Mortuary science student follows in a grown child’s footsteps.
By Cynthia M. Herrera
Many students turn to their mothers for advice, but mortuary science sophomore Barbara Ervin turned to her daughter.
Arianna Ervin, 24, is a licensed funeral director and embalmer at Smith-Gallo Funeral Home in Guthrie, Okla. She received a Bachelor of Science in funeral services and in forensic science in 2013 from the University of Central Oklahoma.
While Ervin was excited for her daughter, she was also envious because she really liked her career choice. Her daughter was doing so well, and she was proud of her.
Barbara Ervin, 53, graduated from Central Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1983 but has always been drawn to the mortuary science field. Growing up, she had a friend whose father was a funeral director.
After graduating, she worked at Havenwyck, a psychiatric hospital, for two years in Michigan before marrying her husband. After this, her husband joined the Air Force and they had three children, their daughter and two sons. She traveled the world with her family — including four years in Germany — and put her career on hold because she was moving so much.
When Ervin’s mother died, they were living in Oklahoma, where Arianna was a junior in high school. The teenager, who was already interested in medicine, was impressed by the funeral home’s care of her grandmother and the family. It helped inspire her to pursue a career in funeral services and forensic science.
Meanwhile, after moving to San Antonio from Germany in 2012, her mother heard about this college’s mortuary science program from a funeral director she met at Hobby Lobby. That chance meeting, combined with her daughter’s own studies in the field, convinced her to return to school.
After researching the program, she found many of her classes at Central Michigan met the core requirements.
Many people may think the field is glum and depressing, but Ervin said, “I find it rewarding.”
Ervin enjoys the business aspects and working with the bereaved.
“Funeral directors need to connect with people and empathize what they are going through when they meet with them,” she said.
However, she finds the sciences the hardest. That is why she chose not to pursue dual licensing, which would require her to perform embalming and other procedures.
Ervin said she would like to work in a local funeral home.
“I can’t see myself doing anything else,” she said.
Ervin is very close to her daughter and began asking for help when she started this college’s program in January 2013.
When studying for exams, Ervin will call or text Arianna for help.
“It’s really nice asking for her support,” Ervin said. “I love asking her for advice, and I’m glad I have her to go to.”
Ervin said going back to school after many years was the most terrifying, yet exciting thing she has ever done.
She said her husband tells her he never dreamed his wife would be in the funeral business just like their daughter.
“When Ari first told me she was interested in this field, I thought it was a peculiar but practical choice,” said Dan Ervin, a clinical social worker in the Air Force. “I actually thought she’d change her mind. Barbara was always excited for her, and for years was considering a related profession in hospice work. Given her interest in the field of death and dying, funeral services just seemed like a natural progression for Barbara. I think it’s great they’re in a profession they love.
“I’m proud of both of them, but not a fan of their dinner conversations.”
Barbara Ervin’s family members — including her two sons, now 22 and 17 — support her decision to go back to school and study mortuary science.
“I think it’s awesome. I’m really proud of her,” Arianna Ervin said. “She’s really dedicated and doing really well.”