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ASD’s Favorite Pastime Series: Calvert & Ferry Funeral Home

Oct 03, 2014

Names: James McKinney
Funeral Home Name: Calvert & Ferry Funeral Home
Location: Virden, IL
Favorite ASD Feature: The ASD Mobile App
Photo Description: Funeral Director and experienced hot air balloon pilot, James McKinney, lands his hot air balloon, “Puddles.” The balloon name and design was created in tribute to James’ beloved pet dog, Puddles, a mixed Beagle. James had taken Puddles up 16,100 feet above ground level, and describes the views as “spectacular.”
Favorite Pastime: James has been a private hot air balloon pilot for more than 14 years. He was taught by an aircraft mechanic named Tom Forenz whom he met at a Balloon Festival. Within a week of training, James took his first solo flight.

According to James, “You have to be able to feel the assent and decent in your legs (knees) and know how much heat to put in the balloon to get the desired results. Typically on my balloon from the time I hit the burner and for the balloon to react to the heat it takes approximately 6 – 10 seconds. Your burn shouldn’t be more than 4 – 6 seconds in length. Different size envelopes and carriages require more burners and more tanks.”
James’ wife, Judith, is also licensed as a private hot air balloon pilot. When James was a truck driver, the couple traveled around the country with their dog, Puddles. So when the time came for the couple to purchase their own balloon, they wanted to pay tribute to their companion. Puddles even got to ride in her balloon several times. James says that children in town often refer to it as the “doggy balloon.”

“When the balloon was being made my father, my wife, Puddles and myself drove out to Statesville, NC to take delivery of the balloon. While at the factory they allowed Puddles to walk the floor where the balloon was made and she met all those responsible for making, designing and putting together the balloon,” James says. “They all stopped and petted her and loved her up and naturally she enjoyed it. I believe they told me it was the only time that a dog was allowed to walk through the plant.”
In addition to his love for hot air balloons and beagles (he currently has 3!), James has a second past time he enjoys. He and his family love making homemade chocolate candies and peanut brittle. Many of the chocolates have hand painted designs on them or other special touches. James was kind enough to share photos with us of his delicious creations.

We have just one word for these photos: YUM!
Thank you James for sharing your favorite pastimes with us.
Click here to read last month’s Favorite Pastime feature.

ASD’s “Favorite Pastime” Series:

We would love to share more photos of funeral directors enjoying their favorite pastime. Send us a photo of you engaged in your favorite hobby or activity for us to share and show others what you love to do when you’re not doing outstanding work at your funeral home! Please email all photos or inquiries to

About The Author

Jess Farren (Fowler)

Jess Farren (Fowler) is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD’s company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at

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