HAMPSTEAD, Md. (AP) — After Constance Tunzi died of cancer June 30, her four sons organized a funeral many family members could not attend. No matter. Grieving loved ones got to watch the entire funeral live over the Internet without leaving their homes.
Eline Funeral Home in Hampstead started offering real-time funeral webcasts to customers in June.
It's the latest technological advance geared toward helping grieving loved ones cope during funerals. Video slideshows at funerals and viewings have become common in recent years. So have online message boards, where friends can offer condolences to the family of the deceased.
Eline Funeral Home owner Steven Eline said he has been searching for an economically sustainable way to offer webcasts for years. Recent advancements in digital video camera technology made it possible.
“What it adds is the ability to actually view the funeral in live, real-time and not just watch a video tape down the road,” Eline said. “It’s almost like watching a football game live as opposed to watching it on a replay. It has a lot more meaning when you are watching it in the moment.”
When Vito Tunzi met with Eline to organize his mother’s funeral, he said he had never heard of funeral webcasts, but elected for the service because many loved ones could not make it.
Nearly four decades ago, Constance Tunzi, of Hampstead, moved to the United States with her immediate family from her home outside the tiny village of Bari, nestled along the Adriatic Coast in Southern Italy. She left behind friends and family unable to book airline flights for her funeral.
For $200, which Eline said covers the bandwidth and operational expenses, the Tunzis elected to broadcast the funeral online.
Eline staffers set up the funeral home’s camera featuring a FireWire adapter, which allows for faster transmission of data than traditional USB adapters.
The camera was positioned at a spot just behind the family sitting in the first row. The camera is controlled by a funeral staffer remotely, making webcasting minimally intrusive.
Tunzi’s funeral service was shown live and is still posted on the Eline Funeral Home website for anyone to see.
“It was an unbelievable thing,” Vito Tunzi said. “It was worth every penny.”
Eline said he thinks he is the first funeral home in the county to offer the service. Not every funeral home is on board with funeral videos, yet.
Mark Deskiewicz, a director at Pritts Funeral Home & Chapel in Westminster, said his business is not ready to commit to funeral simulcasts, citing the lack of high-speed Internet access in Carroll County.
But Deskiewicz said he envisions this service becoming popular in cities where high-speed Internet is more common first, then becoming widely used almost everywhere, perhaps within the next decade.
“It could very well be in the future that more people will be watching the funeral on the Internet than actually going to the funeral,” he said.