Our Staff

An Interview with Owner/Manager Brian Burns

Brian Burns, Owner and Manager of Burns-Kish Funeral Homes in Munster and Hammond, Indiana, has been in the family business for over 30 years. He started working for his Dad, Tom Burns, at age 13, washing cars and cleaning. Brian took over Burns-Kish at the beginning of January, 2017. He’s a fourth generation Funeral Director. Here he sits down with Emily Halgrimson for a chat.

Brian Burns with his daughter, Sofia Burns.

EH: Did you enjoy working for your Dad, Tom Burns? What was he like as a boss?

BB: Sure, he was easy going and generous, yet firm. He taught me how to do things the right way, no shortcuts. He’s always been a real people-oriented and friendly guy. He’s been active with churches and community groups for decades, everyone in town knows Tom Burns.

What kind of training did you have to become a Funeral Director? I went to Worsham College of Mortuary Science north of Chicago when I was 20, it was the top-rated school in the Midwest at the time. They have a two-year program that gives you a Bachelor’s Degree in Mortuary Science. You take classes on embalming, restorative art, legal issues related the funeral industry, business classes and more. To become a licensed Funeral Director, you have to pass national and state exams and complete a one-year internship. Even now I have to take continuing education classes each year to keep my license in good standing.

What is a typical day for you as a fulltime Director? We wear many hats. My staff and I take turns being on call all night, we can get death calls at any time. During the day there are funerals to prepare for, and we have to make sure everything’s in place. Every service is different and details are important. If there’s no service we are often meeting with families who had a death to arrange their services. There’s always paperwork – insurance claims, bills, death certificates, and lots of scheduling with churches, cremations, florists, cemeteries etc. There are a lot of moving parts behind the scenes for each service.

How you do handle the grief of people day in and day out? I have to detach myself to some extent. When it’s someone older it’s not that hard, it’s just the natural cycle of life. When it’s a younger person it’s much more difficult, but you need to maintain composure so you can be a point of strength for the families who are in distress. It’s important for us to step up as leaders when people are making arrangements, so the families can grieve. We take care of them in that way.

What’s the most unique funeral you’ve ever held? We had service for an American Indian a long time ago. Their ritual was really different, everyone gathered in a large circle and they had a talking stick that they passed around. The person who had the stick would share stories about the individual’s life. The ashes were in the middle of the circle along with objects important to the person, like a shrine to their memory. It was beautiful.

You’ve observed hundreds of religious services over the decades. What have you learned from that? All the religions seem to have a common theme when it comes to death, that there is an afterlife and the deceased person is there and at peace. That gives the family and friends hope that they will meet again, and gives them comfort.

Do you hope you son takes over the business? Yes, it’d be nice to continue the Burns Family legacy into the fifth generation. There’s a sense of pride there, and family history.

When you die, will you be buried or cremated? Why? I’ll be buried. It’s a personal choice, most of my family members have been buried. The Burns family is all buried together, I want to be a part of that.

What do you want your funeral service to include? Lots of beer (laughter). I want it to be a celebration of my life. A memorial DVD of family photos and some nice jazz, reggae or blues would be nice. Just a simple celebration of life with the people I love.

What do you wish people knew about Burns-Kish when they come to you to plan a service?
That we’re a family business, and that we take great pride and care in planning their service and caring for their loved one. Funerals can be whatever they want them to be, we can really can make whatever they want happen. All in all, we are here to help them find closure and peace as they say goodbye. It’s a privilege to help people in that way, and we take it very seriously.