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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, September 01, 2018 1:00 am

A casket just as original as Aretha

In addition to that incredible voice,Aretha Franklin was known for her style – over-the-top hats, blingy dresses, stiletto heels and PETA-cringing floor-length fur coats. So you wouldn't expect the Queen of Soul to go understated for her final send-off. And her family – Franklin reportedly left no will or final directions – made sure she didn't.

After several days of viewing – each in a different dress – Franklin was laid to rest Friday next to her father and other relatives at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit, in a casket built in Indiana.

A spokesperson for Batesville Casket Co. confirmed to Andrew Clark of the Indianapolis Star that Franklin's casket – 48-ounce polished bronze with 14-karat gold hardware – was the same model used for Michael Jackson's funeral.

“(It) takes up to 150 hours of labor to construct, customize and hand polish the casket to achieve its unique mirror finish,” the spokesperson told the Star.

Calling it the “gold standard” of caskets, it is the Batesville company's top-end model. The Indianapolis Star previously reported Michael Jackson's casket cost about $30,000.

Gary Oursler, location manager for D.O. McComb & Sons, says you should probably think a little north of that now. The average casket sold in Fort Wayne probably runs between $3,800 and $4,200, he estimated. But he has seen – and sold – at least one of the Promethean caskets built in Batesville. There is a model like those selected for Franklin and Jackson at McComb's Lake Avenue location.

McComb's has probably sold four over the last 18 years, Oursler said. And while the outsides may look the same, the insides are fully customizable. Stored in strategically located warehouses, the caskets can be quickly personalized when ordered, he said.

If you are thinking that most funerals you've attended probably didn't cost $30,000 in total, you are likely correct. But Stevie Wonder and Jennifer Hudson probably weren't in attendance, either.

The average price of a burial with vault is about $8,000, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. And Oursler said you “could do a couple really nice funerals” for less than $30,000.