Veteran honors

American flags line the wall behind the casket or urn as well as a U.S. flag at the head of the casket and branch flag at the foot. In front of these two flags stands a branch of service uniform entrusted to the funeral home by local veterans and their families to be used to honor the current veteran being served. Photo by Stan Schwartz

Last Thursday, Bibb-Veach Funeral Homes LLC in Bowling Green and Silex received licensure by the Missouri State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors to operate a licensed crematory and is now operating under the name Bibb-Veach Funeral Homes and Crematory LLC after having completed a roughly year-long endeavor of constructing and installing their own on-site cremation facility at their Bowling Green location.

Tuesday morning the cremation chamber was delivered and by Thursday was in operation. 

The new cremation chamber provides the latest technology to ensure the process meets or exceeds EPA standards that older chambers do not provide, explained Ryan Bibb. Wireless monitoring of the system both on-site, as well as, the manufacturer’s facility ensures that everything runs smoothly and no negative environmental impact is felt, he noted.

Bibb, a third-generation native of Bowling Green and a 1998 graduate of Bowling Green High School, said, “There is little doubt that the trend in the funeral service industry has shifted over the years. There’s been a steady rise in the cremation rate over the past 20-plus years of my professional career, and no doubt prior to then.”

According to statistics from the National Funeral Directors Association, cremation overtook traditional burial in 2015 in the U.S. as the preferred method of disposition. 

Ryan added that, “While the Midwest certainly holds on to the value of tradition more so than other areas, we see the trend trickling our way.” Ryan noted that the idea of installing a cremation facility had been something of a vision for years. “When I was working under John Veach, we explored the idea of doing this 12 plus years ago. At that time, the numbers just weren’t there to justify the investment.”

For the most part, small town funeral homes have relied on a crematory in larger populated areas because it wasn’t financially feasible to install their own, he said.

“When a family contacted us to perform a cremation for their loved one, we would transport the deceased to a crematory at Memorial Park Cemetery off of Lucas & Hunt in the City of St. Louis. As the St. Louis population expanded out to St. Louis and St. Charles counties, other crematories began opening, allowing for less travel time to transport cremation cases back and forth. In 2010, Pitman Funeral Home in Wentzville, Mo., opened up their new facility and began offering a cremation service to colleagues nearby. For the past 11 years the Pitman family facilitated us in providing cremation services to the families who called upon us to serve them, and we are grateful for their professionalism and continued friendship,” Ryan said. 

Bibb began working for Mudd-Veach Funeral Homes while in high school. After completing his degree in Mortuary Science in 2000, he spent time working in Columbia, St. Louis, and Hannibal before returning home to serve the families he began with.

“Home was always the ultimate goal for me and where I felt called to serve. There’s something deeper about this calling when you’re doing it with the families you grew up with.”

Ryan worked for the Veachs from August of 2004 until January of 2015 when he and his wife, Stacey, began assuming ownership of the business and made the name change to Bibb-Veach Funeral Homes LLC.

At the start of 2018, not only did the Bibbs complete the purchase of Bibb-Veach Funeral Homes from the Veachs, but they also purchased Collier Funeral Homes Inc. in Louisiana, Mo., from Allen Smith. It was after the first year of owning both facilities that Ryan began to see the need for an on-site crematory. 

“We were constantly running up and down Hwy. 61 either delivering a cremation to the crematory, or bringing cremains home to give back to families. With the volume of cremations we see between Bibb-Veach and Collier’s, it became evident that the two locations could sustain adding a cremation facility to one of the funeral homes.”

Ryan said he is always looking for ways to improve the services his homes provide to the area communities they serve.

“Over the years we’ve taken steps to always make sure we are forward-thinking and meeting the needs of our families. In 2019, we introduced a new way of serving families through our exclusive Life Celebration services, delivering unique, personalized funeral experiences designed to honor the life of the deceased while serving as a comforting and satisfying tribute for their families and providing them a powerful, healing experience during the grieving process.”

Bibb-Veach, he noted, also takes great pride in the services they provide to deceased veterans. 

“From removal to burial or cremation, there is never a doubt that the service the veterans’ families are going to be provided goes above and beyond,” he said “Every funeral home provides the same basic services to a deceased veteran. It’s the extra things you do for them that makes you stand apart,” Bibb explained. “Paying for a ribbon for your website and being placed on a veterans preferred search engine online is fine for some, but I’d rather show my support for veterans in a more impactful way.”

Drive past the funeral home on the day of a veteran’s service and you will notice Main Street in front of the Bibb-Veach is lined with U.S. flags. The branch of service flag is also flown on the businesse’s main flagpole underneath the Stars and Stripes. You will likely notice the service vehicles are trimmed out with special recognition of the veteran’s service, as well.

“Our lead vehicle can be seen with branch-of-service decals on the doors and our hearse flies two U.S. flags on either side of the hood, along with a personalized window decal covering the back window of the hearse,” he said.

The customized services for veterans doesn’t end outside though. 

“Once a family walks into the funeral home for services, they will immediately notice a patriotic feel in the atmosphere. American flags line the wall behind the casket or urn as well as a U.S. flag at the head of the casket and branch flag at the foot. In front of these two flags stands a branch of service uniform entrusted to the funeral home by local veterans and their families to be used to honor the current veteran being served.”

Several years ago, the funeral home started a program using American flags, as well.

“The proper way of disposing of a U.S. flag that is no longer suitable for display is by burning it in a respectful manner, so we established our funeral home as a drop off point for used flags. When a veteran’s family has chosen cremation instead of a traditional burial, the used flags that we have collected are draped over the veteran and cremated with him or her. We felt this was both a proper way to honor a veteran, as well as, giving the flag one final purpose.”

Ryan said, “Bibb-Veach and Collier Funeral Homes are the only Life Celebration Funeral Homes in Pike and Lincoln counties, and now, Bibb-Veach is the only funeral home with a crematory located in Pike County.

“By providing this service locally now instead of having to transport to another facility, families will see a reduction in their cost for our services provided to them, as well as, a faster turnaround in returning their loved ones to them.” 

Ryan said he would like to thank those that helped along the way in making the crematory possible.

“There are a lot of hurdles that you have to jump through to get to this point. Research on environmental impact, planning and zoning requirements, building construction that meets the specifications of the cremation chamber, along with licensure requirements from our state board all had to be completed before we could provide this service to our community.”

Bibb said he’s not done improving on his services either.

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