Category Archives: Rendina Funeral Home

What the…..


     “What the….?”

I was finishing up a hot, salted pretzel with melted cheese at Subway recently.  My wife was doing some shopping at Walmart, and I was along for the ride.  But the salted, baked dough drew me away from the sock isle, so God bless the little things in life.  That is when he came in.  And that is when I learned a little about prejudging people without knowing anything about them except how they look.

As I dipped my last piece of pretzel in the cheese, a man came into the Subway space.  His hair was not so long as it was frazzled…windblown in a not so attractive way.  His beard appeared to be a blotchy three day growth and his mustache was long and drooping over his mouth.  He had on a camouflage shirt and sweat pants with no-name gym shoes on.   If I had to guess his age, he might have been anywhere between 60 to 70 years old.

In an instant, he pulled a chair right up to the counter and sat down right in front of the register.  He stared at the teenage girl working the counter that evening for what was to me an uncomfortable amount of time.  The first thing that came to my mind was “What the….?”  As in many trips to Walmart, I felt I was going to see something that I never saw before so I cupped my ear to better hear where this was going, if and when he should speak.  I was seated about 10 feet from the action and was ready to rescue the girl if things went bad.

Of course, with my own aged knees, it would have taken me some time to leap into action, but that is another story.  Sixty-eight year old legs do not respond quickly to messages from the brain.  It was then that he bent down, pulled up his left pant leg, and removed his artificial limb.  He rubbed the stump for a minute or two, then put the leg (from the knee down) back on, returned his pant leg back into place, stood up, and pulled a note from his pocket.

I was embarrassed by my quick reaction that trouble just sat down.  He spoke softly, slowly, and almost bashfully as he placed his order for four foot-longs.  Reading from the note, he completed his order.  I was into the moment by this time, and I approached him.  Politely I told him I saw that he lost a limb, and asked if he would mind sharing what happened to him.  Keep in mind that I have never gone up to a stranger and asked such personal questions before, but I was drawn to this man.

His answer hit me in the gut.  I am sure that my face got red as my own emotions regarding his answer brought up some long suppressed memories of my own.  “Lost it in Viet Nam,” he answered simply.  Just then the teen rang up his order and asked how he wanted to pay for it.  I told her that I would get it which opened up a small debate between myself and the stranger.  I said it was the least I could do as he paid so much on the battlefield.  I won the argument as I told him that I spent a couple of tours in Nam myself.  He was a marine and we joked about who needed who the most…the marines needing the Special Forces or vice versa.

After we talked about when, and where and the why’s of how we spent our time so many years ago in a jungle on the other side of the world, I found out that he was my age, was a “region rat”, now lived in Vegas and liked to come back to NW Indiana once a year to go fishing and visit with old friends.  I thanked him for his service and he turned and started to walk away.  I sat back down and finished my cold drink, lost in thought.

It was shortly after that I felt someone standing beside me on my blind side.  I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see this walking-wounded veteran looking down at me.  I no longer saw the mismatched clothes, or the straggly hair or the answer to my “what the?” from minutes before.  I saw clarity in his eyes and a smile.  His hand was outstretched waiting for a traditional handshake.  I extended my hand and he spoke softly, slowly and clearly.

“Thanks for the sandwiches.  It has been 45 years since I got home and you are the first person who has ever done anything like this for me.  Just wanted you to know that meeting you was special.”  I could barely hold back my own tears and mumbled  “no problem, sir” as we both felt a little weird, but in a good way.  He turned and walked away, and I spotted my wife at the checkout counter.  She asked who was the guy I was talking with since she knows I am not a talk-to-strangers kind of person.

So, what is the point, Dan?  The point is that Memorial Weekend will soon be upon us.  The point is not a stranger buying a stranger a sandwich.  The point is that there are so many walking wounded men and women that cross all of our paths every day who wore the uniform of the U.S. armed forces.  Much of their pain and injuries are mental.  It is easy to see a man’s artificial limb in one hand while massaging a stump of a leg with the other and think, “Oh, let me buy him a sandwich”.  What about all the survivors who have been in all the wars we have been involved in that walk around each day struggling to just maintain.  There are ghosts that fill the dreams of so many, ghosts of horrors that few can ever comprehend unless you too walked in their shoes.

