With endorsements from Major League Baseball and the Vatican, business is booming for funeral products company - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

With endorsements from Major League Baseball and the Vatican, business is booming for funeral products company

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Posted: Saturday, September 1, 2007 4:39 am | Updated: 6:55 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Dearly departed Diamondbacks fans will soon be able to have their cremated remains put into an urn that is “hand-designed using die-cast aluminum with proprietary clear coat finish” sitting atop a home plate-shaped base outlined in black.

A real baseball — provided with the urn or the fan’s prized autographed baseball — will rest on the top. The D-Backs logo will boldly accent the urn.

Or they can be buried in Major League Baseball-sanctioned caskets, with exterior woods like those of baseball bats, and a Diamondbacks logo on the inside lid and on the pillow. In the near future, fans of any of the 30 major league teams can go out of this world sporting team colors and logos. (www.eternalimage.net). So far 12 team styles are available.

Meanwhile, Catholics may order from the official Vatican Library Collection of caskets or have ashes in elegant urns sporting the Collection seal.

“My company seeks to provide people with a truly fitting way to remember their loved ones,” said Clint Mytych, president of Eternal Image, based in Farmington Hills, Mich. “We feel that up until we came around, most urns and caskets were pretty generic and plain.”

Founded in 2002, the company embarked on developing Catholic funeral products, including artfully striking urns. One urn that stands 18 1/2 inches tall, capped with a cross, dwarfs standard urns.

Then came late 2004, when Eternal Image was contacted by the Vatican. Mytych said representatives of the Vatican Library Collection liked what they had seen in the Eternal Image product line. By spring 2005, the company gained a Vatican license for worldwide distribution of its goods. They say it’s the first time the Vatican Library has endorsed funeral products. The library earns proceeds from the company’s sales.

“We consider ourselves very fortunate to have a license like that,” Mytych said.

The Roman Catholic Church ended its objections to cremation in 1963. Though it still does not recommend it, the church allows it as an option to the faithful. More than 40 years later, the Catholic cemeteries in Chicago, for example, report that 12 percent of families choose cremation, and it is increasing about 1 percent each year. Mytych said for the general American population, about one in three bodies is cremated.

The first Vatican-licensed caskets will be available later this year.

Besides gaining marketing licenses from Major League Baseball and the Vatican, the company has one with Precious Moments, which designed five original pieces for Eternal Image — figurines not available in its regular product line. Other companies are being pursued for product themes. The company has licenses from American Kennel Club and Cat Fanciers Association to produce urns for the ashes of dogs and cats.

“What we have done is allow people to remember their loved one in a way that they lived their lives. ... We want people to celebrate the life of someone and not focus on the death,” Mytych said.

Products are made in Asia and assembled in the U.S. Those intended to hold human remains are sold only through funeral homes. Sales for the first half of 2007 have doubled from the previous year, said Nick Propravsky, vice president for sales and marketing. “It’s hard to keep stock in warehouses,” he said. “Everything we make tends to sell as fast as we can make them.”

In July, the company opened European operations.

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