By Nick Kaye

Special to The Weekly

BANGOR — More and more families are choosing cremation over traditional burial services. The Cremation Association of America has projected that 44 percent of deaths in the United States will result in cremation by 2015. That’s an increase from 26 percent in 2000.

This uptick in popularity is particularly noticeable in Maine, where 64 percent of deceased residents were cremated in 2010 — the sixth highest rate in the nation.

So what’s behind the trend?

“Some choose cremation for financial reasons, because they have to, and others choose it because of its simplicity — they feel that it’s cleaner.” said Cynthia Scally, general manager at Downeast Direct Cremation. “We see people in every socioeconomic category come through our doors.”

Other factors, including the decline of nuclear families in the United States and the Catholic church’s repeal of a 1963 ban on the practice, have helped bring cremation into the mainstream.

In response to this growing demand, Downeast Direct Cremation opened its 254 Washington St. storefront at the beginning of the year. It is the only standalone cremation service in the region.

Without ties to a full-service funeral home, Downeast Direct is able to provide services that are affordable enough for Mainers who otherwise might struggle to pay for their loved one’s funerary rites. The business offers a complete cremation service starting at $975.

“Some people feel that we may not be up to standards because of the price, but we offer the same respect and service [as other cremation services],” said Tracy Voye, who is serving as an apprentice to the funeral director at Downeast Direct.

The cremation process begins with a call from the client. Downeast Direct then dispatches members of their staff to transfer the deceased person to a crematorium located in Steuben. The body is stored under climate-controlled conditions for 48 hours while the appropriate paperwork is filled out, and is then processed at the facility. The remains may be picked up or mailed to a designated person.

For those who have questions or doubts about cremation services, Scally has one thing to say, “Just come in and meet us.”

“You will be surprised,” she added. “It’s not the morbid atmosphere you might be expecting.”

With a brightly painted interior and the occasional raffling of cremations, Downeast Direct certainly defies expectations. But it would appear that it’s exactly what many Mainers are looking for, as business has been brisk since the opening, according to Scally.

For more information on Downeast Direct Cremation, visit or call 225-5332. An open house will be held 4-7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20, with refreshments, door prizes and a raffle for a free cremation.