Monday, January 31, 2011


I may not agree with everyones reason for doing what they do in this industry, nor do they all agree with me. We all have different reasons for choosing to get into the industry. Some is to serve the community economically and compassionatly, others to serve the community while trying to earn a good living, but no doubt, their intent is to serve with the same level of compassion and professionalism as their fellow business owners.

Some funeral homes are owned by licenced funeral directors, some are not, I am not a licensed funeral director yet I own Avenidas. I do however choose to use compassion to guide me through my daily chores of running my business and yes, as much as I do try to help, I must understand that in order for my business to function so I can continue to serve the community, I must run it as a business that SERVES the community.

For whatever reason a funeral home comes into existence, I am sure that a vast majority of the owners start, and even finish with good intentions.

I ask you to watch this video so you can see exactly what is involved in this industry that we serve in. From the smallest simple establishment to the most grandious palacial funeral service center, please remember, we all have chosen to serve in this industry, even if some of us are seasoned with a little bit more compassion than others and that compassion is defined differently by each of us on different levels.

Thank you!

Miguel Legaspi

Watch The Undertaking on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Friday, January 14, 2011



Ya know, sometimes its just really hard sitting with a family to handle the final arrangements of a family member. Depending on the amount of individuals in the room, you find yourself working with that many different personalities and levels of grief. They are all not the same, and can not be treated as one or the same. It is a procedure, a very delicate balancing act; there is tension, anger, even distrust and mistrust. Some even look at you as the enemy, after seeing what I’ve seen over the years, I understand why. As a counselor, and a funeral home owner, you must work your way from individual to individual expressing a sincere concern for their well being and emotions (AND MEANING IT!)
Some cry, a memory, any certain one procedure or document we review might bring them to that level, it’s never the same. Then someone might say something like “He would have been all over you for crying like a little girl” or “If Mom saw you acting like that…” and everyone laughs. And they laugh as they wipe the tears, why? Is it disrespectful? No.
In memories we remember the funny, the good and cry because we long for the continued relationship that we shared with that individual that we think is lost, it is not lost, it is just packaged up in our own private memories now. Those enjoyed companionship times are no more, so we cry again, and remember, and laugh. There is a time we will come to realize over the next few days that laughing and crying is quite acceptable to each other, no mater how strong we are, we learn to shed tears in the presence of others because, as the strong one, we feel it is our responsibility to bring those we care for to grieve because it is a necessity, not because it is a weakness.
After presenting the pricing and legal documents required prior to moving forward, I stop everything. I then ask the family or the individual if they are not sure of what they want to please, before they do anything else, talk amongst you and establish a budget. Once they have done that I ask them to promise each other that no matter what to stand by that budget…  I then leave the room.
My experience has taught me that when a family sits with you they are really thinking of about a thousand different things not taking any of each others ideas into consideration…. or a budget.
Car Washes, not because "THEY" want you to

A budget is so important; there is no sense in me trying to help a family if their desires for services are outside of their budget. It is immoral, unethical and outright wrong for ANY counselor at ANY funeral home to ever bring out the idea of promoting car washes or borrowing money from family or friends to pay for a service that the counselor sold a family outside of their budget, or a service that  “ budget” was not considered into.
If a funeral Director or Counselor can not help you come up with simple ideas to help you make up for ways of cutting the cost that won’t add to the service price, if they can not use some common sense and professional creativity to recommend ways for you to provide ideas for services that will not add to the price… THEY ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD FUNERAL HOME!

Funeral Home Once Meant Something
There was a time when the word “HOME” meant something in the word “FUNERAL HOME”. It was a place were people could go were you would be cared for, looked after and served. Doing all this because it was the profession, not because you were paid a $6,000 to $8,000 funeral bill. For $8,000 you better be painting my toe nails, washing my truck and cleaning my house for a year. 

