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Larkin Mortuary Connects Families to Loved Ones with PlotBox Cemetery Software
Discover how PlotBox cemetery software is helping Larkin Mortuaries to streamline processes and provide a valuable service to local families.
Located in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah, Larkin Mortuaries operates four deathcare facilities including large and small chapels and serene viewing areas, including the picturesque Larkin Sunset Gardens, with mortuary, cemetery and indoor & outdoor mausoleums, and Larkin Sunset Lawn featuring a chapel, indoor & outdoor mausoleums, and a state-of-the-art cremation centre.
Uniquely, Larkin provides a range of burial and funeral services, including both below and above ground interment options, burial vaults and floral offerings.
We spoke with Cemetery Administrator Josh Dodenbier, who provided insights on how PlotBox has not only helped to maintain accurate records and streamline processes; but provide a valuable service to local families.
Hi Josh, can you provide a brief history of Larkin Mortuaries and its services?
Larkin Mortuary is family owned and has been providing families with exceptional service for over 135 years. Currently we have four funeral homes in the Salt Lake Valley, two of which have cemeteries that were purchased in the eighties. Larkin is not only a funeral home, crematory, and cemeteries but we also offer several other services, such as producing burial vaults with such quality that we are authorised to sell under the Doric brand. We own a headstone shop, Rock Mountain Monument, and our own floral shop, The Rose Shop, allowing families to take care of all their funeral needs under one roof.
Larkin is one of the premier funeral homes in the valley. In fact, there aren’t many places in the United States that can even offer the full-service experience we offer our families.
The bottom line for us is making sure every family is taken care of. Every member of our staff takes a lot of pride in making sure the families we serve are given the best care possible. We treat each family as if they were our own.
This requires clear communication between each aspect of the operation - from department to department, and from the vaults to the flowers, there is definitely a lot of communication that goes with making sure things are taken care of.
Our funeral directors know and understand there are thousands of details that go into making sure every aspect of the funeral services goes on without any issues - and to that point, PlotBox organises things in such a way that we are able to find cemetery information more easily, which makes the operation a lot ‘cleaner’ and a lot more fluid.
Tell us about your role as Cemetery Administrator.
For the past two years I've been going through and standardising best practices for both cemeteries. In addition, auditing records for both sites. As you know, in the United States, once a plot is purchased, it is owned in perpetuity. As such, as part of the audit process, I've been verifying that there is a paper trail for every property contract, clearly indicating who owns each plot, and who has been interred into each plot.
I also oversee every interment that takes place. I ensure the correct space is used, that the space has been purchased, if you will, before the interment takes place, to ensure that there are no issues in the future.
I also monitor new property sales, personally entering those into PlotBox. We have been slowly rolling out the PlotBox platform capabilities to our teams to ensure they become accustomed to the new processes, aside from the cemetery data and mapping aspects.
Historically I have noticed, when the grounds were first developed for a cemetery, contracts sold included anywhere from 4 to 8 plots at a time. Considering these contracts were written in the 1950s and as of today some of those same contracts have spaces that have never been used. For example, originally a plot may have been owned by a grandparent with ownership subsequently transferred to a great grandchild via quit claim deed who then became the executor of that estate.
The benefit of utilising PlotBox is that it makes it easy to organise and keep track of these details. Ensuring accurate records for every aspect of our cemeteries.
The important thing to me as I'm auditing current and existing interments, is that within PlotBox, I'm able to not only list data for everyone laid to rest; but I can upload a photo of the headstone, a photo of the individual, and the obituary. That means, for each person in our cemetery, I'm able to make sure their story is always told. To me every person in our cemetery is more than just a name and a date on a data field, and I want to make sure every family we serve has access to this information for generations to come.
Each person’s life is important to me. Even if someone has no headstone or obituary, I want to have as much information as I can find on that person captured. PlotBox enables me to do that.
My goal is to make finding their loved one on the cemetery grounds easier and to have access to genealogy information for their family. Fortunately, over the years, cut out newspaper obituaries have been kept in our burial records. I can scan it and upload that obituary into PlotBox so that families have that for historical or genealogical purposes, especially where many obituaries were never kept or can’t be found online.
I want people to know that with Larkin, we really do care.
What were you looking for in a new cemetery management system?
