Death of a Death School

The 72-year-old San Francisco College of Mortuary Science -- perhaps the country's premier institution of funeral service education -- has its last graduation and moves (gulp) into the great beyond

"Think about how many cars you could get in here," Dimond says, his voice echoing as he strides down the center aisle. "This was built for a time that doesn't exist -- our average funeral has 30 people in it."

Although he doesn't profess any sentimental emotions about the closing of the school, Dimond predicts the city will miss it when it's gone.

"There's such diversity in this school -- that's one of the reasons it's such a loss for San Francisco, because it's the ultimate in diversity and nobody pays any attention to it," he says. "Nobody notices a little school that has 75 to 80 students, no matter how long you're around. But what they're going to notice is the loss of the low-income service program. We have provided a very important pressure-relief valve for people who want something but couldn't afford it."

Mortuary science students hone their "restorative art" skills on these models.
Anthony Pidgeon
Mortuary science students hone their "restorative art" skills on these models.
James Murphy, 19, enrolled in the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science because of his lifelong fascination with death.
Anthony Pidgeon
James Murphy, 19, enrolled in the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science because of his lifelong fascination with death.

Low-income residents aren't the only ones who will miss the school. McMonigle, who never looks dour when discussing the corpses that wind up on his embalming table, appears visibly shaken when the conversation turns to the school's closing.

"I learned the school was moving the day before they announced it to the students," he says quietly. "I'm not in the circle, you see? So I was greatly disappointed. Because when they get to Sacramento, they won't have this operating mortuary for the students to take part in. The students will be farmed out to mortuaries to observe, and that's just what every other mortuary school in the nation does. So it's no longer going to be unique, which to me is kind of sad.

"Commuting to Sacramento is just too far for me. But if the school had stayed here, I would have continued to teach until I dropped."

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1 comments
jasbsalkeld
jasbsalkeld

I use to service a duplicater above the ampitheater at 1450 post street and knew mr Sly and mr Grim who taught there back in the late 60's.They were some characters but really nice men.I was the only guy at A&M who would go there as everyone else could'nt handle seeing the various cadavers out on the tables.I definetly enjoyed the expierence and the students off the wall sense of humor during those years .Jim Salkeld

 
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