A Crossett resident has been selected as Arkansas Funeral Director of the Year by the Arkansas Funeral Association.
Rosie Medders, of Medders Funeral Home in Crossett, said the award was very unexpected.
“It’s always the last thing announced and it’s kept secret,” Rosie said.
The award is chosen in part by clients who have submitted letters or reviews to the selection board highlighting something special that a funeral director did for their family or loved one.
The first hint that she might have won the award came with the reading of some familiar words at the association’s meeting.
“They were reading things that were sent in and I knew one of them sounded very similar to a Facebook review that was left on our page, but I thought surely not,” Rosie said.
Rosie was right, however, and she was the winner of the award.
Rosie said that being a funeral director is the most rewarding job she has ever had, but it was only recently that she went into this line of work.
She and her husband Keith Medders opened Medders Funeral Home in 2013.
“Keith has always wanted to own his own funeral home and he told me when we opened that this would be the best job I ever had,” Rosie said.
Rosie started as an apprentice under Keith, who had obtained his funeral director’s license and embalmer’s license when he was fresh out of high school.
Keith had worked for a funeral home in Crossett before moving on to pursue another career that eventually took him away from Crossett and to the state of Mississippi.
Even though Keith had moved on to another career field and another state, his dream of owning his own funeral home stayed with him.
“We would drive by buildings and he would say, that would make a good funeral home,” Rosie said.
Rosie said that when God opened the door for Keith to finally open his own funeral home, she was supportive, but still a little on the fence about how much she would actually enjoy the business.
Not only did Rosie find being a funeral director rewarding, but she went on to become a licensed embalmer as well.
“If you had asked me 10 years ago if I would be co-owner of a funeral home and a licensed funeral director and embalmer, I would have told you that you were crazy, but Keith was right — this is the best job I’ve ever had,” Rosie said.
Rosie said it is so rewarding to help families and to be there for them in a time when they need it most.
Her decision to go to mortuary school and become a licensed embalmer came shortly after they opened their funeral home. Rosie said that Keith had been able to help a family in a way that touched her heart.
She said a family who didn’t know if they would be able to see their loved one in an open casket because of circumstances surrounding the person’s death.
“But Keith worked for hours and hours to make it possible for them,” Rosie said.
Keith then had to leave to go to his daughter’s nursing school graduation, so Rosie was actually the one who accompanied the family to the viewing. How they responded made all the difference.
“I called Keith that night and told him I wanted to go to mortuary school,” Rosie said.
Rosie said that there really aren’t words to describe the feeling she felt as she watched that family and to think that it wouldn’t be possible without dedicated embalmers like her husband.
“Not everyone can do this job, but there is something so special about being able to help these families in ways that no one else can,” Rosie said. “They choose us, they trust us with their loved ones and we do not take that lightly.”
Rosie said as a funeral director and an embalmer, she wears many hats and she rarely has the same day twice. No matter if she is selling burial insurance, working with someone to pre-plan their own funeral or working with a family who has just lost a loved one, she connects with each one of her clients. Rosie said that each time she plans a service a with a family that a she feels like a small piece of her heart stays with that family forever.
“It’s a bond that doesn’t go away, I see people years later who hug me and say thank you, even though it’s been years,” Rosie said.
Rosie said she does get nervous at times and does everything she can to meet a famiy’s expectations.
Once she was caring for a lady who she said had lived a full life.
“She was a mother, grandmother, and I wanted her to look as beautiful as she did on her wedding day,” Rosie said.
However, she didn’t have a picture or anything to go on to style the woman’s hair and she was nervous that she would get it wrong.
“I didn’t want them to walk in and say that’s not how momma wore her hair,” Rosie said. “So I was so nervous, but they just kept saying how beautiful she looked and I thought, ‘This is the job for me.’”
One of the most rewarding moments in her career thus far is when she got to care for her step-father when he died. Rosie said there was something special about being able to care for him and get him ready.
“I feel fortunate to get to care for my own family which is something I wouldn’t have been able to do had I not bene in this business,” she said.
Rosie said that she has had so many moments where she was at peace and knew that she was right where God had planned for her to be, and she said she is so thankful that God opened the door for her and Keith to open Medders Funeral Home.
“It really is the best job I’ve ever had,” Rosie said.