The National Funeral Directors Association presented the 2023 NFDA Innovation Award to Bluewater Voyage Buoy during its International Convention & Expo. Coming in second place was the Tug-Along by Mortuary Lift Company; and Matan’s Life Map took third place. Established in 2009, the NFDA Innovation Award recognizes and promotes creativity, innovation and excellence among funeral service suppliers and vendors.

The Bluewater Voyage Buoy offers a new method for of scattering cremated remains at sea. Once the cremated remains ashes are packed inside the buoy, a Bluewater Voyage vessel will deploy it into the gulfstream for a year-long adventure. Sensors in the buoy connect with an online portal through which family and friends can track their loved one’s cremated remains across every swell and wave. Once the buoy is deployed, one of three things will happen: at any given point during the trip the family can scuttle (sink) the buoy to become a permanent grave marker in the ocean; if the buoy gets within less than 100 feet of water, it will be scuttled to prevent it from washing up on shore; or, at the 365.5 day mark, the buoy will be scuttled to become a permanent grave marker on the ocean floor.

Mortuary Lift Company’s Tug-Along

The funeral industry is changing. Funeral homes are doing more with less staff, and often those staff members are women. It’s not always possible to send two staff persons, which can make getting a stretcher in a into a removal vehicle difficult, particularly large decedents. Mortuary Lift Company’s Tug-Along is a portable, universal, light and inexpensive device that connects to the seatbelt of any vehicle and makes loading a stretcher into a removal vehicle easy. Unlike other devices designed to assist with loading stretchers, Tug-Along does not require permanent installation in the funeral vehicle. Tug-Along is not permanently mounted and can be transferred to any vehicle in your fleet, allowing any operator to pull up to 1,000 lbs.

Matan’s Life Map

Matan’s Life Map was born of one man’s experience of losing his father too soon, and whose path through grief was fraught with avoidable pitfalls. Life Map is a guided mobile organizer for information a family will need during their hardest moments. The encrypted web app leads users through 12 open-response questions, selected through careful research, to create a digital trail of practical instructions to share with loved ones. Topics include finances, insurance, personal property, important documents, passwords and important people. There is no subscription or annual fee required to create a Life Map – just a one-time payment; users can edit their Life Map at any time.

More information about the winning products can be found online at  

Earlier this year, funeral service suppliers had an opportunity to submit a product or service that became commercially available after Jan. 1, 2022, for consideration in the 2023 NFDA Innovation Award competition. A distinguished panel of judges evaluated the 23 entries on the criteria of originality, quality and design.

NFDA thanks the 2023 Innovation Award judges:

  • Benny Capaul, Capaul Funeral Home, Ida, Michigan.
  • Brian Van Heck, Posey Funeral Directors, North Augusta, South Carolina.
  • Katey Houston, Return Home, Auburn, Washington.
  • Lanae Strovers, Hamilton’s Funeral Home, Des Moines, Iowa.
  • Matt Bailey, Bailey Family Funeral Homes, Wallingford, Connecticut.
  • Mike Burns, Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • Timothy P. McLoone, William R. May Funeral Home, Glenside, Pennsylvania.
  • Valerie Janusz, Prasser-Kleczka Funeral Home, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Welton Hong, Ring Ring Marketing, Las Vegas, Nevada.
NFDA is the world’s leading and largest funeral service association representing more than 20,000 individual members who represent nearly 11,000 funeral homes in the United States and 49 countries around the world. NFDA is the trusted leader, beacon for ethics and the strongest advocate for the profession. NFDA is the association of choice because it offers funeral professionals comprehensive educational resources, tools to manage successful businesses, guidance to become pillars in their communities and the expertise to foster future generations of funeral professionals. NFDA is headquartered in Brookfield, Wis., and has an office in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit

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