Memorial Weekend is a time to honor these people.  To realize and appreciate the sacrifices that they and their families made to keep us safe and free.  Whether one’s leg is torn away in a firefight in the jungles of Vietnam, or a soul is twisted and crushed from man’s inhumanity to man during times of combat in the Mideast, men and women come home from war changed.  They need love and patience and understanding and space.  They need to be acknowledged, even if only on Veteran’s Day or Memorial Weekend.  It is in the power of every person that reads this story to buy a sandwich for a vet, or cut the grass for an old timer who helped to secure your rights as a U.S. citizen…and say thanks.

Nobody who has seen the things our military has seen, or been called upon to do the things that they are called upon to do should ever sit alone and wonder what it was all for.  Oh, we will be embarrassed when you say thanks for your service…we will not want you to buy us lunch…we will try to refuse your help even though it may truly be needed.  Extend yourself, and appreciate those brave men and women who have given so much.  A good place to start is visiting Calumet Park cemetery over Memorial Weekend.  Find time to share an hour of your life in showing you care.  The official Memorial Day Service at Calumet Park Cemetery in Merrillville will be May 28 at 1:00 p.m.  Invite your friends and take the opportunity to show you care.

Call 219-769-8803 for information on prearranging for your cemetery and funeral needs



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2017 Spring Newsletter

Family enjoying a day of fishing at previous Catch and Release events that happen every Spring at Calumet Park Cemetery. Click on newsletter link for more information.

2017 Spring Newsletter  Click here to see the newsletter.  A complete schedule of the Memorial Weekend events are listed.  Also, there are a number of other community oriented activities that you may want to save the date for that are shown in the newsletter.  Thank you for following us on facebook.  If you have any needs or questions about the cemetery, our funeral homes or prearranging, feel free to call.  Visit our website at

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Easter is just around the corner…

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April 5, 2017 · 1:59 pm

Celebrating your love…

Kim Jones (on left) with Darrel and Mrs. McNeal at official grand opening of Rendina Funeral Home. Kim is a Certified Celebrant and can help you at any of our facilities. Darrel is our liaison with Batesville casket company.

It may sound strange to celebrate the life of a loved one that just died.   Yet, think of the last funeral you attended and what much of your conversation was about.  You shared memories of the good times with that person, and the good things about that person that helped to create the good times.  Grief will come.  There will be plenty of time to grieve.  But for the moments when you gathered to say goodbye to the person who passed and hello to so many others that you had not seen for so long, a celebration of a life that was lived helps with the healing process.

To have a fitting, respectful and beautiful goodbye is part of the reason that we carry on the ritual of the funeral.  At Calumet Park Funeral Chapels in Merrillville and Hobart, and Rendina Funeral Home in Gary, the services of a Certified Funeral Celebrant are available for families who are charged with the duties of final arrangements.  Calumet Park’s Celebrant is a  funeral director with special training to help produce a final goodbye that leaves a warm place in the hearts of those who cared enough to attend the funeral of your loved one.

What is a Celebrant?  A Celebrant is a person who is trained and certified to meet the needs of families during their time of loss.  A Celebrant serves by providing a funeral service that is personalized to reflect the personality and life-style of the deceased.  A Celebrant offers an alternative to a service provided by a clergy person for those families who are not affiliated with a church or who do not wish to have a traditional religious funeral service.

A Celebrant has been specifically trained to design a service that is completely personal.  They incorporate those unique stories, songs and experiences that defined the loved one.  A  Celebrant will schedule a special family time for the family to share memories, anecdotes, and special moments in the loved one’s life.  The essence of the service will be based upon the remembrances of the family.

A Celebrant has a library of resources available for readings, music, ceremonies and personal touches.  The Celebrant will consult with the family to help design a service that best reflects and memorializes the life of their loved one.

A Celebrant is bound by a code of ethics for complete confidentiality in all dealings with the family.  He or she will provide a special unique committal service at the cemetery with balloon releases, dove releases, special music, friends and families leaving special notes on the loved one’s casket, and much more.

Kim Jones, funeral director and  manager of all three funeral homes, is a Certified Celebrant.  She will sit down with the entire family and let the family share stories and reminisce about their loved one.  During this time, which can last an hour or two, she will listen carefully and ask questions to gain a better understanding of your loved one during your grieving process.

