As technology changes, so do the ways in which it’s possible to honor a loved one who has passed away. In today’s world, the options for personalizing a casket, making it special and memorable, know almost no limits. It’s something that is dear to the heart of Carroll Allen, who laid his father to rest a year ago.
"I’m a veteran," says Allen. "My father wasn’t in the military, but he was very supportive of me when I was. I removed all my medals from my dress uniform and pinned them to my dad’s suit to be buried with him and honor him for being there for me."
Allen’s father was buried in a traditional casket. "When my mother and I went to look at caskets, some of them ran as high as $10,000," says Allen.
After his father’s funeral, Allen got to thinking about caskets – the cost, appearance and possibilities. He did some research and decided he wanted to open a casket store so he could offer something different and affordable.
A friend once asked Allen how many funerals he’d been to. "A lot," he said. "I’ve lost a lot of friends."
"How many of the caskets do you remember?" his friend asked. Allen said the only one that stuck out in his mind was his father’s, not because it was different – it wasn’t, but because he helped choose it.
Allen’s first focus at his new Veteran NRS Casket Store in Ringgold – the NRS stands for three military friends Allen lost – was on caskets for veterans. "As a veteran myself, I feel close to those who have served their country in a military capacity. You may not know the person, but you have a pretty good idea of what they’ve been through and you want to do what you can to honor them."
Allen found a graphic designer and developed custom designs for military and first-responder caskets. He meets with family members to fashion a design they like, which can include flags, military emblems, photographs and more, then the design is applied professionally to the casket.
After a couple of months, people started asking Allen why he didn’t sell traditional caskets, so he added those to his inventory. "I also like people to know that the designs we do aren’t only for veterans. We do ‘Life of’ designs that can be anything from a series of pictures of someone throughout their life to photos of children, grandchildren, pets, anything. There’s almost no limit to what we can design."
"Our custom military caskets are $2,300," says Allen. "All the rest of our caskets run $2,000 and under. We can supply people with whatever type of casket most suits their needs, including more expensive caskets we can special order."
Allen says it pleased him recently to be able to provide a casket for just $750 for a family that didn’t have much to spend. Allen delivers all his caskets himself and all his caskets are made in the United States.
"It’s a difficult time when a loved one passes," says Allen. "I’m thankful to be able to provide families with something beautiful and also save them money. This is a way to celebrate the life of someone who has passed."
Veteran NRS Casket Store is located at 64 Millennium Circle in Ringgold. They can be reached at 706-618-4821 or through Facebook at facebook.com/veterannrscasketstore.