Member Spotlight: Pat Duckers

How did you get started in the funeral industry?

After almost 20 years in the retail automotive business, I was ready for a new adventure. My brother Dave has a connection with the Sevedge family, the owners of Artco/Milwaukee Casket, and during a conversation with Keith Sevedge, Dave found out that Artco was looking for a sales manager. Dave let Keith Sevedge know that I was considering a job change and as a courtesy Keith suggested that I contact him or his father, Roger Sevedge, to see if there might be a mutual interest. I contacted Keith, went through the interview process, and was lucky enough to be offered the position. It’s now 17 years later and I still feel like I got lucky, lucky to find a job that I truly enjoy, and lucky to work for a really nice family.

What is the most rewarding part of your occupation?

Being in sales management in the car business, and now in the funeral industry, I have always looked at what I do as a support position. I prefer helping others get the job done rather than just telling them what to do and hoping the job gets done. It’s not easy being a casket salesman these days so if I can do my part to help my salesmen succeed, I find that very rewarding. The same holds true for the funeral directors who I deal with, if I can offer a suggestion that makes their job easier or adds to their bottom line, I find that very rewarding as well.

Is there a specific moment or experience in your career that encapsulates your passion for what you do?

There have been times over the years, both in the car business and the casket business, where I have had the spouse of an employee thank me for the support I have given. When that happened I got confirmation that what I am doing and how I am doing it is worth the effort. In business, my passion is to do the best I can for the folks I work with, the folks I work for, and the customers who honor us with their business. Helping others succeed is my passion.

Who or what inspires you?

This is an easy one, my dad has always inspired me. At the age of 10 my dad lost his right arm in a farming accident but he never let that slow him down, he played high school sports, he hunted and fished, graduated college, married my mother and raised a family, and had a great career as a county agent with the Kansas State Extension Service. He instilled a work ethic in all of us that keeps me motivated today.

How long have you been a member of CFSA?

I believe that Artco has been a member since 1971. Roger Sevedge was President of the organization at one time and was given the CFSA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

How has being a CFSA member impacted your experience in the funeral supply industry?

From a business standpoint, CFSA helped me “broaden my horizons” by allowing me to interact with industry suppliers who are facing similar challenges. A number of solutions or ideas that I have been able to implement were the result of finding out how my peers are doing things. We all get so wrapped up dealing with the day to day grind that we don’t have a great deal of time for creative thinking, leaning on my fellow CFSA members for ideas has been invaluable. From a personal standpoint, I have been able to develop some really nice friendships, you can’t have too many friends.

What has been your favorite moment with CFSA?

Roger Sevedge thought very highly of CFSA and if he was still around (Roger passed away in October of 2020) he would be thrilled that I am serving on the Executive Board, so my favorite moment would be when I received the call asking if I would be willing to serve, I immediately thought of Roger.

How do you spend your time outside of work? Is there anything in particular that you enjoy doing?

My wife Brenda and I really enjoy being grandparents and like to spend time with our two granddaughters, ages 5 and almost 3, and one grandson, age 2. We believe it is our duty to spoil them.

When I have some “me” time I spend it playing golf or watching sports. I’m a huge basketball fan and spent 35+ years coaching grade school, middle school, and high school basketball. Each March I go to Las Vegas with a group of friends for 3 or 4 days of “March Madness”, March 2022 will be my 26th or 27th year. Being a basketball coach was my dream job but I could never find a way to earn a living doing it so I made the wise choice and went to work for Artco.

What are some important/notable trends that you have noticed in the funeral supply industry?

Unfortunately, the most obvious trend I see is the lack of personal service that some suppliers are giving to the funeral directors, this really bothers me. Roger Sevedge always made it clear that the funeral directors we deal with are the heart and soul of our industry, they are on the front lines working long, hard hours and they deserve every bit of support that we can give them. As salesmen are pulled off the road and replaced by anonymous folks sitting in a call center, the support given to funeral directors will suffer, there is no way around it. Unless you walk into funeral homes on a regular basis you can’t possibly appreciate the amount of support they need to do the job that they do.