When you think of a funeral home, what do you imagine? A dark, outdated and somber atmosphere, perhaps? But if you were actually grieving, wouldn’t you welcome a funeral home space that felt light, positive, warm and, dare we say it, uplifting? Wouldn’t you appreciate the chance to deal with a genuinely cool person during this not-so-great time?
Funeral Directors are Cool People, Too
Matthew Fiorillo, owner of Ballard-Durand Funeral & Cremation Services, is that cool person. He’s seen as a pioneer in the funeral industry, but he’s also known as someone who looks forward without discounting what’s good about tradition and history. He’s modern in his attitudes, but when you meet him, there is genuine, classic kindness and joy there. He—and his funeral homes in in Elmsford, White Plains and Beacon, New York—have a special quality, almost a lightness of spirit, which can be unusually comforting in a time of loss.
Matthew is a buttoned-up pro who owns and operates three locations—two in Westchester and one in Dutchess County. But he’s also a very down-to-earth guy, and he puts you immediately at ease. If you met him on the train, “funeral director” wouldn’t be the first thing you’d assume. In his sharp suits, he looks more like a creative director or someone who works in finance.
He’s paid special attention to creating a welcoming atmosphere in his updated facilities. The building that houses his White Plains funeral home is elegant and traditional, but with a brighter color palette, big windows that let in sunlight, a group of tiny songbirds—and there’s even a ridiculously cute and sweet grief therapy dog named Lulu. The whole thing feels fresh, yet homey. It feels real.
Lulu goes by the title of “comfort companion,” and she visits with families and mourners upon request. Needless to say, she’s pretty busy… who could resist that face? Such a good girl! Matthew has noticed, however, how effortlessly Lulu is able to gift families a moment of distraction from their grief.
Can a Funeral Director Be Fashionable? Apparently So!
This dapper young dad is not your typical funeral director. He’s got an actual sense of style and he’s constantly looking for ways to innovate and also ways to connect to the community in the Westchester area as well as in Beacon, New York, which has a bright, artistic vibe.
One of his most popular special touches is—wait for it!—a custom-made Harley Davidson Motorcycle-drawn hearse. Yes, we want this too! What a badass way to go out in style. And guess what? Matthew doesn’t even charge extra for using the Harley. He reminded us that if the family is happy, it’s worth it!
A True Connection to the Community in Westchester County
And somehow, between all the fresh ideas and funeral directing, Matthew has time to raise his little girl in Westchester with his wife and be active in his community. He is a lifetime member of the White Plains Historical Society and was formerly a board member with Hospice and Palliative Care of Westchester.
Throughout the year he organizes and hosts free community outreach events and healing experiences for those who are grieving and remembering.
We chose to feature Matthew for our very first Our Heroes profile because we like his panache and his attention to detail, but we also really dig where his heart is. It’s flourishing in his community, and we’re so happy he’s there!
If you want to nominate a funeral industry pro who's helped you or you think deserves a nod from Farewelling, contact us and tell us why, or tag them on Facebook or Instagram and use the hashtag #myfarewelling.
For us, these are the often-unsung heroes who help us care for and celebrate the lives of those we love. We just want everyone to realize, funeral directors are (cool) people too!