Need for oversized caskets grows as American waistline grows

Published On: Jan 30 2013 02:18:06 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 08 2013 03:58:15 PM CST
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

Obesity continues to be one of the major concerns in the U.S.

About two-thirds of people in La Crosse County are considered overweight or obese. That's actually slightly under the state average, but health officials say it’s still a problem.

While it can be costly and lead to some serious health issues like heart disease, diabetes and early death, the extra weight could also create problems in the afterlife.

As the American waistline gets bigger, so do caskets.

Before someone makes it to their final resting place, the process for loved ones to say good bye is hugely important.

“As a funeral director, we believe strongly in that viewing process and that closure for families,” said Andrew Dickinson, co-owner of Dickinson Funeral Homes in La Crosse.

Dickinson co-owns the business with his twin brother.

Together, they are the ones to meet with grieving families and work to cater to their needs no matter how small or big the request.

“At times it can be uncomfortable,” said Dickinson. “Some families just aren't familiar with this room, and when they come in, they don't know the dimensions and just they think everyone can fit in a traditional sized casket, which just isn't the case.”

Back when the brothers started working in the family business in 2002, they said the need for oversized caskets was pretty much unheard of.

Dickinson said that's not so much how it works today.

“We do approximately six or seven oversized casket sales a year and the need is increasing,” said Dickinson.

So how are the casket sizes different?

“Now, this is a standard width casket and you're right at the 23 (inch mark),” said Dickinson.

Then it grows five inches.

“This one's 28,” said Dickinson.

And another five or so.

“Between a 32 and a half to 33, so 33,” Dickinson said as he measured the largest casket in stock.

But Dickinson said the sizes don't stop there.

“They go up to 35 or 42,” said Dickinson. “I'm sure this casket can hold up to 800 to 1000 pounds.”

“It's very scary,” said Linda Lee, La Crosse County Nutrition Manager.

Lee said about 21.5 percent of people in the county are considered overweight or obese.

That number has stayed pretty steady for the past few years.

Lee said that's both a good and a bad thing.

“It’s not trending upwards,” said Lee.” It's pretty stable, which is good, and I think we've done some things in our community to help in that regard. We're encouraging people to be active, we're encouraging people to eat healthy and so I think La Crosse is a little bit ahead of the curve, but that's not to say we still don't have a problem.”

Lee said creating good lifestyle habits are easier as kids. If kids are overweight or obese as children, they are much more likely to be obese or overweight as teens and adults.

But obese or not, the Dickinsons said everyone should be treated with dignity, and have the perfect casket on hand to match is part of the job.

“Fortunately now, a lot of the casket manufacturers are making a lot of the oversized caskets in every traditional style,” said Dickinson. “The need is there and when a family does come upon that need, we're there to serve them.”

The 32 inch casket also happens to be about the last size to fit in the average burial plot. Anything bigger would require buying two plots.