Everyone grieves differently and it is healthy to express your feelings, tell stories and remember the beauty that was your loved one.  According to Doug Manning of IN-SIGHT BOOKS, INC., “Your loved one are never gone if you keep their memories alive.”   A Certified Celebrant is trained to seek and provide the most comprehensive and sensitive training available for people wishing to develop their knowledge and skills of this profession of funeral directing.  It is important that a family knows they are being served by someone who understands the process and is prepared to offer the very best and most personal funeral possible.

Call Kim at 219-736-5840 for more information regarding Certified Funeral Celebrants.  Find out if including a Celebrant as part of your funeral is right for you.

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Spring is coming…for real



Tulips and Irish lasses for a day are a sure sign of Spring.  Teresa Dille shows off her love of the Irish for St. Patrick’s Day 2017




Flowers and leprechans … sure sign of Spring!


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March 21, 2017 · 3:36 pm

Lets go shopping for graves and caskets…

“Let’s go grave and casket shopping.”

Did you ever wake up on a bright, warm sunny spring day and turn to your husband or wife and say “What a nice day.  Let’s go grave and casket shopping.”?

Probably never is my guess.  Nobody likes to think about death in general, and specifically, their own death.  For many families, discussing one’s own mortality would not show up on a list of their top 100 things to talk about this week.  Until a death occurs.  Then, making cemetery and funeral arrangements jumps sorrowfully to number one on the list.

By pre-planning for your funeral and cemetery needs, you can relieve your family of having to make important financial decisions during a period of great stress and grief…a time when people aren’t thinking very clearly and may not know what to do because you never made your wishes known.

It’s easy to say, “Throw me in a bag in bury me in the woods,” which is a direct quote I heard once from a husband who was dragged by his wife to the cemetery to look into prearranging for their final wishes.  It was good for a laugh, but even he knew that his comment had zero merit.  But it is important to realize that the ritual of a funeral and/or memorial service isn’t for the deceased but for the living. It is a time when friends and family can gather together to grieve openly and to provide support for one another.

Pre-planning your funeral may be very informal, and as simple as filling out a Family Estate Planning Kit that is free from Calumet Park for the asking, and sharing your wishes with a family member. More formal arrangements in the form of a preneed contract can be set up with a Family Service Counselor or funeral director at Calumet Park Cemetery, Calumet Park Funeral Chapel in Hobart or Merrillville, or Rendina Funeral Home in Gary.  You can design exactly what meets your needs and financial situation.

And for those who want to relieve their family of the financial burden that goes along with making cemetery and funeral arrangements, you can take advantage of Calumet Park’s no interest payment plan that allows one to freeze the price and have their money trusted until needed at 1st Source Bank in Valparaiso.

Pre-planning, when done properly, can provide you with peace of mind because you know that your arrangements are ready when needed, and pre-funded, which means no worries about getting what you want if a death occurs unexpectedly and your bank account is not sufficient to meet the costs of even a simple funeral.  As with nearly all products and services, inflation drives the cost of funerals up yearly.  Preplanning and prefunding your final wishes ensures that your funeral is paid for at today’s prices.

While many people assume savings or life insurance will cover their final expenses, funerals must be paid for upfront, while many life insurance policies or bank accounts are not accessible to families until well after the funeral services are rendered.



By pre-planning your final wishes, you can:

  • make all the arrangements during a time of peace and not leave them to your family during their time of grief
  • make your wishes known
  • control the cost of your funeral and protect from inflation
  • ensure that personal records are organized and easy for your survivors to locate
  • protect your insurance so that it provides for your survivors and not for funeral expenses
  • provide protection in case the need arises before it is expected

Most people are not aware that over 150 decisions and tasks must be completed within the first 24-48 hours after an individual’s passing.  By arranging ahead of time, you can ensure that your loved ones will not have to wrestle over those details and decisions during their time of emotional upheaval.   The opportunity to know that everything is taken care of will allow proper remembrance and the first steps of healing.

