Owner of Putnam crematory aims to educate, remove fear

·3 min read

Sep. 7—PUTNAM — Unlike other crematories, the Park Tribute Center only provides service for clients at the business's nearby funeral homes.

At the Putnam crematory, the only one in Windham County, customers are offered a unique, in- person experience.

" Our clients will actually come here and watch," said Gilman and Valade Funeral Homes and Crematory owner/ funeral director Robert Fournier Jr.

He was referring to the large machine at the crematory, which is at 25 Highland Drive in Putnam. There is an observation window for people to observe the machine, which Fournier said cremates about 100 pounds an hour.

He said when factoring in other steps, the entire process takes about three and a half to four hours for the average body.

Fournier said it is tradition for Hindu and Buddhist people to watch the cremation process. Christians, on the other hand, traditionally recognize the deceased at a funeral service.

Clients must make appointments at the crematory.

Fournier said very few people have been to a crematory before and the business aims to educate others about them.

" We have put on open houses because we want to take the fear out of this," he said.

Fournier said the business has clients from Windham County and other areas.

In addition to the crematory, the business has two funeral homes: Gilman Funeral and Cremation Service at 104 Church St. in Putnam and Valade Funeral Home and Cremation Service at 23 Main St. in North Grosvernordale.

" I find funeral service very rewarding because you're helping someone at a very difficult time," Fournier said.

A traditional burial provided by the business includes the following: calling hours in the evening, a ceremony at the church or funeral home the following day and a graveside service in a cemetery.

A " simple burial," the website indicates, includes a graveside service in a cemetery.

The business sells a variety of caskets that range in price from $ 950 for a cardboard casket to $ 9,000 for a mahogany casket with a velvet interior.

There are also a wide variety of urns including traditional and unique options, such as containers shaped like footballs and baseballs.

" This is really the tip of the iceberg with what can be done with cremation," Fournier said while giving a tour recently.

There is a longstanding history behind the business, which was founded in 1919 by Alexander Gilman. Alphonse Valade became affiliated with Gilman in 1924.

Both men were funeral home directors, as well as owners of hardware and paint businesses.

Eventually, the partnership dissolved and changed hands within the Gilman family a few times before it was sold to Lawrence Bellerose in 1973.

Fournier purchased the business from the Alderwoods Group in 2005 and opened the crematory in 2013. Members of his family have been in the funeral business since 1914.

He left the family business in Woonsocket, R.I., to buy his funeral home.

" I'm thankful that they were because it exposed me to an industry that I enjoy working in, that I love," Fournier said of the family business.

He stays on top of the latest industry trends, often attending conferences that are held throughout the country.

" I often joke that I'm a funeral nerd," Fournier said.

For more information about the business, visit gilmanandvalade.com.

The Park Tribute Center and Gilman funeral home can be reached at 860928-7723.

The Valade Funeral Home can be reached at 860-928-7724.

Follow Michelle Warren on Twitter @mwarrentc.

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