March 1, 2017

The Coffin Club

Elderly DIY-ers come together to build their own coffins

When Davo was a boy growing up in Rotorua, New Zealand, he always wanted to have his own Go Kart. But his childhood dream of zipping around a track in his miniature racing car, and maybe one day becoming a world-famous Formula 1 driver, was never realized. However, if Davo couldn’t have a Go Kart in life, he decided he would have one in death, and he was in the right town to make it happen.

At barely forty years old, with two young daughters, the professional chef was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Davo’s coffin, painted in camouflage, had four wheels with black tires and silver hubcaps, an intricately carved grill, a steering wheel, a vanity license plate with his name in all caps, and the number 43 emblazoned on either side.

Katie Williams, 76, the white-haired, motherly founder of “the Coffin Club,” a non-profit organization that helps members design and construct their own coffins, recounts the story of Davo – of whom Williams requested that only his first name be used – with tenderness and modest satisfaction. He was, after all, one of the first and youngest members in the history of the club, and his casket is still among one of the collective’s most elaborate creations.
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every Wednesday morning, dozens of Rotoruans congregate at the club’s headquarters – a small converted warehouse – to build their own coffins, decorating them any way they wish, usually representing their life’s work, interests and obsessions. One man even put a pocket on the side of his casket for his wallet; he wanted to prove “you can take it with you.”

Since its first meeting, the Coffin Club has helped hundreds craft their own caskets. There’s the lifelong farmer with photographs of his favorite cows and sheep that will accompany him into the afterlife; the musician whose coffin looks more like a Steinway piano than a stairway to heaven; and the Vietnam War veteran who strapped an outboard motor to the vessel for his “final voyage,” and raised a few eyebrows when he lined it with the finest, dainty lace.
Posted by Jill Fallon at March 1, 2017 12:31 PM | Permalink