All of your arrangements are guaranteed with Calumet Park and Affiliates preneed program and will be carried out just as you have directed.  You and your family will feel comfortable knowing that, when the need arises, all is taken care of and they can spend time celebrating a life that was lived and leave the grieving to the future.  Few people ever get over the loss of a loved one but a funeral helps to transition from life with a loved one to life after a loved one passes.

Pick up your phone today and call 219-769-8803 to speak to one of our professional and caring Family Service Counselors or funeral directors.  You have nothing to lose by at least allowing yourself a little time to have your questions answered, and if the answers meet your needs, you can make it possible for you and your loved ones to never have to talk about the subject again…until a death forces you to face the issue.  Be like so many of your neighbors who say “It is better to have it taken care of and not need it than to need it and not have it!”


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Please see me…


Since the late 90’s, my M.S. had progressed to the point that I needed a power chair.   Needing a wheel chair does not define a person.

Experiencing people’s reaction to me in a chair has been a study in human behavior.  While eating out with my family recently, I went to get a refill of my drink and a woman asked me “How can you be so happy?” I was baffled and asked her what she meant. “Well, you’re in a wheelchair, so how can you be happy?” I was absolutely flabbergasted.  I think of these encounters as opportunities to educate so I explained the chair simply took the place of my legs. I am happy by choice.

On another occasion I was waiting for my ride after work in a doctor’s office. Many people going in and out would ignore me, even after I said hello. I felt invisible. One day I forgot to take off my stethoscope and EVERYONE responded to my greetings!

Did being a doctor or nurse make me more approachable or somehow less handicapped?  In crowded stores I am often bumped into or tripped over, again giving me the feeling of being invisible. Experimenting, I wore my stethoscope the next time I went shopping and not only was I not bumped into but people were would ask me if I needed any help! Many people either smiled or nodded at me as I shopped.

Was it possible that looking like a professional somehow altered people’s perception of me from being a disabled person to being “one of them”?  Was a stethoscope like a magic wand that suddenly made me visible?

My question is what perceptions do you have when seeing someone in a chair;  or of a different skin color, nationality or religion?

Article written by Laura Conant, freelance writer for Calumet Park

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From the archives….

2017-02-03-20-18-22Found in the archives, the invitation that was sent out for the dedication of the Catholic Sections from back in 1933.  Calumet Park, always and still family owned and operated.

2017-02-03-20-18-47 2017-02-03-20-18-54From its humble beginnings in 1928, Calumet Park has grown to be one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the country.  Besides the cemetery, Calumet Park now owns and operates two crematories and three funeral homes:  Calumet Park Funeral Chapel in Merrillville, Rendina Funeral Home in Gary and Calumet Park Funeral Chapel and Crematory in Hobart.

For information on pre-planning your cemetery and funeral arrangements, call 219-769-8803 or stop in for a tour of any of our facilities.  Find out more about us by reading some of the posts in this blog or go to

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Calumet Park Cemetery in Merrillville adds casket display area that is family friendly…

2017-01-17-21-37-34 2017-01-17-21-37-57 2017-01-17-21-38-30 2017-01-17-21-38-54 2017-01-17-21-39-15 2017-01-17-21-39-53 2017-01-17-21-40-05 2017-01-17-21-40-53 2017-01-17-21-41-01 2017-01-17-21-41-22 2017-01-17-21-41-48 2017-01-17-21-42-13 2017-01-17-21-42-36 2017-01-17-21-43-06 2017-01-17-21-43-35 2017-01-17-21-43-58 2017-01-17-21-44-05 2017-01-17-21-44-17 2017-01-17-21-44-27 2017-01-17-21-44-53-2 2017-01-17-21-44-53-6 2017-01-17-21-45-52 2017-01-17-21-46-24 2017-01-17-21-47-00 2017-01-17-21-47-08 2017-01-17-21-47-52 2017-01-17-21-48-02 2017-01-17-21-48-43 2017-01-17-21-48-56Calumet Park Cemetery in Merrillville recently added a casket display area at the cemetery.  There are so many people wishing to pre-arrange their cemetery and funeral needs that it has become a must to have a place that they can see the actual caskets and fabrics for the interior without having to go to a local funeral home.

You may click on any photo to enlarge it to see the detail of design and color.  All the caskets shown are Batesville caskets made in the USA in Batesville, Indiana.  Batesville is one of the oldest and biggest casket manufacturing companies in the country.  They are highly respected and admired for the quality and variety of their products, from simple to “how much?”  There is literally a design that meets all budgets.

