- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2000

An Arkansas software manufacturer for the funeral industry yesterday introduced www.ArrangeOnline.com, a Web site featuring millions of obituaries, e-mail alerts when a friend or family member dies, and the ability to send flowers or condolences.
"Basically, right now if there is a funeral service in California and the sons and daughters and extended family are in New York or Florida, it's very hard for them to get the information on where the funeral home is, where to send flowers, how to send flowers," said Michael Fullington, one of ArrangeOnline.com's five founders.
"A lot of times they'll also want to write a note about their relationship with the person, and what he or she meant to them."
The site, which was introduced at the annual convention for the National Funeral Directors Association in Baltimore, gives not only directions to the services' locations, but also nightly rates at nearby hotels and suggestions for local restaurants.
"Anything that's associated with the service," Mr. Fullington explained.
When the site opens Thursday, at the end of the convention, ArrangeOnline.com will feature between 5 million and 10 million obituaries from more than 40 percent of the nation's funeral homes in the last 15 years.
By comparison, the largest existing obituary repository at the Mormon headquarters in Salt Lake City contains 300,000 announcements.
Some 2.4 million deaths occur in the United States each year.
The idea for the service came from the National Funeral Directors Association, which has 22,100 members all over the world, and from two businessmen from Houston who approached Continental Computer about improving funeral services.
One feature, "Obituary Alert," notifies users of deaths of friends or family. It is hooked up with groups like schools or military units.
"Obituaries are the number-two most-read items in newspapers," Mr. Fullington said. "And that's what we are providing by drawing you through alumni associations, churches, clubs and other groups."
The site is useful not only for keeping track of lost friends, but also for making family trees, Mr. Fullington said.
"I think the Internet is innovative, so it may bring opportunities in our field," said C. Michael Terry, a funeral director at Marshall's Funeral Homes, which has facilities in the District of Columbia and Maryland.
"I think it's an interesting proposition. But I wonder how many people would actually use it," he added.
Work on ArrangeOnline.com began a year ago. Continental Computer, which makes bookkeeping and accounting software for funeral directors, works with 42 percent of the nation's funeral homes.
The Internet-based company has offices in Washington, Houston and Jonesboro, Ark., its headquarters. The company has raised nearly $9 million in private funding for the Web site.
The business plan for the site does not include advertising. Instead, the company plans to make money by selling flowers and gifts on line, as well as other items for funeral homes.
For example, funeral homes order some $1.3 million worth of caskets using Continental Computer's software each year. Now, funeral directors who use the software can also buy the caskets through ArrangeOnline.com at a discount.
Computer users can find the site through search engines and topic-relevant links, Mr. Fullington said.
"We are trying to make it so it's much easier for the family to be able to recognize a loss, get where they need to for the funeral service. But mostly it helps the family at a really difficult time," Mr. Fullington said.

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