As a way to honor its local, family-owned legacy, Nathanael (Thane) Billow, Vice President & Treasurer of Billow Funeral Homes & Crematory, had a vision to create meaningful, affordable urns that were unique to the Akron area. He approached local artist Don Drumm to create beautiful urns that families could treasure for years to come.
In the 1950s, Don Drumm pioneered the use of cast aluminum as an artistic medium. He has been honored as one of the country's top contemporary craft retailers. While he receives commissioned work nationwide, Don treasures being able to provide art to clients in his hometown.
"When Thane approached me about designing urns for him, I kept thinking about my customers from all over the county who've placed the cremated remains of their deceased loved ones in one of my casserole dishes. Even when my mother passed, we celebrated her and buried her over my father's grave in a handcrafted casserole dish, held down by two screws…so I'd say we have a need for these urns. And I wanted to do it right," shared Don.
A few weeks after their initial conversation, Thane took Don down to visit Amish Country where they met up with master craftsman Ray Yoder, Jr., owner of the Behalt Casket Company. Behalt is a German word that means "to keep or to cherish." The Behalt Company prides itself in crafting unique, Ohio-made hardwood urns and caskets. The Billow's have been offering Amish-made caskets and urns since 2015.
"Ray's wood is gorgeous with beautiful wood grain," Don said. "The quality of his work is outstanding, and on that first day, we knew we'd be working together."
The trio spent the next few weeks designing the urns, establishing sizes, weights and dimensions. Because of their passion for the project, it only took three months from inception to final drafts.
"The thought our team put into the design and creation of these pieces is something we are incredibly proud of," shared Thane. "We finished the design process with 25 stand-alone pewter memory tiles designed by Don, that can be laid into Ray's solid hardwood Amish-made urns. The wood and pewter complement each other so incredibly well. The pieces are just gorgeous."
The tiles come in a range of religious icons-like the Celtic Cross, Russian Orthodox Crucifix, Alpha Omega, as well as more spiritual icons- like suns, the moon, angels, the dove of peace, and abstract styles.
"We are fortunate to serve a very diverse group of families and we wanted to offer a full range of choices so that we can satisfy the needs of every family," Thane added.
They also designed smaller pewter memory boxes and two larger solid pewter urns-one with religious symbols like the Chi Rho, INRI and IHS (symbols of Christ, or "Christograms") and the other with Don's famous sun and crescent moon. Both solid pewter urns have sunflowers to symbolize the power that light and life have over darkness and death.
Since launching in October of 2017, the Billow's team has experience tremendous feedback and gratitude for the artistic urns. They have even sold them nationwide to help families celebrate life in a truly "Akron" way.
"When we factor in the grief and loss of a loved one, it really doubles the importance and meaning of art to us," stated Don. "When families select these urns, I want them to know that Thane, Ray, and I have all personally made an incredible effort to design something that is both truly beautiful and truly special for them."