BELLAIRE - Death is finite. The ways it is mourned and how the family and friends of the recently deceased celebrate that life is not.
That's one of the major changes Shadyside's Bob Bell has noticed during his lengthy career as a funeral director.
A graduate of the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science in March of 1969, Bell has served as the funeral director of the Bauknecht-Altmeyer Funeral Homes and Crematory since 1971.
BOB?BELL?is in the midst of his 40th year as the funeral director at Bauknecht-Altmeyer Funeral Homes and Cremtory.
This year, Bell marked 40 years of service at Bauknecht-Altmeyer. In reflecting on his career, he remarks about the changes in funerals and arrangements since the inception of his career.
"A funeral is a somber time but it has been exciting to see some the changes in what families want,'' Bell said.
"Every family that comes in has something different in mind and that is one of the challenges we face.
''You do whatever you can do to give the family what they want.
"In the past, the funerals were cookie cutter. It's a challenge but I look forward to trying to take care of their needs."
It's a rewarding job says Bell, but one that is far from easy.
Every day, you are working with people that are living through one of the most difficult periods of their lives. Losing a loved one is never easy so Bell does his best to offer an empathetic ear and make the family's grieving process as worry free as possible.
"Every family is different in the way they deal with death,'' Bell said. "You become a part of that too."
Bell said he realized that more than ever in September when he sat on the opposite side of his desk with the loss of his father.
"It's the first time I lost anyone that close in 25-26 years,'' Bell recalled.
But living and working in small communities like Shadyside and Bellaire, it's rare when Bell isn't assisting a family that he doesn't have at least some connection to the deceased, whether as a friend or acquaintance.
"You know all of the family connections,'' Bell said. "You'll know a family member here or a cousin ... someone closely related."
Bob is a member of the National Funeral Directors Association, Ohio Funeral Directors Association. He's also active in various community and civic organizations, including: member and past president of the Bellaire Area Chamber of Commerce; the Bellaire Lions Club; the Bellaire Presbyterian Church, Ionic Lodge 438 F & AM, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Valley of Steubenville, Shadyside Athletic Boosters and the Shadyside American Legion Post 521.
He also serves as a councilman for the Village of Shadyside.
While Bell has enjoyed his time working with families, he's not about to slow down.
"I'm shooting for 50,'' he said. "I'd take another 40 years if I could."
Hughes may be reached online at email@example.com