Giant Burial Caskets
|By Mimi Rohr/ Gamma|
| As America’s mid-sections are expanding, American industries have expanded right along with them to fit their needs, including the undertakers.
Goliath Casket Company specializes in oversize caskets. Based in rural Indiana, the family owned and operated company is run today, by the second generation of the Davis family, husband and wife team Keith and Julane. The company was started in 1985 by Davis’ father, Forrest Davis a career casket maker and his wife Mary.
As it became apparent that America’s girth was on the up and up by the early 1980’s, Forrest was being asked to build caskets for oversize bodies. Using what materials were available, Forrest whose nickname was Pee-Wee referring to his diminutive stature -
was unhappy with the results, remembered Davis. One day Forrest told his work colleagues “boys, I’m going home to make an oversize casket that you would be proud to put your Mom in.”
The barn on the Davis family pig farm was converted into a factory dedicated to building oversize caskets and Goliath Casket Company was born.
In 1993 Keith, an electrician and his wife Julane took the helm of the business. Today, the growing company offers three models ranging from 29 inch width to 52 inch width, accommodating corpses from 300 lbs to 1000 lbs. Funerals homes will sell a Goliath Casket from between $2,000-$4,000, while a normal size casket of comparable quality starts at approximately $1,000, said Davis.
The biggest coffin Davis has ever built was a coffin measuring 7 feet 3 inches in width. for a 900 lbs. man. The casket sporting special reinforced bottom and sides- weighed 400 lbs without the corpse. “I hope I will never make one of these again,” said Davis. However, the reality is that unless America wakes-up to their weight problem, he probably will.
In the early 1990’s when Davis took over the company the average demand for the caskets was 100 units a week. Today the average demand is 400 to 500 caskets a week.
“Obesity has crept up on everybody from the airlines, doctors, and shopping malls,” said Davis. They must all scramble to install extra wide doors and beefed-up equipment such as elevators and medical equipment to help serve this growing segment of the population.
On the funeral front, the oversize casket business has morphed into a consulting business on how to plan a funeral for the oversize departed. Davis gives advice on all aspects of the service. It isn’t always possible to hold services in a church or funeral home as the oversize casket will not always fit through the door. Creativity is the key here. Davis has seen services held in garages, parks, and sports fields in order to accommodate the caskets.
“Some oversize caskets fit in vans or Suburbans (very large cars)” explained Kyle Good of Thomas Funeral Home, also in Indiana. “In the worse case scenario, you use a flat bed truck. You hate to do it, but sometimes you don’t have a choice.”
The oversize casket won’t fit through the door of an airplane. All transportation of the caskets to the funeral homes must take place by road, train and even boat, when necessary. Funerals have had to be postponed for weeks so the casket can be transported to its destination. While the majority of caskets are delivered through shipping companies, Davis has been known to put a casket in the back of his van and haul it to other states to make it in time for the funeral.
Oversize caskets occasionally have others uses. Not long ago, Davis shipped two caskets to the neighboring state of Arkansas, where a family of four had tragically died in a car accident. The family was buried two per casket. “They died together and were buried together,” said Davis. “It’s a great way for closure. The goal is to celebrate the departed life with dignity and integrity.”
Goliath Gaskets website is at http://www.oversizecasket.com
|Mimi Rohr © 2005|