Blog: Skorupski Funeral Home finds new ways to offer time-honored rituals to grieving families

This blog is the second in an occasional series written by local business owners as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, Route Bay City features Spencer and Chelsea Skorupski, who own Skorupski Family Funeral Home at 821 N. Pine Road in Hampton Township and at 1500 Midland Road in Saginaw Township.

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: Hello, my name is Spencer Skorupski and together with my wife, Chelsea, and our wonderful team, we own and operate two funeral homes. When I was 12 years old after attending my grandfather’s funeral I realized that my life’s purpose was to be a funeral director. I was able to see the important role the director played in providing my mother with comfort, stability, and the guidance she needed. I’m humbled to now be able to do the same for the families of the Great Lakes Bay Region. In the work I've been called to do, it's all about people. At Skorupski's, we focus on this so much we've even become known as "The Parlor for the People."

Skorupski Family Funeral Home & Cremation Services opened its doors on March 1, 2013. Since then, we have expanded our Bay County location to a brand new, state-of-the-art building with 5,000 additional square feet and more parking. We also acquired our Saginaw Township location in January 2019.

The Skorupski Funeral Home recently built a new, more spacious facility in Bay County.A lifelong Bay City resident, I graduated from Bay City Western in 2008 and studied at Delta College before graduating in 2011 from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science. At 22 years old, I opened a funeral home in my hometown area. My first building had a terrible reputation after the previous owner had frauded hundreds of grieving families. That building is now closed again, but this time, it’s due to my firm’s growth and expansion after years of carefully caring for area families in an honest, dignified, and respectable way.

My wife and I make our home in Bay City now and are expecting our first child in September. We also have two misbehaved miniature Bernedoodles, Buster and Maisy. We stay active in our parish, St. Jude Thaddeus in Essexville, are proud supporters of Bay City Players, and we're deeply committed to giving back to our communities.

Q: What has happened to your business since the pandemic started?

A: The pandemic has had a devastating impact on grieving families. In times of sorrow, when we don’t know what to say or do, ceremony and gatherings fill the void; and they have for hundreds of years.

When the pandemic struck, these comforting ceremonies suddenly became extremely limited. Executive orders allow only 10 people or fewer inside a room. This led to many families holding brief viewings and choosing for their loved ones to be immediately buried, cremated, or entombed. Families were left hoping to have a memorial at a later time. In some instances where family members were COVID-19 positive, not even a limited gathering was possible.

We hear often about first responders, who are to be commended for their dedication and efforts. Seldom are the “last responders” or funeral home workers mentioned. Working in close proximity with the deceased and their families, our team has been up close and personal in regard to exposure to COVID-19.

At the beginning of this pandemic, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) was hard to find (however, it has been getting easier to obtain as time goes on.) Our fully stocked care center, and the fact that more metropolitan areas experienced more of a surge than our area, allowed us to send PPE to funeral homes on the frontlines of the surge.

At the beginning, many family members were under the impression their loved ones had to be immediately cremated; however, this information was not, and still is not, accurate. The proper viewing can take place after careful preparation by a well-trained and licensed director.

Q: Are you doing anything innovative to meet the challenges of the pandemic? Will these innovations stay a part of your business after the pandemic?

The family-owned business is conducting outdoor funerals in order to allow families to come together safely for memorial services.One area we quickly figured out was how to live stream ceremonies. Overnight, funeral homes were forced to advance their technology and accommodate families in these most unusual times. We currently offer complimentary livestreaming to the families we are privileged to serve. Live streaming will be here to stay in the post-pandemic days.

Understandably, our team, especially our transfer team who cares for the deceased from the place of death have valid concerns. As the leader, some of this is difficult to address as there are so many unknowns about the coronavirus. However, as a token of our appreciation to our team, we are disbursing hazard pay bonuses to those who have handled the transfers of our COVID-19 positive clients.

Q: What are you working on this week?

A: This week we are busy caring for families who have currently lost loved ones, coupled with about 30 families who have had to delay ceremonies during the pandemic. With many churches now opening and opened at larger capacities than funeral homes, many families are eager to have their delayed public memorials arranged.

In addition to getting on the livestream bandwagon quickly, we’ve also implemented a tool on our website where folks can request an appointment in a way they’re comfortable with – be it virtually or at the office by clicking a simple link:

In parts of Northern Michigan, funerals are now being permitted in gatherings of 50. Here, we are still at the 10 per room rule; however, outdoor gatherings are permitted. This week we’ll be hosting our third outdoor funeral underneath a tent to accommodate more visitors.

Q: What are you doing to take care of yourself, your family, your clients, and your team?

A: In times of trouble, I always like to lean on a quote from one of my favorite saints, St. Padre Pio: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” These times may be worrisome and unusual, and this heart-wrenching temporary measure of not being able to gather and support our friends and family when they need it most is just that, heart-wrenching. Notice, I did not use the phrase “new normal,” as there’s nothing normal about what we’re all experiencing. In time, this too shall pass, and we’ll all be able to remember, celebrate, and heal in ways even better than before.