‘A creative undertaking’: Local funeral home launches podcast, TikTok

Published 10:46 am Friday, February 18, 2022

NILES — A local funeral home has taken a creative approach to engage and inform the community about death care.

Halbritter Wickens Funeral Services, 615 E. Main St., Niles, launched its podcast titled “The Podcasket” this month on Spotify, Amazon Music, TuneIn and Apple Podcasts. The podcast can also be found on iheart and the Halbritter Wickens Funeral Services website and Facebook page.

Brought to life by licensed Funeral Director Steve Wickens and Family Service Advisor Deb Millin, The PodCasket is a weekly podcast discussing topics surrounding death care and answers questions about funeral service and mortuary science.

After brainstorming unique ideas the funeral home could pursue, Millin suggested creating a podcast. For Millin, a former radio DJ at U93 with more than 10 years of experience in the radio/audio industry, a podcast was the perfect way to blend her past experience with her current profession.

“This is something different we could bring to the community and something different we could bring to social media and the public,” she said.

“She asked me if I had heard of podcasts,” Wickens said. “I had heard of them but never listened to any. That started the conversation. I took some time to listen to podcasts and came back to her and said I was willing to do this but we have to do it right.”

While funeral podcasts exist, Millin said The Podcasket approaches the topic of death care in a way unlike podcasts before it.

“There are very few,” she said. “The ones we have found focus on the vocational aspect or more of a professional to professional. We wanted something to deliver to the general public.”

The duo typically records one episode per week, schedules permitting, in their studio located in one of the funeral home’s upstairs bedrooms. 

“We had to bring in a few more furniture items to balance the sound out,” Millin said. “It’s an old house, so it’s pretty echoey. We’re very happy with the way it sounds. The technical aspects are on point.”

“It’s been fun and interesting to do these things,” Wickens said. “She’s got a great talent and makes it easy for me to go back and forth and answer questions.”

With Millin’s experience with media and Wickens’ 30-plus years of knowledge of the funeral service industry, the duo offers a light banter approach to the topics discussed and makes the podcast more digestible and approachable to listeners.

“It’s surprising to have more of an upbeat vibe to go along with something so somber,” Millin said. “We just chat in a very real way. It’s okay if emotions come out on one side or the other because I don’t think grief is always depressing; it comes in many different forms and I believe our podcast will do that as well as we continue to record new episodes.”

“Having a light conversation makes it easier to talk about a subject that most people don’t ever want to talk about, or are curious but don’t know how to answer these questions,” Wickens said. “We have this light banter that goes back and forth so it’s easier for people to digest and allows us to get the information out there.”

While the podcast launched Feb. 7, Wickens and Millin created a The PodCasket TikTok account roughly two months prior to support the podcast. The account has more than 1,300 followers, with one of its uploads receiving more than 195,000 “likes”. 

Both Wickens and Millin look forward to hosting guests on the podcast and hope to build a following base that reaches Niles and beyond. 

“I hope it takes us to new avenues for promoting funeral service,” Millin said. “I would hope a lot of listeners are from Niles. I hope folks find it informative, entertaining and comforting.”

“I hope we get a steady following of sorts,” Wickens said. “We’re bringing information to people who are curious about this. We have a group of people who are listening every week. I feel good knowing we’re getting information out to people and that they see value in what we’re doing.”

While he never imagined he would ever be recording a podcast, Wickens has enjoyed the process and looks forward to making more content.

“I have friends that have their own YouTube channels who have been doing it for years but I never thought I’d be doing something where I’m committed to doing this,” he said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be doing a podcast. But it’s been interesting and fun. We’ve had great support from people. It’s that type of thing that encourages you to keep going.”