Stop in for a free tour of the room and consider preplanning with Calumet Park using our interest free monthly payment plans, and do not forget to ask about our veteran program.

Call 219-769-8803, or stop by any of our locations as shown on our website

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Why do cemeteries have so many rules?

osos     Believe it or not, spring is just around the corner.  Before you know it, the days will get longer, the sun will come up earlier and set later, and the warmth of the season will return.  It will not be long before February teases us with Groundhog’s Day.  Except for those who love the cold and snowy season, the hope for the rest of us is for a cloudy day so the groundhog will not see its shadow and we can have an early spring.  Or, so goes the folklore.

Regardless, as sure as warm weather returns, families will return to the cemetery in great numbers.  Flower planting in earnest begins after what is hoped to be the last frost of the season, and along with the beauty that grows from this annual process, also come the complaints.  Most of the complaints come in the form of “why can’t I plant whatever I want to”, or “someone took the Teddy Bear off my child’s grave”, or “I demand to know why there is water on my lot”, or “someone stole my flag” and on and on.

There are two main areas of concern when cemeteries decide what they will allow and not allow regarding grave decorations:  the appearance of the cemetery and the cost to maintain what is allowed.  For instance, some cemeteries allow virtually anything.  It does not take long for such cemeteries to start looking like a dump.  A Teddy Bear that is placed on a grave on a nice sunny day has a special meaning to the person who placed it there.  After the first rainfall and heavy winds, what was cute now looks like a clump of stuffed cloth that may have been blown far away from the original placement.

Flags, artificial flowers, concrete angels, shepherd’s poles holding baskets of flowers and more become hazards when the lawns are being maintained.  A lawnmower that costs thousands of dollars can have serious damage to its blades when it meets up with wires from grave decorations or objects of endearment that are quickly turned into refuse with just one pass of a sharpened blade.  Such objects can also present a danger to the grounds crew when a lawnmowers and weed eaters hit them with such force as to send projectiles in every direction.

It has been suggested that we have guards to keep items from being stolen.  Go back to your high school math days and run an estimate of costs which would have to be passed on to the consumer and it becomes a frightening number.  Forty sections (some sections would need many guards because of the contour of the grounds and the size of the sections) x three shifts of guards to cover the each 24 hour day x 365 days in a year x $20 per hour for each including benefits and taxes = approximately $876,000 per year.  And without trying to seem overly simplistic or dismissive in this cost analysis, that is a lot of money spent to keep the 10 to 12 items per year that are reported as having been stolen from being stolen.   As important as an item might be to the memory of a loved one, the best way to prevent items from being stolen is to not allow items of value that become an invitation to a thief.

We have 70,000 property owners and over the 88 years of our existence as a family owned enterprise, that translates into the millions of family and friends that are connected to Calumet Park Cemetery due to having loved ones buried here.  It would be prohibitively expensive to try to tell them all what the rules are so we have maps with grave decoration rules available at the front desk that speak to such issues.  We have staff available to answer any question about what is allowed on any given grave in the 160 developed acres of land, and when people invest in cemetery property, we give them clear guidelines on what is or is not allowed.

The point is that a decision was made in 1928 when this cemetery came into existence that it would always be maintained as a park-like parcel of land that would offer beauty and dignity to both the deceased and the families and loved ones of those cradled here for eternity.  It is not always popular to tell a family that their choice of a meaningful tribute is not allowed.  And today, with the use of the internet, people feel so brave as they make anonymous negative comments on company facebook pages and on websites.  Freedom of speech is always welcome, but when that freedom infringes on the rights of others, it is sad.  Each undeserved negative comment hurts the very entity that they attack.  In the case of Calumet Park Cemetery, the staff does all that is possible to ensure the beauty of the cemetery while complying with applicable laws, rules and regulations.

So, bring on spring and summer.  Bring on all the outdoor activities we love and the cookouts and the ice cream cones on a hot, summer’s night.  And please, check with us before coming in to plant for the 2017 year so we can work together on a way to honor those you love in a way that meets the needs of the many…and that means keeping your cemetery’s reputation as being a beautiful memorial park.

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