We wanted to have a platform that would enable us to help our customers - our families - to be able to find their loved ones in the cemetery. That's always been huge. Prior to implementing PlotBox and the Everafter grave search platform, families would come into the office and be given a paper map by our receptionist. They would be shown on the map where their loved one was interred, then they would have to navigate their way to the correct location.
I cannot tell you how many families and funeral directors this system is helping. Everyone who is onsite can pull up Everafter on a mobile device, look it up on their phone then walk to the exact gravesite location. Families have been thrilled about being able to find their loved one within our cemetery - especially because of how large it is.
How else has PlotBox helped?
A lot of the functions of our previous system were paper-oriented, customarily a large heavy book where each owner and burial were handwritten. When a burial needed to be arranged, a member of our team would go through the owner’s folder and see where the property was located. They would often see a contract or a Deed, then place them in that burial space without questioning or reviewing every page within a file, which in the past has caused mistakes or errors.
PlotBox clearly and accurately identifies which plots are available to that person and which plots they own. It has helped me clarify a lot of problems. It has also made accessing this information possible from any of our locations.
Relating that to my auditing, the nice thing about PlotBox is it’s very clear and easy to allocate ownership, and manage what type of relationships are within graves.
PlotBox is very user friendly and makes it easy to organise this information.
At the same time, it’s very easy for me to link photos and obituaries into PlotBox. Once it goes over to the public side, via the Everafter portal, it’s very nice for families to be able to see those things without worrying if they are going to have access to private information.
In addition to ensuring every interment is going into the correct space, the digital mapping has helped quite a bit, especially where a family has multiple spaces. For example, individuals may not necessarily have been buried in the traditional way, where a husband is buried to the south.
When it comes to new burials, the digital mapping makes it very clear for us to ensure the burial occurs in the right place and position.
In terms of contracts, all property sales go through the contracts module within PlotBox. I'm also scanning every contract into PlotBox, so if there are questions in the future, anyone can go back and look to confirm the exact details. That’s a very nice function.
In general, it’s a lot faster, more efficient, and accurate, because the system is 100% up to date - and everyone in our company knows that.
What did the digital mapping process look like for you in practice?
We wanted to make sure the maps were accurate before we went live. I worked with a number of the PlotBox team, including your senior GIS technician who was amazing at keeping track of developments and introducing us to other PlotBox team members who would also assist us along the way.
The mapping team laid our mapping grid lines over the aerial image of our cemetery which I would then pinpoint, and say, “Okay, from this map I know that this headstone is this.” We would then work very closely together, moving grid lines needed to go north or south or east or west, to ensure it was completely accurate.
In terms of migrating our data, we provided our PlotBox Technical Consultant with a spreadsheet containing our owner and burial information which they were able to use as the basis of the migration process. I worked very closely with them to ‘clean up’ the data variances to ensure the correct formatting, which I understood to be vital from the beginning, was to be an important part of the process.
How has having your maps integrated with your software helped to streamline operational processes?
Where there is work to be carried out on the grounds, for example, it has been a great tool for managing and making sure all work orders have been completed. In that way it also acts as a good audit trail to refer back to and confirm whether something was completed. Even verifying photos taken and linked to the work order for confirmation has made it easier to communicate what has been done.
Furthermore, it allows grounds staff to find spaces much quicker because they can walk right to them, as opposed to jumping from space to space to get closer to the correct grid line.
In general, then what have the main benefits been of digitally transforming your cemetery system?
It really is having a ‘triple A’ platform that makes things accurate and transparent for multiple people to be able to find the information they need to take care of families. That’s the main benefit.
I'm very detail oriented and accuracy is important to me, and also making sure things are entered correctly. I want to be able to find and document historic records, and with PlotBox, I not only have the digital record of a deed but also a scanned paper copy to back it up.
PlotBox is an amazing platform to allow everybody to see a paper trail and be able to advise families accurately in real time with regards to plot ownership.
Many of our staff are saying, “Oh, my gosh! It's so much easier to find what’s available and what isn’t!”.
And finally, would you recommend PlotBox?
I definitely would recommend PlotBox to any cemetery, while we’re not using every aspect of it right now, but as we move forward, we'll expand more and more of how we utilise it.
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