Mike Feeney, 66, is the supervisor and director of the John P. Feeney Funeral Home in Reading, which was founded by his father, John. Throughout his time in the Reading area, he has managed five ski shops for Boscov's Department Stores; started the first para-transit service in eastern Pennsylvania and later the Reading Ambulance Service; served as Berks County coroner; and was a county commissioner from 1988 to 1992.
Education: St. Paul's Parochial School and Reading Central Catholic High School. After the Army, he attended college in northern Michigan, and locally at Alvernia and Kutztown. He graduated summa cum laude from Simmons School of Mortuary Science, Syracuse, N.Y., in 1974.
Military experiences: "Serving in Germany, I was trained in anthropology, working to recover the WWII fallen soldiers. In October of 1966, I received orders for Vietnam and was assigned to the 1st Air Cavalry Division, working in recovery operations. In April of 1967, on the Bong Son Plains south of DaNang, I led the team that recovered the first skeletal remains of a U.S. soldier and identified him - having been listed as missing in action for over a year, the soldier was returned to his family for closure."
How does your military experience translate into your position as funeral director? "In Germany, bringing closure to the family of the missing soldier in Vietnam taught me how important the work we do as funeral directors is in helping families through a most difficult time. Being a Purple Heart recipient, I also feel a responsibility to assist peace time and wartime veterans in receiving benefits they've earned. Veteran benefits are not free; they were earned with the blood, sweat and tears of generations of veterans."
How has the military shaped your life? "I am very proud of my family's military history. The military teaches responsibility, setting goals and working as a team. I am proud that all my funeral home staff members reflect this same military attitude to ensure that we fully take care of the needs of the family who entrusted their family member to us."
How has the funeral service changed since you began working as a director? "When I started out, there were many old fashioned traditions, such as playing sad, dirge-type music, wearing dark clothing and using black funeral vehicles. Today, most funeral services are called a 'celebration of life.' Our funeral home now offers web-broadcasting and Skyping of funeral services to bring families together who, for financial or health reasons, cannot come home to attend the funeral service. The number of cremation services also continues to increase, which means more change."
What was harder, mortuary school or Army boot camp? "Mortuary school was definitely more difficult than Army boot camp, as privates simply followed orders. In mortuary school, we took 10 courses per quarter with no breaks, other than one week at Christmas, Easter and a July 4th weekend break."
What do you feel your responsibilities are as a funeral director? "One should always treat a family like they are your own family by trying to meet their wishes and expectations."
What are your proudest moments? "My proudest moments have to be my marriage to my wife, Karen, in 1979, and the birth of my two children, Jonathan and Meghan, both of whom I am very proud."
Something you might not know: "I have loved to ski since I was young and currently teach skiing for several weeks a year in Germany. It is great exercise and a way to meet some great people. I once taught a prominent country singer how to ski in Michigan."
Hopes and plans for the future: "My hope is to try to slow down, spend more time with my family, and have more time for skiing and travel."
- By Allison Owens