Friday, August 23, 2013

Take me out to the ball game funeral

In 1979 the television situation comedy series WKRP in Cincinnati aired an episode titled Commercial Break in which the radio station produced a commercial--featuring a snappy, upbeat jingle--for a funeral home. The program was ahead of its time; in 2013 a professional baseball team has decided to offer a free funeral to the winner of a contest as part of a commercial tie-in to a funeral home. I agree with their choice for the winner, but I prefer the old-fashioned kind of baseball promotion that Bill Veeck used to have--such as sending a midget up to bat.

From the same team that brought you the "urinal gaming system," as reported by Precious Petty of the Lehigh Valley Express-Times, August 20, 2013:

Most funeral directors will tell you that the best time to discuss after-death arrangements is well before a loved one passes away.

That's why Kevin Reichel, of Reichel Funeral Home in Northampton, agreed to sponsor the Lehigh Valley IronPigs' "Celebration of Life" tonight at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown. He wanted to start a conversation.

It would seem that Reichel succeeded.

News that the IronPigs would award a free funeral to one essay contest entrant grabbed national headlines. Fans who showed up to watch the Pigs play the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders were abuzz about the atypical giveaway.

Steve Paul, who's battling Lou Gehrig's disease, penned the winning essay. Doctors in June diagnosed the Freemansburg man with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. The news got him to thinking about his mortality, and he decided to enter the contest.

The 64-year-old said he wrote and rewrote the essay four or five times before submitting it...

...Paul, who uses a wheelchair, said it's a relief to know that his family won't have to worry about shouldering the financial burden of his funeral. But now that he has the prize in hand, Paul hopes to put off using it for as long as possible...

...Entrants submitted essays describing their ideal funeral and explaining why they deserved a free sendoff. The contest drew more than 50 essays from people looking to score a funeral worth nearly $10,000...

...A few entrants aimed to put the "fun" in funeral and called for memorial services held at Coca-Cola Park's home plate or to be attended by the IronPigs starting lineup, Reichel said. Other essayists, like Paul, struck a serious tone.

"It has been fun and crazy and goofy and that's part of what our fans have come to expect, but after the winner's announced, I think it'll be a new kind of story," Landes said before the IronPigs named Paul.

"People are going to be really appreciative of the Reichel Funeral Home and what they've done for this family," he said.

Paul's prize includes a casket, embalming or cremation, hearse, headstone, flowers and a funeral or memorial service. Reichel said his services are valued at $7,500. Northampton Memorial is pitching in with a headstone worth up to $1,500 and RichMar Florist is donating $300 in flowers...

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