Boaters for life — and the afterlife

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While they may not be NMMA-certified, the boat-shaped caskets made by Glory Boats sure look like they could be used for fishing. David Schmidt, a photographer in Little Rock, Ark., decided to design and build the caskets following an accident his father had several years ago.

Schmidt’s father, Joel, an avid fisherman, suffered a horrific fall, and the outlook did not look good for the 79-year-old. “I realized that he may not come out of there, but I didn’t know what his funeral plans were,” Schmidt said.

He asked his father about his plans for final arrangements. "If you hadn't told me what you wanted, I might have just buried you in your fishing boat," he joked.

Joel Schmidt recovered, but the episode gave David Schmidt an idea: Why not create caskets that look like fishing boats?

Schmidt contacted a funeral director friend, who liked the concept. The Glory Boat went through several designs before the final product was unveiled about a year ago. It is a jonboat painted in green, with interior woodland camo, marsh grass and pink camo fabric options. It is listed for $2,800 on gloryboats.com. The company’s tagline is “Celebrating the lives of outdoorsmen.”

An initial production run of 12 caskets were sold earlier this year, and Schmidt plans to do two more runs as demand increases. “The best way we’ve found so far to market the product is to attend outdoor expos for fishing and hunting,” he said. “We just got back from a FLW fishing tournament in New Orleans, and about 4,000 people went through the show.”

Schmidt said he tries to keep the subject light-hearted at the shows and approaches boaters and other anglers, who are often glaze-eyed after seeing so many boats. “They usually say they already own a boat, but when we tell them this is the last boat ride they’ll ever take, they usually get a funny expression on their faces,” he said. “But then they’re interested.”

The company has a pamphlet called “The Map to the Far Shore,” which is handed out at shows, with information about funeral planning.

Glory Boats has displays caskets in six funeral-home showrooms around Little Rock. Schmidt said most shoppers older than 80 prefer traditional coffins, but avid outdoors enthusiasts in the baby boomer generation are gravitating toward Glory Boats.

The design took time, Schmidt said, because the weight capacity is 350 pounds, and the casket had to fit in a standard burial vault. The hull and top are built of 18-gauge steel, with an interior canvas cover over an aluminum frame. Schmidt says three more interior patterns will be available in the next few months.

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