San Antonio funeral homes offering virtual services, drive-thru tours during coronavirus pandemic

San Antonians have a habit of gathering in large numbers and close together to pay homage and support each other when someone dies. But this is no longer possible because the new coronavirus continues to spread.

Thus, local funeral service providers pivot to provide services to clients who may not be there to pay their respects in person.

Many vendors have a long history of offering online guest books that allow friends and family to leave comments remotely, but a more recent development offers a live broadcast of a funeral service – a move encouraged by the Centers. for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States – so grievers can watch online without having to set foot in a chapel or church.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and City of San Antonio officials said the 10-person limit on gatherings did not apply to funerals. But they urge funeral directors to keep mourners socially distanced from each other and follow CDC guidelines for hygiene and cleanliness.

“We have not placed any particular restrictions on the funeral,” Abbott said at a town hall last week. “The best practice would be this: try as best you can to limit it to no more than 10 people… It may not be possible to do that. Let’s say you can’t limit it to 10 people – try separation practices so you stay separated enough that people aren’t contagious to someone else.

Mission Park Funeral Chapels responded quickly to changing dynamics.

The family-owned business offers drive-thru tours at all of its facilities, accommodation it provides at no additional cost during the national emergency.

Grievers can drive to a window, view the deceased’s casket or urn, and then leave a voicemail message for the grieving family. An attendant will record their words. Those who leave their condolences do not even need to roll down their car windows.

Message leaving family is “no different from using Siri,” Mission Park President Robert “Dick” Tips said. “We’re going to put a microphone there so you can talk… You don’t have to leave your car.

“It’s probably new to everyone. We have redesigned our facilities to respond quickly.

Mission Park also continues to hold traditional funeral services, but welcomes guests several meters from each other to comply with governor and city orders on social distancing.

Porter Loring Mortuaries limits the number of funeral guests to 10, President Helen Loring Dear said on Friday. The San Antonio funeral service provider also offers live broadcasts of free funeral services to accommodate mourners who cannot attend in-person services.

The funeral home may also film the funeral services and post those images on a website or provide them to the family for free, Dear said.

For funerals that are not broadcast live, Porter Loring no longer publishes times and locations of services in obituaries in order to better monitor the number of people who attend. Families are encouraged in such cases to share details of funeral services by word of mouth.

“Each family has understood this perfectly,” Dear said. “Because they are, of course, also aware of what is going on. And they also want to be safe.

Service Corporation International, owner of the Dignity Memorial funeral home brand, said it works to ensure funeral services continue and meets with clients’ families one-on-one to make arrangements in accordance with state and legal guidelines. municipality. The company said it was following CDC guidelines regarding public gatherings.

“We are exploring technological alternatives, where appropriate, to deliver services online, which will help reduce the number of people in a service,” Service Corporation International said in a statement. “These arrangements will be managed on a case-by-case basis.”

The Carter-Taylor-Williams Mortuary on the East Side is poised to offer live streaming services for the funeral that could draw large crowds of mourners, said Vera Williams Young, president and director of the funeral home in charge. .

“If it’s a small service, I can still do it and manage it,” Young said. “But huge services – live streaming is my feeling and my idea. And we are ready to do it.

Young doesn’t expect the face-to-face interactions between funeral home staff and bereaved families to change.

“I think people appreciate the relationship between the funeral director and the family,” she said.

At Lewis Funeral Home, a family-owned East Side business that has been in existence for 111 years, COO Tony Hendricks said it was difficult to explain social distancing to customers going through an emotionally trying time.

“But I think the families are aware of the situation,” he said.

Mission Park offers financing to clients who may not have income at the moment. Most funeral service providers require full payment up front. But Mission Park will allow clients to organize fundraising so they immediately organize a funeral for their loved one and then pay off the bill over time, Mission Park president Kristin Tips said.

Mission Park also offers online bereavement assistance through its website, which Tips says could be an important resource for people who are bereaved as some bereavement support groups have temporarily stopped meeting.

The funeral service provider also just launched a new initiative offering bereaved families a $ 100 gift card to Silo Elevated Cuisine restaurants so they can take their loved ones and friends to dinner at a later date once the establishments of catering will reopen for full service.

“It’s going to be a tough time for (the grieving families) not to be able to sit there and be in a chapel full of people who love and care about them,” Dick Tips said. “So we’re hoping that we can help some of the restaurants, quite frankly, that are really struggling – and be able to bring some camaraderie in the future. “

Peggy O’Hare reports on census, demographics and the occasional crime and general assignment in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read it on our free site,, and on our subscriber site, | [email protected] | Twitter: @Peggy_OHare

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Perry A. Thomasson