Robert Dewhirst

Dewhirst & Boles Funeral Home, Methuen, MA
Robert Dewhirst - FMC Alumni Profile

What made you decide on a career in the funeral industry?

The funeral home I'm currently working out of was founded by my great-grandfather in 1949, and my father has been a director there my whole life. I've been working here full-time for the past 6 years, but on-and-off helping out since I was about 10 years old. There was never any pressure exerted on me to take over the business, but being in the family was definitely my foot in the door to this industry. After about 3 years working full-time, I realized how beneficial we as funeral professionals can be to a grieving family by simply having a basic knowledge of the funeral processes they request, and by having a desire to help those in need. 

How has this career choice affected your personal life?

This job can prove itself to be all-consuming as far as your time and energy goes, but it's absolutely possible and necessary to find time for yourself in this profession. The last thing an owner of a funeral home wants is a burnt out director interacting with their families. I'm currently working and experiencing as much as this career has to offer, so my personal life is slightly limited to preparing meals and resting when possible. I have good friends and family who understand that I may have to leave the party five minutes after arriving should the phone ring!

What is your favorite part of the job? 

I love every part of my job, but every once in a while I'm able to see families through every step of the funeral process. I can really instill an unbreakable trust and confidence in people when I'm personally assisting them from the first time they call us to the conclusion of services selected. When I say goodbye to a family and that confidence and satisfaction is felt mutually, that moment is my favorite part of the job. 

When you’re not working, what do you like to do? [Hobbies, interests, etc.]?

When I'm not working, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, playing all sorts of musical instruments (not necessarily well...), attempting new food recipes, seeing bands and comedy shows in Boston, and working on my house. I also loved tutoring and helping friends at FINE Mortuary College, and may consider pursuing a degree to teach one or two nights a week in the future.

If you could describe your work-life using the title of a movie / TV show / (or any pop-culture reference,) what would it be?

I can’t think of anything, but I would say the most accurate depiction of a funeral director in movies would be Dan Aykroyd in 'My Girl'

What is the most common reaction you get when you tell people what you do for a living?

When people find out what I do for a living, they either ask me questions that I don't feel comfortable answering for a few hours, or they avoid me for the rest of the party.

What do you wish people knew about funeral directors?

I wish people knew that funeral directors are typically good-hearted people who only have your best interests and wishes in mind. Funerals can be expensive and families aren't always thinking clearly when faced with a death, but very few funeral directors are concerned with exploiting that confusion to make an extra buck on unnecessary goods or services. I also wish people knew that to be a part of a funeral home team or family does not make us members of the Addams family!

If you were asked for advice from someone interested in pursuing a funeral industry career, what would you tell them? 

If someone was interested in pursuing a career in funeral service, my advice to them would be to get a job doing anything at a funeral home; Cutting the grass, raking leaves, opening the door at wakes, etc. This will typically get your foot in the door, and there are plenty of odd jobs that randomly pop up in the daily routine that might be offered to you if you're around at that moment. Plus, it's a good way to determine how comfortable you are working in the death care environment. I would also advise to not get discouraged if your first funeral home turns out to disappoint you; No two funeral homes are the same in any way.

Has working in the mortuary field changed your outlook on life, or how you live your life?

Working in the mortuary field has definitely made me appreciate my life and the time I've been given so far on Earth. There's a lot of creation that one person is capable of in their lifetime, and I've seen too many lives cut short in this job to not wonder what I'm capable of achieving tonight and tomorrow. 

What do you do to unwind after a tough day at work?

After a tough day of work I'll either get something to eat with someone I care about, or I'll destroy a family-size bag of potato chips while watching cartoons. It's important to admit to trusted people when the job is getting difficult without revealing too much information, because it can really weigh on you after a while. Other times it's good to just veg out and be by yourself, because the constant interactions and service can start to weigh heavy on your personal well-being.

If you could change anything about the funeral industry, or how it is viewed by the general public, what would you change?

If I could change anything about the funeral industry, it would be to dress down at times. I have gone through more dress shirts, pants and shoes to count.

Anything that stands out to you as odd / cool / interesting?

Something about the job that I find cool is all the different cemeteries, churches, hospitals and different parts of New England I get to visit on a regular basis. I've driven as far as Montreal to perform a burial, and I must have visited at least 100 different municipalities in Massachusetts alone so far. Also, I get to hear all sorts of stories from people at calling hours who grew up with my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents in the city.

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How would you describe your experience as a mortuary science student working toward your career at FMC?

I loved my time at FINE. The classes were interesting, the faculty was awesome and I met some really great people that I now work with in this industry regularly. The classroom sizes were ideal as learning environments, and the lounge is a great place to interact with people who are at different stages of the roughly 2 year experience. The school is small enough where you can get to know the administrators on a personal level, but large enough that there's always a hiding spot to study in. I believe my school experience not only helped me pass the national and state exams, but made me a better funeral director and person altogether (and I wasn’t paid to say this!)