Full-Service Quality and Compassionate Care Is Available From Hopewell Memorial Home
COMPASSIONATE CARE: “I feel I am able to be there when people need you the most. It is important for someone to be there for them at this difficult time. A compassionate nature is a must for a funeral director.” Christopher Merlino, funeral director of Hopewell Memorial Home, is shown in the chapel of the newly renovated facility.
By Jean Stratton
It is no doubt the most difficult time for most people. Making the arrangements for a loved one’s burial or cremation and all the accompanying details is an emotionally stressful experience.
Being able to rely on compassionate support and knowledgeable assistance can help to ease what is often an unbearable situation.
“It is important to be compassionate, authentic, and genuine when we are dealing with people who are suffering during such a difficult time,” says Todd Michael Cohan, owner of Hopewell Memorial Home.
Located at 71 East Prospect Street in Hopewell, the funeral home has a long history. The building dates to 1948, when John Cromwell had it built to provide a comfortable setting for funerals, viewings, and visitations. For most of its history, it was known as the Cromwell Funeral Home.
Cohan purchased the building and business in 2013, provided extensive renovations, and renamed it Hopewell Memorial Home. It serves all of Mercer County as well as nearby Bucks County in Pennsylvania.
“I felt a commitment to the town of Hopewell to continue the tradition that was started so many years ago by John Cromwell, and to provide quality service at a reasonable cost to the community,” he explains.
“Our goal is to offer whatever service our clients need, including burial arrangements, cremation, helping them to find a cemetery, headstone, assisting with all funeral arrangements, and holding viewings and visitations. We also take the deceased to the cemetery, line up the cars, etc.”
Christopher Merlino, who is Hopewell Memorial’s funeral director, has worked for 31 years in the funeral business, and has extensive experience. His mission is to make sure that everything is done with dignity and respect for the families of the deceased.
“I started working in this field at a young age. I was 17, and helping out a friend,” he explains. “I became accustomed to the business, and realized I wanted to help people during a time of such need.
“I studied mortuary science at Mercer County Community College, which is a three-year program and two-year internship at a funeral home, and then I was licensed by the state.”
Providing viewings, visitations, and funeral services is a major part of a funeral home’s operation, and ensuring that this is as respectful and comforting for the family of the deceased is vitally important, points out Merlino.
“All faiths are honored and can have a service here. Sometimes, families ask for special music. We have a piano, and we can also have recorded music. One family asked for Frank Sinatra recordings because the deceased liked him so much.
“Sometimes. families like to have a particular theme for the viewing or visitation. One time, a family wanted an island theme, and all the visitors wore flowered shirts.”
He adds that the number of people in attendance can vary. “So many people are on the move today, and sometimes, there are not many people at the viewing. Other times, if the deceased was a prominent person, there can be hundreds of people.”
Merlino also reports that the wishes of the deceased can sometimes include requests for a special item to be buried with them, something that had meaning for them. “We have had requests for Bibles, prayers, photos, books, magazines, and once, a fishing pole! People have lots of different ideas about their final arrangements.”
The necessity to be on call at all hours of the day and night makes the job of a funeral director very intense and demanding, he adds. “You never know when you will be called, and it can be busier during certain times of the year, including during the holidays.”
And even with all of his experience, certain aspects of the profession can be especially difficult. As he notes, “You never get used to it when the deceased is a child or a baby. That is very hard.”
Both Christopher Merlino and Todd Cohan point out the importance of making the wishes of the deceased known ahead of time regarding burial, cremation, and other aspects of the final arrangements.
“It is really so important to plan ahead. Family members are just not in a state of mind to make rational decisions when a death has just occurred. We are always willing to go to a person’s home to help with a plan if they wish. This will avoid possible family disagreements.”
In addition, reports Merlino, “Today, there are funeral agents who help to see that the wishes of the deceased are carried out in case of family disputes.”
Hopewell Memorial offers a large selection of coffins at a wide price range, as well as a variety of ornaments to be fixed to the top of the coffin. Coffins are typically wood or metal, ranging in price from $1,600 to $12,000.
A selection of cremation urns and boxes is also available. Less costly than burial, cremation has become an increasingly large part of Hopewell Memorial’s business, reports Cohan. Cremation only without services is $2,000.
“We always try to work within someone’s budget,” he explains. “Also, if people make a plan ahead of time, they don’t have to pre-pay. No payment is necessary until they need the service. We’ll go to their house and offer flexible financing. We want to do whatever we can to help. They can also transfer the arrangements if they should move to another location.”
In addition, continuing education to keep up with the latest advances is very important to Merlino and Cohan. Hopewell Memorial strives to offer new services that can benefit clients.
“We have established on-line cremation planning at our mercercremation.com website, and we are now offering funeral webcasting, which allows people to view the service from their computer, tablet, or iPhone anywhere in the world,” reports Cohan. “I also hope to expand our cremation service to include a separate cremation location, where people can come to pay their respects and celebrate the life of the deceased.
“I hope people will consider us when the time comes. We are a place where they will find compassionate and comforting attention and care, People are often very uncomfortable with death. Some are strong, some give way. They all handle grief very differently.
“We try to figure out a way to help people be at ease. I want them to be comfortable here. Whatever I can do to help them, I try to do.”
His work with Hopewell Memorial has been a profound experience for him, says Cohan. “Having purchased the business has changed my life and made me more appreciative. This fulfills something that was missing, and I feel I am giving back to the community. It’s so important to celebrate the lives of those you love.
“Now we have the opportunity at Hopewell Memorial to reach out to people and provide comfort when it is needed most. Let us help you design a remembrance that captures the history, personality, and accomplishments that make every life unique.”
Hopewell Memorial Home & Cromwell Funeral Home of Hopewell Valley is open seven days from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (609) 466-3632. Website: hopewellmemorial.com.