June 07, 1999 12:00 PM

Patrick Fant has launched an unusual undertaking: trying to put the “fun” in funerals. Since October 1998, White Light, the Dallas-based company he operates with partner Dennis Sternitzky, 33, has been offering an eye-popping array of caskets decorated with everything from the Irish flag to a drop-dead gorgeous golf green (the “Fairway to Heaven” model). “We wanted it to be more festive,” says Fant, 50. “Now you have an opportunity to make a final statement.”

The approach might set traditionalists spinning, but this year White Light expects to sell more than 4,000 of the colorful coffins, which cost $2,500 to $2,900 each. Clients include funeral homes and individuals looking for pricier custom designs, such as a pro bowler who ordered a casket with a ball at one end and pins at the other. “My mom collected angels,” says Connie Jackson, a Missouri hairdresser who bought one adorned with cherubs for her mother’s funeral in April. “So many people told me, ‘She’s with her angels.’ ”

The creative casket concept was born in 1997 when, during a long drive to make a sales call, Fant and Sternitzky, then coworkers at a Dallas radio station, began tossing around ideas for their own ideal funerals. Subsequently, using a vinyl laminate coating process, the pair made a prototype sunset coffin—which sat for a month in Fant’s dining room, alarming visitors. Reception was considerably more positive at the National Funeral Directors Association’s convention last year, where the pair were swamped with orders.

As for his own send-off, Fant, a married father of two, plans to follow the lead of an Elvis fan who ordered a casket decorated as a parcel stamped “Return to Sender.” That’s only fitting: At White Light, he says, “we like to call ourselves the Wrap Pack.”

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