Boring mortician shares'green burial' secrets in new book
After losing her mother and grandparents at a young age, Elizabeth Fournier became the kid at school to go to for pet funerals and advice on coping with death. Those interests led to her owning Cornerstone Funeral Services in Boring and her writing a book, "The Green Reaper: Memoir of an Eco-Mortician."
"We were always in caskets," Fournier said. "Kids in my school were freaked out by me. I wasn't really a little goth kid. (But), to grieve, I'd go to funerals for people I didn't know, read the obituaries and visit graveyards."
"The Green Reaper," is so called because many of Fournier's customers have referred to her as such.
Before she even started high school, Fournier knew she wanted to be a mortician. Being an undertaker is not what most would think of a typical dream career for a little girl, but it is becoming more and more popular, with women accounting for 60 percent of the profession.
At her father's request, Fournier received a bachelor's degree in communications from Linfield College in 1991, but her fascination and determination to help people remained.
Now after owning her own mortuary for 12 years, she still uses the skills she obtained in college, but to accomplish her own goals, such as informing people about "green burial" and sharing her own story. Green burial, one of many options for final respite she offers, is the practice of burying without embalmment or a casket or grave liner.
"You ultimately become a tree — you go to the earth," she said. "Your body can do some good out there. I bury a lot of people in their backyards."
In rural Clackamas County, green burial is completely legal, and Fournier says she has quite a few customers from Sandy and Estacada. Though Fournier said she advocates for green burial, she noted she is not "staunch" about it.
"I do anything the people want because, quite frankly, death sucks," she explained.
A few years ago, she wrote her first memoir, "All Men are Cremated Equal," which focused on a year when she went on 100 blind dates in search for the right guy. "The Green Reaper," which hit shelves and online on Tuesday, Aug. 15, is about her life as a green mortician and about her husband, who works at Cornerstone with Fournier.
She also is currently working on a how-to book: "The Green Burial Guide Book: Everything You Need to Plan an Affordable, Environmentally Friendly Burial," that will be released next spring.
"There's nothing out there," Fournier explained. "I'm kind of giving away industry secrets, but I don't care. I'm here to help people. This helps people do as much or as little as they like."