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Day: June 2, 2014

“Over Our Dead Bodies: Undertakers Lift the Lid” by Kenneth McKenzie and Todd Harra

Over Our Dead Bodies: Undertakers Lift the Lid” by Kenneth McKenzie and Todd Harra

c.2014, Citadel Press
$15.95 / $17.95 Canada
256 pages



The End.

It comes after the walking-into-the-sunset shot in old movies, usually in florid script. You see it in books for children, more than for adults. It’s at the tail of short stories, tongue-in-cheek advertisements, sarcastic social media postings… and life.

And then what? What happens to your mortal remains when that’s all that remains?  Take a peek at “Over Our Dead Bodies” by Kenneth McKenzie and Todd Harra, and you’ll get a general idea.

In your job, you basically know what to expect from day to day. Not so, if you’re an undertaker. When you care for the dead and their families, anything can happen – and McKenzie and Harra prove that well.

But first – a little history.

Take the label “undertaker,” for example. It initially had to do with the undertaking of proper burial but some 130 years ago, the National Funeral Directors Association officially changed the title to “funeral director.”

Back then, funeral directors and cabinet makers went hand-in-hand; someone had to make the coffins, so why not someone with woodworking skills? The business was then passed down through the family, with many an undertaker getting his (or her) start as a child, sweeping the parking lot, pulling weeds, or helping out inside.

But getting back to the main point: “no day is the same” for a funeral director. You can’t ever prepare yourself for a “Goat” to appear on someone’s last wishes. You can’t fail to be impressed at the timing of a husband and wife who die within hours of one another. You can’t remain unfazed by any coincidence, really, and you’ll never get over the death of your own mother, no matter how many mothers you’ve buried.

Still, funerals aren’t “doom and gloom and death and dying and tears and crying every day, all day.”  Funny things happen – like a hearse caught in a snowstorm and a funeral rescued by a beat-up pickup. Like a jazz funeral that ended with a second chorus. Like superstitions, accidental love-matches, funeral crashers, and life stories that start with a piece of furniture and go full circle.

And speaking of life, the authors say, enjoy yours to the fullest “because you too will one day be pushing daisies.”

No pun intended, but my first impression of “Over Our Dead Bodies” was that it was a little stiff.

There’s quite a bit off-topic in the first few pages here – extraneous info that felt like a commercial – and because of that, it seems to take awhile for authors Kenneth McKenzie and Todd Harra to get to the body of their book. Once they do, however, we’re treated to the kinds of tales we’d normally beg to hear when we’d meet an undertaker at a cocktail party, as well as personal stories and a rambling (and quite fascinating) social history of death and funerals.

But fear not: this isn’t macabre stuff; it’s funny and poignant and, as you dig in, it’s very, very addicting. Once you’ve started “Over our Dead Bodies,” in fact, you’ll like it to The End.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

Celt track and field brings home medals from Eugene

The McNary 4x400 team of Anthony Nguyen, Brendan Van Voorhis, Kyle Torres and Brett Hildebrand with coach Kelly Borreson (center). (Submitted)
The McNary 4×400 team of Anthony Nguyen, Brendan Van Voorhis, Kyle Torres and Brett Hildebrand with coach Kelly Borreson (center). (Submitted)

Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School boys relay teams, a hurdler and one Lady Celt sprinter brought home medals for their performances in events at the state track and field meet last weekend.

The boys 4×400 relay team of Brendan Van Voorhis, Brett Hildebrand, Anthony Nguyen and Kyle Torres came home from Eugene with second-place medals. The Celtics finished less than half a second (3:21.48) behind the winning team from Jesuit High School (3:21).

“It’s been going well all season. In those big meets, things tend to go really wrong or come together just perfectly. Everyone was right on time with handoffs,” said Torres, a junior.

McNary’s Daniel Brattain took second in the 110 hurdles with a time of 14.54. Brattain’s time put him about a quarter of a second behind the race winner from Clackamas High School.

The boys 4×100 relay team of Austin Brown, Torres, Nguyen and Garrett Hittner took third in their event with a time of 42.02. Less than a second separated the first- and third-place teams.

For the girls, Daysha Simms-Garcia finished third in 400-meter sprint with a time of 58.12. The race winner from Central Catholic High School shaved nearly a second off her previous best to win the state title in 56.19.

A large number of the athletes McNary sent to the event endured through preliminary rounds to make the finals.

For the boys, Hittner took seventh and eighth in the 200- and 100-meter races with times of 22.43 and 11.19, respectively; Brattain finished in eighth in the 300 hurdles with a time of 39.55 and eighth in the pole vault clearing 13-00; and Perry Groves finished 10th in the long jump with a mark of 19-06.25.

For the girls, Danielle Duran took seventh in the 400-meter with a time of 59.46; Alyssa Looney finished eighth in the long jump with a 16-09.75 mark; Aisha Amaitsa finished 14th in the 1,500 meter with a time of 5:15.02; Sydney Hunter, Hali Thurston, Danielle Duran and Simms-Garcia finished 14th in the 4×400 relay with a time of 4:11.87.

Budget coming to council next week


Of the Keizertimes

Like numbers?

If so, set aside some time Monday, June 2. On that evening there will be not one but two budget hearings.

At 6:45 p.m. Keizer City Councilors will don their Urban Renewal Agency hats to discuss the URA proposed budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

A public budget hearing for the Keizer 2014-15 proposed budget takes place during the regular council meeting at 7.

There are two other hearings that evening during the regular meeting regarding money: a public hearing about assessments totaling $457,782.90 and a hearing on the city’s proposed use of approximately $300,000 in State Revenue Sharing Funds.

At three meetings earlier this month, members of the Keizer Budget Committee – which includes all city councilors – went over the proposed city budget. The total city budget as proposed is $36,534,600. That includes $5,217,300 in capital spending and $4,061,300 in debt service payments.

The tax rate remains at $2.0838 per $1,000 of assessed value, while property tax revenue is expected to increase 2.7 percent in the fiscal year ahead, which starts on July 1. That increase is attributed to a 2 percent rise in assessed values and a .7 percent increase in growth.

Some of the more notable numbers in the proposed budget deal with employees. The proposed budget calls for three new positions, as reported in the May 9 Keizertimes. As discussed in the paper one week later, reshuffling of some numbers has resulted in a proposed additional police officer position starting in January.

For city employees as a whole, salaries and wages are anticipated to increase $500,000 in the fiscal year ahead. In terms of percentages, the increase is 2.5 percent per employee.

The Personnel Services fund is anticipated to increase a total of $900,000. In addition to the increased wages and salaries, that also includes the new positions, retirement, health and welfare benefits.

As proposed, charges for services will increase 6 percent in the new fiscal year. That includes a 4.5 percent water rate increase, a $.43 per ESU (Equivalent Service Unit) storm water rate increase, a $1 bi-monthly increase in the sewer administration fee and a 5 percent sewer rate increase. The rate increases, if approved, would go into effect in January.

Another notable change in the budget involves the Debt Service fund. Payments of principal and interest on debt obligations for the city are proposed to decrease from $9 million this fiscal year to $4 million next year. A large part of that decrease is due to the $3.7 million principal payment on the Keizer Station Local Improvement District (LID) earlier this fiscal year when foreclosure proceeds were applied to LID debt.