CFSA Lifetime Recognition Award Presented to John D. Marsellus of Marsellus Casket Company

The CFSA Board of Directors, upon the recommendation of the Lifetime Recognition Awards Committee, recently conferred a Lifetime Recognition Award upon John D. Marsellus of Marsellus Casket Company. The award was presented at the President’s Reception on Thursday, November 19, 2015, during the Fall Conference & Trade Show in Indianapolis. CFSA President Tina Houck presented the award (see photo to the left).

The Lifetime Recognition Awards Committee – chaired by CFSA Past President Joel VerPlank of VerPlank Enterprises, himself a Lifetime Recognition Award winner in 2011 – included Tom Fretwell (Freeman Metal Products; CFSA Past President and past Lifetime Recognition Award recipient in 2014), Vince LoIacono (Batesville Casket; CFSA Past President), and Tina Houck (Schuylkill Haven Casket Company; CFSA President). The committee also selected Kenneth I Curtis for a (posthumous) Lifetime Recognition Award. (Mr. Curtis’ award was also presented at the Fall Conference, and he will be profiled in the next issue of the CFSA Newsletter.)

The excerpt below was distributed to all attendees at the event, and we print it here so that all CFSA members can share in the celebration of John Marsellus’ remarkable lifetime achievements.

As the great-grandson of the founder of the legendary Marsellus Casket Company, John D. Marsellus has had a lot to live up to throughout his life. And, boy, has he ever!

Born in 1939, John graduated from the University of Virginia in 1960 and then served in the military from 1960 to 1963 with the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps. Married to Candace in 1966, John and his wife will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in 2016. They have two children.

Although his prominence in the death care industry evolves from being a fourth-generation Marsellus leader, John has lived an impressive and impactful life of service beyond his job and out in the community. For over 50 years, he has volunteered and led at the local and national levels of the American Red Cross, served the Rotary Club of Syracuse, and made a lasting difference with myriad other community organizations. When conferring upon him an honorary degree in 2013 from the Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York, the college wrote: “John D. Marsellus has demonstrated enthusiastic business and volunteer leadership for five decades to the Syracuse community.”

But it was his drive, passion, and commitment to the Marsellus Casket Company that defined John as a revered leader in our industry. As he reflected on his career, John noted that for him is has been, “One job. One company. One industry.” Over a 39-year span from 1964 to 2003, John held various positions at the company, including President for 15 years and Chairman for 10.

John’s leadership was integral to the company’s reputation, and its caskets had become funeral history legend. In a look back at the Marsellus Casket Company in the April 2015 issue of the American Funeral Director magazine, the company was described this way: “ ‘There was only one word to describe Marsellus caskets – elegant,’ said Robert M. Boetticher Sr., a funeral director known for his involvement in high-profile funerals and vice chairman and CEO of the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston. ‘They made the most elegant, handcrafted caskets. They were the Rolls-Royce of casket companies. It was an era for over 100 years.’ “

Beyond the company’s high-profile caskets and stellar reputation, perhaps what John Marsellus is most proud of was the family-like culture among the employees. “They were a true family,” said Robert Boetticher. “From the person on the floor to John D. Marsellus, everybody made you feel like family.” Added former CFSA Board member Mike Beardsley, who worked for the company for 30 years, “It was a very close community.”

Indeed. And although that may be the lasting memory of the company and its loyal employees, it will also be the lasting legacy of John D. Marsellus. After he was notified that he was selected to receive CFSA’s Lifetime Recognition Award, he humbly deflected the recognition and wrote this: “Our family business was a business family. We valued the loyalty, skills, and commitment to quality by our Marsellus associates. We valued the endorsement of our fine craftsmanship and enjoyed working with the leading funeral directors in the United States and Canada.”

So, to the Marsellus family from the CFSA family, our association’s officers, board, staff, and entire membership now congratulate John D. Marsellus on his 2015 Lifetime Recognition Award.