Vandemore is first funeral home in Henry County with its own cremation equipment

Lisa Depies
VANDEMORE FUNERAL HOMES & CREMATORY recently installed a cremation machine for human remains at their Geneseo site. Pictured with the new machine are Joel 
Vandemore, owner, and Brett VanDeWoestyne, crematory manager.

Families wishing to have the remains of their loved ones cremated are now able to have the process done in Geneseo.

The start of 2016 marked the beginning of on-site cremation of human remains at Vandemore Funeral Homes & Crematory’s Ogden Avenue location.

Cremation equipment for human remains was installed at Vandemore Funeral Homes & Crematory the last week in November. However, final testing and installation procedures were not completed until Jan. 4.

Prior to that, cremation was available, but a third-party operator in Milan was used, said Joel Vandemore, owner of Vandemore Funeral Homes & Crematory.

“We’re the first funeral home in Henry County to be able to offer cremation at our site,” he said. “A lot of other funeral homes don’t have the space available for a cremation machine.”

In 2009, an extension was added to Vandemore’s Geneseo location. At that time, the business was expanded to include pet cremation, and space was allotted for the addition of both pet cremation equipment and human cremation equipment.

Both the human and pet cremation equipment owned by Vandemore Funeral Homes & Crematory is manufactured by Matthews Cremation.

“The equipment is similar. The only difference between the two is the machine for pet cremation is four feet shorter,” said Brett VanDeWoestyne, crematory manager for Vandemore Funeral Homes & Crematory.

Regulations prohibit the cross use of pet and human cremation machines. “One absolutely can’t be used for the other,” said Vandemore.

However, offering pet cremation has allowed Vandemore staff to become familiar with the use of the cremation machines.

Offering the pet service also has helped the staff at Vandemore Funeral Homes &  Crematory expand their service area.

“When we started offering pet cremation, we were the only place in a 90-mile radius doing it,” said VanDeWoestyne.

As a result, “we’ve been able to touch and work with families in other communities,” said Vandemore. “We run our pet cremation just like the funeral home. We operate 24/7. People can be just as grief stricken to lose a pet as they are when they lose a family member.”

The demand for pet cremation has risen. In 2015, Vandemore Funeral Homes & Crematory conducted 1,335 pet cremations.

The demand for the cremation of human remains also has grown.

“The rates are increasing rapidly every year,” said Vandemore. “Right now, the cremation rate is at 35 percent, and, nationwide, that’s expected to rise to 50 percent within the next five years.

“I don’t believe cremation is cost driven. I just think it’s simply a choice some people have made,” he said.

Of those who do opt for cremation, Vandemore said some families decide to bury the remains, while others want to scatter the ashes.

With cremation demands increasing, Vandemore said it “made sense to change the business model and give clients the services they want.”

The new human cremation equipment at Vandemore Funeral Homes & Crematory will only be used for Vandemore customers. The business will not conduct third-party cremations, said Vandemore.

The loss or mix up of human remains is a concern for some families. By operating their own cremation equipment, “Families know their loved one never leaves our facility,” said Vandemore.

A “very strict” identify process is in place for human remains, said Vandemore. Each body is tagged with a stainless steel disk, which stays with the remains the entire time.

“The disk even goes in the urn with the cremated remains,” he said, adding there’s “never a doubt” as to the identity of a body.

A viewing window is available for families who wish to watch the remains of either their loved one or a pet enter the crematory.

Both Vandemore and VanDeWoestyne are certified crematory operators, and their certification is overseen by the state comptroller’s professional regulations division.

Vandemore’s new crematory had to meet state of Illinois and Environmental Protection Agency regulations, and crematories are inspected on an annual basis.

The Matthews Cremation-brand equipment used at Vandemore Funeral Homes & Crematory also is monitored by Matthews technicians.

“There are Matthews employees at their headquarters in Florida whose job it is to constantly monitor all cremation equipment,” said Vandemore. “If they see an issue or problem, they’re able to remotely make adjustments.”

“It’s like having a technician on site with you,” said VanDeWoestyne.

“It’s all computer operated, state-of-the-art equipment,” said Vandemore.

It takes approximately two hours to cremate human remains, said VanDeWoestyne, depending upon factors such as the body’s size.

“Because we now have the equipment, we can offer cremations, if needed, within 24 hours,” said Vandemore. “Families who travel in from out of town and want a traditional funeral, followed by cremation, can then have a graveside service the next day.”

While that was sometimes possible with a third-party cremation vendor, “The turnaround time varied depending on their schedule,” said Vandemore, adding, “It still took time to take a body there and then drive back to pick up the remains, and often extra charges were incurred for the quick turnaround.

“Because we’re the only crematory in Henry County, we hope people in the outlying communities we don’t typically serve will now consider coming to us,” said Vandemore.