By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
I am wanted -- dead or alive. And it’s not the cops who are looking for me, though they probably have good reason. The guy who wants me -- in my present condition, if you can call this living, and then after I have gone to the hereafter -- is a funeral director.
I became uncomfortably aware that my business was desired when I started getting brochures in the mail from Moloney Family Funeral Homes Inc., which has half a dozen locations on Long Island, N.Y., where I live (for the time being, anyway).
“We guarantee you will be satisfied,” it said in one of the brochures.
My immediate reaction was: “How will I know I’m satisfied if I’m not here?”
To find out, I went to the Moloney funeral home in Port Jefferson Station and spoke with co-owner Peter Moloney, whose grandfather James Moloney founded the business in 1935.
“Have you been talking with my doctor?” I asked Peter. “If so, I want a second opinion.”
“No,” he said. “But we do market research. You must be on our mailing list because you’re over 50.”
“Baby boomers are living longer these days,” I noted, adding that I’m 58. “You may have to wait a long time to get business from me.”
“That’s OK,” replied Peter, who’s 47. “But the older we get, the more we have these occurrences. I always kid my doctor friends. I say, ‘I bury your mistakes.’ One doctor didn’t like that. His wife had to come between us. Sometimes people are too serious. You have to be able to laugh at yourself a little.”
That goes for Peter, who is often the butt of jokes when he addresses senior groups. He told me, “I’ve been introduced by the president of the club, who will say, ‘Guess who we have with us today. A funeral director!’ And the members will go, ‘Oh, come on!’ I’ll say, ‘You really don’t like me, do you?’ And they’ll say, ‘No, we don’t like you.’ It goes with the territory. But we always end up having some laughs.”
The laughs began when Peter and his seven siblings were young and lived above one of the funeral homes. Their father, Dan Moloney, who had taken over the business, would tell the kids not to make noise while a wake was going on.
“He’d tell us to stop running around,” Peter remembered. “After calling hours, we’d go downstairs. My father would say, ‘Who’s touching the hands?’ He was talking about the deceased. Of course, we would deny it.”
When Dan Moloney died, in 2001, Peter recalled, “We had a Jesse James carriage drawn by two white horses and paraded him all over Ronkonkoma. He once told me, ‘Spend as much as you can on my funeral. And get a third limo for all my girlfriends.’ He was a character.”
Peter, a chip off the old block, said he told his wife, “I want my funeral at 4 in the morning so I can inconvenience everybody one last time.”
He doesn’t think he’ll have a horse-drawn carriage, but a customer could order one. “We’ve had motorcycle funerals,” Peter said. “We’ve also had slot machines at the funeral home at the request of people who liked to gamble. One guy who loved to buy ice cream for his grandchildren wanted an ice cream truck. We had it in the parking lot so everyone could have ice cream.”
“Here’s my wish,” I said. “I’d like an open casket, but I want my feet showing so everybody could say how good I looked.”
“OK,” said Peter, who recalled the “cantankerous little old lady” who was insulted when she received a brochure in the mail. “I told her, ‘If you use Moloney’s, you’ll make it to heaven a little faster.’ She laughed like hell and made an appointment.”
When I told Peter I plan to be buried in my hometown of Stamford, Conn., he said, “We’ll ship you up there.” But, he added, not in a horse-drawn carriage.
“You’d get a ticket on the Long Island Expressway,” Peter said.
I smiled and replied, “Over my dead body.”
Copyright 2012 by Jerry Zezima