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Drive up, see body, mortuary offers


GAUTIER, Miss. -- First, it was drive-in theaters. Then came fast food.

But the newest drive-in has some residents shaking their heads. A drive-in funeral home.

Coastal Mortuary, under construction in Gautier, is the first funeral home of its type on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It is scheduled to open Sept. 1.

Mourners will be able to pull up to a drive-in window -- much like a bank -- lean out of their car window, and push a button to select from one of two dead people. The person they select, lying in a room in the back of the building, will be shown on a color video monitor.

Some leaders in the funeral home business think the drive-in concept shows a lack of respect for the dead.

Other people wonder why anyone would want to use a drive-in funeral home, but the people financing the project say there are lots of advantages.

Coastal Mortuary will have all the other traditional services, with the drive-in viewing offered as an option for families who want their loved ones displayed on the small screen.

The Rev. John W. Davis, of the Greater Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Pascagoula, Miss., is one of four proprietors involved in the project. He says the service is convenient for those who work odd hours and wouldn't otherwise be able to pay their last respects.

He also says that people who have difficulty walking would appreciate the curbside service.

"They can drive through without getting out," Mr. Davis said.

Dr. Alfred McNair, another investor, said that sometimes family members arrive from out of town too late to have a traditional viewing and may want the chance to say goodbye late at night. Others may not want to see the family, or may not be welcome, but still can have their time with the dearly departed.

It's not the first time a drive-in funeral home has been tried in the state. Hattiesburg has one. There, the body itself is placed in the window. But the owner, Theodore Williams, said the drive-in isn't used much anymore because families don't request it.

Dr. McNair said drive-in funerals may become the norm in this part of the country.

"It gives you that personal ability to view the body and to do it your way," Dr. McNair said.

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