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Epler and Schwartz to Discuss History of Undertaking

Published on September 27, 2012

Funeral directors Joseph Epler and James Schwartz will talk about “The History ofhistory of undertaking Undertaking” on Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. in Susquehanna University’s Charles B. Degenstein Campus Center meeting rooms 4 and 5. Sponsored by Susquehanna’s Medical Humanities Initiative, the event is free and open to the public.

Using photography, interviews and local archives, Epler and Schwartz have documented the history of undertaking throughout Pennsylvania, specifically in Snyder and Union counties. They will provide an overview of the evolution of undertaking, from one-man operations in the early 1900s to the profession’s current manifestation.

Epler attended the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science. He has worked for the Davis Funeral Home in Northumberland County, as well as the Philadelphia branch of the National Casket Company. In 1979, he opened his own business, Joseph W. Epler Funeral Home, in Northumberland County and worked there until his retirement in 2007.

After graduating from Eckles College of Mortuary Science in Philadelphia, Schwartz worked at the Fred F. Groff Inc. Funeral Home in Lancaster. He opened his own business, James L. Schwartz Funeral Home, in Union County in 1961 and worked there with his wife (who also assisted with his historical research) until his retirement in 2004. Schwartz still does some work with several area funeral homes.

The goal of medical humanities is to explore how humanities disciplines illuminate the nature and practice of medicine; it includes art and medicine, bioethics, the history of medicine, literature and medicine, music and medicine, medicine in the performing arts, philosophy, psychology, theology, and medical anthropology and sociology.


Karen M. Jones

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