Life ingrained in death: Garfield carpenter crafts pine casketsJust put me in a pine box. It’s been said by many and sung by some, too. Roger Rosengren took that phrase to heart eight years ago when a fellow carpenter handed him a drawing and asked him to make a casket for his wife.
By: Crystal Dey, Alexandria Echo Press
Just put me in a pine box.
It’s been said by many and sung by some, too. Roger Rosengren took that phrase to heart eight years ago when a fellow carpenter handed him a drawing and asked him to make a casket for his wife.
Rosengren, who has spent 38 years building homes for the living through his business, Rosengren Construction, willingly added creating custom caskets for transport to the grave to his expertise. His new business, Quiet Waters Casket Company, has been in operation for three years. Rosengren is the sole carpenter.
In a woodshop overlooking Elk Lake in Garfield, he handcrafts pine caskets with a skill and philosophy corporate casket companies can’t match.
A NATURAL PRODUCT
“How many people do you hear say, ‘just put me in a pine box’?” Rosengren asked.
Minnesota red pine from north of Park Rapids and minimal hardware fit together for a beautifully simplistic resting place. Pine is preferred by the carpenter because it is lightweight, strong and has a natural beauty. Oil and wax are applied to bring out the texture and beauty of the wood.
To date, Rosengren has created just shy of 30 caskets. Caskets are rectangular in shape, whereas coffins have a tapered structure, the craftsman explained. Those caskets are scattered throughout Minnesota; one has made its way to Kansas and another to Illinois.
Rosengren’s pine boxes have vaulted lids and white oak handles, with the oak harvested locally from fallen trees. He recognizes that each death is as unique as the life lived. To accommodate different tastes, he recently constructed an old-west style coffin.
The caskets are regarded as being environmentally friendly and adhere to many ethnic and religious requirements.
While Rosengren doesn’t follow the masses using the term “green,” he understands a desire to be more connected to the earth. A Quiet Waters Casket will become one with nature after several years in a non-sealed cemetery vault.
Rosengren’s caskets will fit in a standard cemetery plot but larger ones can be made upon request. Most cemeteries require a concrete vault, Rosengren said, but a U.S. Funeral Rule allows a person to provide their own casket. He suggests looking into a cemetery’s burial requirements and researching a funeral home to be sure their practices are compatible with the deceased’s desires.
The carpenter also designs boxes for cremains (the ashes remaining after a cremation). Smooth, seamless, natural poplar, cherry wood and cross-embellished boxes line a workbench in his shop, rivaling the beauty of more expensive marble urns.
Stain can be added to the woods and any design or religious symbol can be burned onto the exterior. Wood-burned engraving is done locally at Cowing Robards in Alexandria.
“I’m a lifetime builder,” Rosengren said. “I like to do a lot of handwork.”
One casket can be finished over the course of a week, sooner if the need should arise. Quiet Waters Casket Company will deliver within a 50 mile radius of Alexandria.
FILLING A NICHE
Rosengren noted that he has received a lot of support in his endeavor.
“Affirmation from funeral directors and the public is, ‘you gotta do this,’” he said. “Anderson Funeral Home in Alexandria is really unique. They’ve been very supportive of what I’m doing.”
Rosengren encourages people to talk openly about what they want done when they die.
“It’s not a creepy subject,” he said. “Pre-planning doesn’t always mean prepaying.”
Some people buy caskets ahead of their time and use them as book shelves, coffee tables or conversation pieces. Rosengren hasn’t heard of any of his being used openly. Rather, they are often stored in a person’s garage until needed.
Rosengren said that the western culture doesn’t practice a hands-on experience when it comes to death and dying, which deprives us of the healing process. Although he doesn’t have formal funerary training, he pays great attention to the art.
“Caring for the dead and the dignity that goes with it mean a lot to me,” Rosengren said.
Three years ago, he built his aunt’s casket. She was laid to rest with a favorite quilt as the casket’s lining. Rosengren said Quiet Waters Casket Company offers a lining, and the funeral home can also prepare one, but putting someone to rest with a material the family provides is meaningful.
That is what Rosengren hopes to convey through his calling to craft these final resting beds – meaning. What it means to live, understanding death, and respecting both. Rosengren describes his caskets as, “Fancier than a couple of two-by-tens nailed together, but all of the comfort and warmth of a good rocking chair.”
For more information, visit Quiet Waters Casket Company, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (320) 815-3861.