Budget, stick to it, stand by it and ASK for ways to do things outside of the funeral home to keep the cost down. If your Counselor or “Director” can not come up with anything to help, it is not because they are stupid, it is because they are greedy and can care less about your budget.
Car washers are fine to raise funds, but do them out of necessity for your service, not because “Director” tells you to do it to because they won’t try to work with you.
“Semper Fidelis” (Always Faithful)

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Not even funeral homes are recession-proof

Many families are choosing least expensive options to say goodbye to loved-ones
Rich Ott - Assistant Editor

Crystal Rose Funeral Home in Tolleson closed its doors Monday. The doors "technically" re-opened Wednesday.
"We've all been on an emotional roller coaster," said Kylie Roos, controller for Salt Lake City-based Security National Financial Corp., the parent company of Crystal Rose.
Roos was sent to Arizona from Utah to close two of Security National's three Arizona funeral homes: Crystal Rose, 9155 W. Van Buren St., and Greer Wilson Funeral Home, 5921 W. Thomas Road in Phoenix. Paradise Sunset Chapel at 3934 E. Indian School Road in Phoenix is the third funeral home owned by the multi-million-dollar company and was never on the chopping block.
Roos arrived in the desert and closed Crystal Rose Jan. 3. Word of the closing quickly spread through the community and the funeral home industry.
Before Roos could do the same to Greer Wilson, Security National President Scott M. Quist began to field interest in his two soon-to-be-closed funeral homes.
"We have received several inquires we are considering from other funeral homes in the area," Quist told the View Jan. 4. "In fact three people were in just today."
The president and chief operations office for Security National Financial Corp. - which operates in 40 states dealing in mortuaries, cemeteries, life insurance or mortgages - is "confident a transaction in some nature" will occur within a few weeks. The deal will either be a "partnership or sale with another facility in the Phoenix area."
So the company quickly decided it was better to sell opened businesses than closed ones, Roos said.
However, it wasn't all good news for employees of Crystal Rose and Greer Wilson funeral homes. About half of the staff was let go between the two businesses, with Crystal Rose re-opening with either one or two employees, Roos said. Greer Wilson will operate with a staff of four, he said.
Arizona market is soft

For years, Security National's three funeral homes in Arizona have not been making money, Quist said.
"Salt Lake City and California have been profitable, Phoenix has not," he said of the three places the company owns funeral homes and/or cemeteries. "The Arizona market has been very soft."
Quist elaborated on his remark.
"They keep telling me the death rate has gone down in Arizona, but I have a hard time believing that," he said.
What has hurt his two West Valley funeral homes is "competition and pricing pressures have been strong," Quist said.
There are too many funeral homes in Arizona, which is bringing prices down and those unwilling to do business at that price point will close, he said.
Which is not necessarily a good thing for consumers, because the remaining businesses will eventually raise their prices, he said.
"We are unwilling to wait for that, at least as a stand-alone," Quist said. "Now with a partner, we might be willing."
The "pricing phenomenon is unique to Arizona," he said. "We don't see it in California and Utah. If anything we see just the opposite. In Salt Lake City, for example, a Hispanic family opts for additional services while in Arizona we are seeing just the opposite, 'cremate the body and just give us the ashes.'
"Maybe Arizona has been hit harder by the economic times," Quist said. "Maybe it's that simple."
New kid on the block
One of Quist's competitors is Miguel Legaspi, who opened Avenidas Funeral Chapel at 522 E. Western Ave. in Avondale on Sept. 21, 2010.
"Families are cutting back because they can't afford it," he said. However, since his funeral home has been open, Avenidas has averaged 10 cases a month, and only three have resulted in direct cremation, he said.
"That's because people come here and they can afford something," Legaspi said. "We charge $585 for a direct cremation; that is everything inclusive, no hidden charges. My closest competitor charges $1,580."
Legaspi further compared his prices with competitors for a direct burial, stating the price at Avenidas, which includes a minimal wood casket, is $1,020, while a competitor charges $2,830, which includes a minimal metal casket.
"I'm retired Marine Corps, I have a little morality behind me," he said. "I can't do that to people."
Legaspi retired from the Marines in 1998 and has worked on and off again in funeral homes in both California and Arizona ever since, having experience working in the private and corporate sectors of the industry, he said.
The difference in price for a traditional funeral with all the amenities between a corporate-run funeral home and a private one "is about $5,000," he said. "And you know how corporations work, if there is no money to be made, they move on to greener pastures."
In 2009, 69 percent of all funerals ended in cremation, Legaspi said.
"Once that was identified [by the funeral home industry], your cremation cost shot up and went extremely high," he said. "They have to recover the loss of the casket sale.
"County burials are up right now because families are just turning their loved ones over" to avoid funeral charges and cemetery charges, he said. "It doesn't have to be that way."
Since Avenidas Funeral Chapel opened, word has gotten out about their prices, he said.
"I've got families coming to me from Mesa," Legaspi said. "Other than my Marine Corps career, I'm most proud of that."

