Robert Brian Burkhardt, the funeral director who wrote the Your Funeral Guy blog, died after a heart attack on January 19, 2011. He was 58 years old.
In a sad irony, while he was a crusader for funeral consumers, he left his family totally unprepared – no life insurance, no wishes to follow, no computer passwords on file.
Under the nom de plume R. Brian Burkhardt, to distinguish himself from others with the same name, his Your Funeral Guy blog challenged the practices of the funeral industry, from suppliers to funeral homes to cemeteries.
He wrote about wide cost variations for funeral products and services, news, scams and trends in the funeral industry, and he reviewed funeral related books. He started the blog in November 2007 and his last posting was January 17, 2011.
Burkhardt also wrote Rest in Peace: Insider’s Tips to the Low Cost Less Stress Funeral. The book, released in 2008, reveals hidden tricks and costs charged by funeral directors and guarantees to lower the cost and stress of any funeral.
He was quoted in stories by The New York Times, Newsweek, Dow Jones Newswires, Fox News, MSN.com Money Central, and other news outlets.
His crusade against the excesses of the funeral industry came out of his personal experiences as a funeral director in Washington, D.C., Wisconsin and Illinois. He witnessed some consumers getting exquisite traditional funerals for thousands of dollars less than normal cost. He vowed to help the ordinary consumer reduce their funeral expenses.
Burkhardt worked for nine years as a newspaper distribution manager for the Naperville Sun. After being laid off when the company was sold in 2000, he decided to become a funeral director and minister to families in their time of need.
He obtained his mortuary associates degree from Worsham College of Mortuary Science. He also held a degree in political science from Illinois State University.
“He loved to serve families and didn’t want to take them for as much money as possible at the time of the funeral,” said his wife Mary. “He worked for some really unethical people. He admired the profession but not those people who take advantage of the bereaved.”
A news junkie who loved history, Burkhardt enjoyed taking the family to visit sites such as Mount Vernon and Williamsburg, Virginia when the family lived in the Washington, D.C. area. He and his wife Mary have two daughters, Alexandra and Sarah.
Burkhardt was born September 19, 1952 in Berwyn, Illinois and grew up in Elmhurst, IL. He was diagnosed with diabetes in 1995 and developed lung embolisms in 2008. He spent a year recovering at home, during which time he wrote his book and worked on the Your Funeral Guy blog.
“I can’t believe Bob didn’t tell me a thing,” observed Mary Burkhardt. “It would have helped me have better closure to have information. I had no wishes to follow.”
The family was left financially destitute, with no money for funeral services or an obituary in the newspaper. They used cheapest cremation service they could find nearby.
Word of his death is only now coming out because Mrs. Burkhardt was able to retrieve his phone messages after asking the phone company to grant her access, since she didn’t have his PIN number or passwords. (She called me after I had left a message of concern when I noticed he hadn’t posted in two months.)
Ironically, on Your Funeral Guy blog, Burkhardt had responded to a comment on a page about free online memorials, Dead Facebook Society, on January 14, 2011, just five days before he died.
His body was cremated after organs were harvested for donation. May Bob Burkhardt’s memory be a blessing.