a final viewing room for family members to gather, if they wish.

In Demand

Cremation is growing 26 percent every year, reports Mr. Wilson, and has become increasingly in demand in the past 10 years. While still not as prevalent as traditional burial, it is far more widespread than in the past.

The Franklin Memorial Park cemetery, which features flat memorial markers, not upright headstones, still has 17,000 available spaces underground and 36 remaining acres, he adds.

The entire park, including cemetery and mausoleums, is carefully and attractively maintained, with flowers lining the driveway, and large marble statues and decorative pieces situated throughout the area. Both the cemetery and mausoleums have perpetual care.

Flags are placed on veterans’ graves and in the mausoleums on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. On Mother’s Day, Mr. Wilson gives a flower to each person visiting the grave or crypt of a mother.

“We are non-denominational, with every faith and every nationality represented,” points out Mr. Wilson. “We are the final resting place for people from all over, including Princeton and the area, and also Lakewood, Leisure Village, Old Bridge, and out of state as well.

“The park has always been a leader within the ethnic community. We are sympathetic to the community and its environment. No one is ever turned away, whether it’s the richest or the poorest.”

Traditional Burial

The cost of one’s final resting place can be substantial, and pre-planning often results in savings, says Mr. Wilson. “Our in-ground plots are $900, and will hold two people. Mausoleums are $3200 and up, and payment plans are available.”

He notes that when funeral home costs, coffins, concrete vaults, etc., needed for traditional burial are calculated, those prices can be more than the cost of mausoleum entombment.

“Ours is a state-of-the-art mausoleum, environmentally controlled and vented,” he notes. “Also, we belong to the International Credit Exchange program. If someone buys a crypt here, but then has to move to another location, they can get a crypt in a mausoleum there. They can move, still be protected and not have to worry.”

Helping people not to worry is a priority of Mr. Wilson. “I love people, and I love talking with them. I want to help them make the best decision for their needs. We really form a personal relationship with people. All of our counselors are certified by the state of New Jersey and by the Cemetery Board.

“We continue to attend conferences and seminars twice a year to learn about what’s going on in the industry. There is a real camaraderie among the people in the cemetery industry and a super professionalism. New Jersey ranks in the top five states for excellence in the cemetery industry.”

“I look forward to serving more people with the completion of our addition, and maintaining our reputation as a leader in the New Jersey cemetery community.”

Franklin Memorial Park’s office is open Monday through Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There are no gates, and people may visit when they wish. Mausoleum owners have keys for entry after hours. (732) 545-4184.

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