January 4, 1996 in Nation/World

Perfect For That Die-Hard Aggie Fan Texas A&M; Alumni Can Now Take Football Fervor To Their Graves

Maryln Schwartz Dallas Morning News

People have long admitted they live for their alma maters. But at Texas A&M; some go a bit further.

They can now take their fervor to the grave.

The College Station university licensing department explains that, along with T-shirts, sweatshirts, caps and bumper stickers, the university is now officially licensing A&M; caskets.

No, this is not the latest Aggie joke!

Excuse the pun, but this is dead serious. The university is actually making money off the enterprise - about $50 of the $3,000 to $4,000 asking price on each coffin will go toward funding various university scholarships and student programs.

There is even an ad for the shining, 7-foot, maroon-and-white coffins in the Aggie alumni magazine. It shows a picture of the burial box with the A&M; logo proudly displayed in the satin lining on the part of the casket that lifts up when the body is viewed.

Aggies all over the country confess they have been emotionally stirred, even getting teary-eyed at the thought of carrying their school spirit into the beyond. Already, about 50 of the caskets have been manufactured to sell on a “pre-need” basis.

The Aggie coffin was unveiled at a recent convention of Texas funeral directors in Fort Worth and attracted a lot of attention.

The burial offering is the official work of the Oak Grove International casket makers in Manistee, Mich.

“We didn’t start out intending to make a specific university casket,” said Jim Kieszkowski, the company president. “We shipped maroon-and-white caskets along with other models to various parts of the country.”

But it soon became apparent the maroon and white was a good seller, especially in Texas.

The casket company owners were puzzled until they were informed these were A&M;’s colors and A&M; fans are very loyal.

The first order for one with the logo was from an Aggie grad who knew he had a terminal illness.

They received a nice letter from the widow after the casket was used.

“We decided to do some more with the actual logo,” said Kieszkowski. Then he took an ad in the November Aggie alumni magazine. Southwood Funeral Home in College Station also had an ad for the casket in the same issue.

“I guess I was a little nervous when I first did that ad,” said Kieszkowski. “I mean you don’t usually advertise such things in publications other than those directed at funeral directors. But it’s very tasteful. Prospective buyers really seem to appreciate it.”

Calls from everywhere have started coming in. Interest is high.

No one gives out actual numbers because of pre-need privacy. But one major Aggie fan who lives in College Station is happy to have ordered his pre-need casket.

Jack Worbington, 65, said the coffin was “so beautiful I just fell in love with it.”

He has no plans to use it any time soon but ordered it from Southwood Funeral Home anyway.

He said his first job as a boy was on the A&M; campus and he attended school there for a few years, though he never graduated.

But the Aggie loyalty just never left him, and he has never lived far from the campus. He can hear the school chimes and the school band practicing from his home.

The Michigan casket maker said the Aggie coffins are selling so well there are plans to market similar coffins for Ohio State alums.

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