Service matters
Sean Thompson, co-owner and funeral director of Thompson's Valley West Funeral Chapel at 296 S. Litchfield Road in Goodyear, is proud of the service his staff provides as well.
When people find out what Thompson does for a living, they "always joke, 'Oh, you'll always have a job.' Not if you don't do a good job or you're perceived as not providing a good service," he said.
Fortunately for the Thompsons - Sean's wife Cynthia co-owns and operates the 54-year-old funeral home with him - the West Valley has embraced their services.
"We've helped more families in the past year than we ever have," Sean said of the funeral home, which they took over in 2005, adding Thompson's to the name. "I think that has to do with how we've handled our business since day one, not last week. You do a good job, provide excellent service and hope that is enough."
Before moving to Arizona, Sean Thompson worked at a funeral home in Oklahoma for 13 years. He immediately noticed one huge difference between the two states when it comes to funeral services.
"The funeral home I worked at in Oklahoma, about 13 percent of all deaths were cremations," he said. "In Arizona, about 80 percent are cremations."
Cremations are on the rise nationally, but in a state where they have been high for a while now, they have remained at a steady level, according to Thompson and Quist.
What is not at the same level from where it was five years ago is the amount of money people spend on funerals, Thompson said.
The funeral industry "is not immune to what is going on in the world," he said of the slow economy.
"If it is your time to go, people have no control over that," Thompson said. "What it [the economy] does control is what people spend and where they go."

Sunday, January 2, 2011


I had the misfortune of speaking to yet another family this morning, my second in the last week that had lost a family member to a death. Their story deeply disturbs me because these families found themselves facing astronomical funeral costs that they just could not afford. One was blessed enough to be afforded the opportunity to seek us out after they visited one of the corporate locations. They made the very wise choice to look around, the difference between what we had to offer in regards to service charges was a savings to the family of around $5,170.00. That was the savings presented to them. In the end this family was only obligated to pay the removal fees of the other funeral home of roughly $700.00. Our removal fees are $225.00. Their total service charges came out to around $2,830.00 with us.

The second family, who also went to one of the local corporate locations, was forced to pay $120.00 a day in “storage” fees for seven days until they could come up with the funds needed to go to burial. The price for services requested by this family was around $9,000.00. If only they had been informed about us. We don't charge storage fees, and they could have the services they wanted to get, not just would they could afford there.

These prices and charges are outrageously ignorant and insulting to the community. One thing you will find if you get to know me personally and our establishment is that we serve all of the community. EVERYONE! Impoverished or not. Poverty crosses all lines in regards to race, color or religious preference. When you as a funeral home are needed it is important to step up to the plate and help EVERYONE. That is the magic word, HELP!

This does not speak true for the corporate giant funeral industry that feels that because these corporations have purchased or built a mortuary and cemetery in a specific neighborhood that they can charge what they choose because their “studies” have shown specific ethnic communities prefer burial over any other type of service. Those ethnic communities can be yours, the targeted market or for a lack of better understanding “DOLLAR SIGNS”.

This is called “scalping the community”… your community. To pay service prices for a simple burial of anything over $3,000.00 is absurd. These have been the common place nightmare stories I have heard from different families since I have opened. This is a true nightmare and a fleecing of the community, MY community and I have grown tired of this.

Please, please, get the word out. Let those know that there are facilities out there that are willing to assist and are NOT corporate owned funeral homes, or even those independently owned that operate as if they were corporate affiliates. Corporate owned locations will do everything possible to stick to the price list price that is probably outside of your budget. There is no shame in car washes to cover service prices but if a funeral home is RECOMMENDING these types of events in order for you to pay for something they just sold you, does that sound ethical? Moral?

We are here to help, serve. Since opening we have been privileged to serve 28 families. Of these families all have commented that they had made the right choice and would recommend us. For that, I thank them. But I so hate to hear of the pricing horror stories after the fact. When I could have helped these families if they had just been made aware of us by a friend…………………………………Like you!