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The Sheldon-Kukuchka Funeral Home in Tunkhannock recently received the 2019 Pursuit of Excellence Award from the National Funeral Directors Association. From left are Tom Kukuchka, Eric Kukuchka, Louis Marcho, David Wolthouse and Alan Thatcher.

The operators of Sheldon-Kukuchka Funeral Home understand that all families differ.

In times of loss, what one family envisions for a memorial service could differ from others.

“We strive to meet everyone’s needs and create a personal and meaningful service, understanding that not every service is the same and each funeral is as unique as the families and the individual that we’re celebrating,” said Louis Marcho, licensed funeral director.

The National Funeral Directors Association recently recognized these values by honoring Sheldon-Kukuchka Funeral Home in Tunkhannock with the 2019 Pursuit of Excellence Award.

Around the world, 160 firms earned this recognition, and Sheldon-Kukuchka Funeral Home was among only five firms in Pennsylvania to receive the honor.

This was the first time that Sheldon-Kukuchka Funeral Home applied for the award, which had an in-depth and detailed set of criteria that took six months for Marcho and others to put together.

Despite the initial challenge of applying for the award, Marcho said it was an honor for the funeral home to get recognized, especially since only five others in the state earned the award.

“When we sent it in, we had hopes that we would get it, but we weren’t positive,” he said. “So we were pretty surprised when they did call us and tell us that we received it.”

To earn the award, Sheldon-Kukuchka Funeral Home had to meet criteria in six categories: basic requirements, leadership and staff, family outreach, community service, professional service and public relations.

Basic requirements mainly included compliance with local and state laws, while the leadership and staff category looked for further education on areas such as communication, technical skills and business operations.

For family outreach, Marcho said the funeral home offers a grief resource library for families.

In the community service category, opportunities such as a Veterans Day breakfast helped Sheldon-Kukuchka qualify, as well as having operators of the funeral home serve the community elsewhere in different capacities.

Owner Tom Kukuchka serves on the State Board of Funeral Directors and as the Wyoming County coroner; funeral home supervisor Eric Kukuchka serves as Assistant Fire Chief of Triton Hose Company in Tunkhannock; and Marcho serves as Overfield Township supervisor.

To qualify in the professional service category, those at Sheldon-Kukuchka attended funeral-related conventions at state and national levels.

For public relations, Sheldon-Kukuchka donated grief resource books to the Tunkhannock Public Library, held a Memorial Day lunch and offered an appreciation breakfast for clergy members who often conduct services at the funeral home.

Award winners also must adhere to a Pledge of Ethical Practices.

“The award represents what we do on a daily basis here,” said Kukuchka, who noted that he and his colleagues receive 10-15 hours of CEUs (continuing education units) each year.

Winning the award was a team effort, he added, giving Marcho credit for taking the lead on assembling the application.

“I’m extremely proud of everyone here in the operation who put in the time and effort so we can get it done,” Kukuchka said.

Originally the Sheldon Funeral Home under Ralph B. Sheldon and son Ralph B. Sheldon Jr., Sheldon-Kukuchka Funeral Home has been serving local families since 1959.

In 1971, Tom Kukuchka joined the firm, later purchasing it with his wife June in 1988.

In 2003, their son Eric Kukuchka, the funeral home’s present supervisor, joined as a licensed funeral director, and Marcho came on board in 2016.

Several hundred firms apply for the Pursuit of Excellence Award each year, but don’t meet the criteria.

“I think it was well earned. I don’t think there was an easy way to get it,” Marcho said. “I think you had to specifically complete all those tasks and strive to be one of the best.”

In future years, Sheldon-Kukuchka Funeral Home needs to meet the award criteria with new initiatives, which Marcho believes ultimately benefits the business.

“It allows us to constantly stay on top of the times with new innovations and new technologies, and stay current with the community because we can’t just repeat the same things year after year,” he said. “We have to continually change and adapt to what the community wants.”

The NFDA will give

out its 2019 Pursuit of

Excellence Awards at

a convention in Chicago

this October.