Cookies ‘n’ cremation
Local dealer says cookie jars being sought to house cremated remains

By Josh Perttunen - Enterprise Staff

July 31, 2014

Cookie jars that can double as cremation urns range from animals to landmarks to cartoon character to hobbies, such as motorcycle riding. Most customers who buy for this purpose have the lids sealed with hot wax and place the jars in a spot where no one could confuse their purpose.
Josh Perttunen/Enterprise Staff

OCONOMOWOC - Nearly every animal, profession, hobby, cartoon character, world landmark or celebrity has been immortalized in the form of a cookie jar, making them one of the most collectible items of the last two decades.

Within the last five years, however, collector and dealer Bob “Cookie Bob” Vanier of Kookies Cookie Jar & Antiques said people are seeking out these jars for another purpose entirely. Carefully selected and then sealed airtight with hot wax, these jars are being used to house the cremated remains of loved ones and family pets.  

Vanier, who splits time between Fox Lake Country Antiques in Oconomowoc and the Antiques & Uniques Mall on Main in Waukesha, said he was dumbfounded when he was first approached regarding this trend. But that surprise didn’t last long.

“It makes sense for a number of reasons, compared to an urn,” he said, citing cost and the ability to really personalize a loved one’s resting place. “I can’t believe I never thought of it.”

Cookie jars that can double as cremation urns range from animals to to cartoon characters. 
Josh Perttunen/Enterprise Staff

Most people he shares this trend with have a similar reaction, he added.

Vanier said he was first introduced to the idea by a little old lady five years ago.

“She asked if I had a cookie jar that was related to golf,” he said. “I showed her a golf cart and she said that jar would be absolutely perfect for her.

“Then - me with my big mouth - I said, ‘They all work perfect for cookies, ma’am.’”

At that point, Vanier said the customer confided that the jar would be used for housing her husband’s ashes.

“My first thought was ‘Come on, you’re putting your husband in a cookie jar?’ I even asked her, ‘What if the grandkids reach into it and come out with a handful of ash?’”

The customer alleviated those concerns by saying it was to be sealed and placed on a high shelf in a spot of reverence. It was a way to capture her spouse’s personality, she added.

“She said, ‘Every time I look at that jar, I’m going to think happy thoughts,’” Vanier recalled.

The possibilities for customizing one’s final resting place are endless,Vanier says. 
Josh Perttunen/Enterprise Staff

Since that exchange, he has had 50 other customers share that they planned to use a cookie jar for housing cremated remains, whether it be for themselves, a loved one or a pet.

“A young couple in their 20s came in and bought a cat and dog, one for each of their ashes,” Vanier said.

Though fragile to the point where very few jars survive a fall, the cookie jar dealer touted the cookie jars’ new use.

“When you first get an urn, it is shiny and brass,” Vanier said. “After a while, it gets dull and cruddy-looking. A cookie jar won’t have that happen.”

Between his space at the antiques stores and his home, he estimates he has 3,000 jars.

“I say I had a five-bedroom house when this started 20 years ago; it’s now only a two-bedroom house - with three rooms full of cookie jars.”

Cookie jars were the hottest antique in the ‘90s, Vanier said, but have cooled off since then.

“Now, people are usually buying jars because they’re nostalgic or the old one broke or someone else inherited the one they wanted,” he said.

Holding a loved one’s ashes is just one more reason to buy the container.  

Vanier said that he would consider having his ashes put into a cookie jar if not for the fact that he already has a burial plot alongside his wife and deceased daughter. His cookie jar of choice in such an instance would be a schnauzer.