Friday, July 29, 2011


Three or four times a week on my way to work I fumble with my cell phone to call my mother to see how she’s doing, sometimes I ask, “Mom, will you be coming into work today to clean today?” She asks if she is needed, of course she is, my mom is always needed. Other times she will call me and say, “Mijo, do you need me to help with a service tonight?" She likes to come in and help pass out prayer cards during the visitation or do whatever she can to help. It is important that she not stay late because not only do I not like her driving at night but I want her to be home.

This is family owned and operated, this is the definition of it, it is being involved with the business and as a family helping out where you can. I call on all my family now and again when needed. From assisting with moving things to my brother-in-law who plays with a Mariachi. And they come to help. To share the responsibility and guide a family. To help, not the funeral home, but the family, both their own and the one that has suffered the loss.

Avenidas Funeral Chapel would not be what it is today if it was not for my mother pushing me and telling me, “Son, you know what you are good at, people have always searched you out for your guidance during these times. So why don’t you move forward with this?” With my mother's influence and family assistance, I did.

Family owned and operated is much more than just a title, it is much more than just a flag to wave in front of someones face, or a banner to post on a building. It is a responsibility to the family you serve. They come to you expecting a little bit more. A softer touch, some understanding and perhaps the last thing they want to hear about is whether the company will allow you to do or not do something. They came to sit with "you" so “you” can give them advice, “you” can explain the system and “you” can give them a little compassion and understanding ensuring that they are requesting an adequate service that is within their budget. The family that comes to you is hoping to build a personal relationship with you and your family. Some families need a little financial help more than others, yes, some come hoping "you" are the one that can show that compassion, not the guy down the hall. They don't want to meet the manager, the president, or the CEO. All they want is a little bit of help.

It does not matter what the price range of the services you select or the facility you choose. In my humble opinion, to use a family owned and operated funeral home is by far better than those that are not family owned. With family owned and operated, a vast majority of the time you can count on meeting the business owner from the time he or she takes the call in the wee hours of the morning, when he or she goes to the hospital or your residence to bring the deceased into their care, and he or she stands at your side at the grave. That is the quality of service most family owned funeral homes will provide.

Remember, there are those that slip through the cracks. Some independents have gone by the wayside and can’t take their eye off the bottom dollar when working with a family. Use your best judgment. If a facility gives you a good feeling when you walk in, consider it for your services, if it is cold and sterile, use caution. If you so choose to use anything other than family owned, insist on working with the same representative, pick the one that makes you feel most comfortable.

With family owned and operated, it should not be difficult to change simple things or request little things such as a phone call or a correction on a document. When a record is being kept of all calls, faxes and documents, or you hear terms like "Forms A, C, ACC, D, E", use caution. Ask to see the deceased’s case folder.

There are allot of very good individuals that work in the “other than” family owned funeral homes. You will see them shine if you are in a position to be able to use them. It is really unfortunate, what happens to really good employees, that put a lot of care into their work, in these non family owned funeral homes.

Personalization is a very big part of what "family owned and operated" is all about. Personalization, to me, is defined as, no two services are the same, no two contain a cookie cuter approach to what it is. We strive to treat every family as different, as they truly are to the one before and the one that will follow. My family and I put a lot into what we do every time we help a family. It is very comforting to me when I am told by a family, “It’s like your one of us”. Well I am, and I am proud of the service that I provide to those out there that are just like me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Cremation is one of the most basic ways for the “final disposition” of a set of human remains.  Of all services offered in the funeral industry, cremation is perhaps the most affordable in the industry, with “Direct Cremation” being the absolute most affordable to a family’s out of pocket expenses.
I have sat with many families who called and shared that all they wanted was “Cremation”, nothing more.  I respond with our cremation price of $585. Usually the family is a bit surprised because that is a very affordable price for an all inclusive, direct cremation.
Now, there is no such thing as “the right price” for a direct cremation.  To be honest, the right price  is the price that you find acceptable and choose to pay. I have seen the cremation price in this industry vary from $550 up to $3,500, all for pretty much the same thing. The price that you pay is usually all inclusive. The direct cremation “traditionally” provided by a funeral home consists of:
  • Proportional share of the overhead cost
  • Removal of the deceased from the place of death
  • Refrigeration (will reflect a specific amount of days)
  • Filing of the death certificate
  • Cremation or disposition permit
  • Cremation container (large cardboard box)
  • Transport to the crematory
  • Cremation process
  • Temporary container for cremains back to family (not an urn)

Again, different funeral homes charge different prices, some locations are nicer than others, but do the exact same thing. The price paid depends on what the family chooses to pay, for they have the option of going elsewhere if it appears too pricey.

So what about cremation societies? Well, they're a good idea and there is nothing wrong with them at all, but if you are looking for the most affordable, look again. Most cremation societies will be underpriced by local "Mom and Pop" funeral homes. As a matter of fact, pretty much all of your local "Mom and Pop" funeral homes will have the most affordable price. If you need to confirm this, please shop around until you find the most affordable.

What about traditional services ending with cremation? Is this an option?

Absolutely! Burial is becoming more and more uncommon and many families are unaware that services can conclude with cremation instead of going to burial. You, as the consumer have the option of visitation (viewing), church services, or both, that conclude with cremation. The price tends to be more affordable due to the "no need" of a casket purchase. The local funeral home can sell you a "cremation casket" or rent you a cremation casket shell with a new insert and arrange for all the services you may decide to have.

Do I have to buy an urn?

No, you do not, but most funeral homes have a vast selection of urns to choose from. Urns, like caskets can be marked up a great deal so choose wisely. If it is your intent to scatter at a later date, an urn is not recommended, or perhaps a biodegradable scattering urn. Any reputable funeral home will provide you with a sufficient container to take the cremains home, if you can not afford an urn. A family can also provide their own container to be used as an urn if they like or purchase one elswere.

Can I bury cremains?
Cremation urn with inground vault

Yes, you can. You can also put a marker on the spot for future visits or even select something in a mausoleum or columbarium for future visits. Remember that a burial spot for cremains are usually far more affordable than for a full body burial plot. You can also purchase an underground urn vault if you like.

What about veterans cremains, can they be placed in a national cemetery?

Yes, as long as the veteran was separated under honorable conditions. All veterans, be them cremated or full body burial are generally eligible for internment in a VA cemetery. Contact the Veterans Administration or any local funeral home for assistance.

Is it legal to scatter the cremains at sea or on land?

Yes it is, as long as you are mindful of other people’s private property or locations. Contact your state funeral board representatives for further instructions and guidance in this area.

Can I take the Cremains home with me?

Yes, many families choose to do this until they decide what to do at a later date.

What about body donation and cremation?

Anotomical donation is a service presented by many funeral establishments. Basically what it is, is if a family chooses, they may donate the body to science or to an anotomical facility. Some of these facilities are non-proffit, some are for profit, some return some of the cremains to the family and some do not. In return, After a very thorough screening process and if the remains or body is accepted by the facility, the accepting facility will pay for the cremation of the remains that were not harvested from the deceased. There is nothing wrong with these facilities, just be very aware of what you are signing and have a very good understanding of what will become of the remainder of the body that does not get used. Will they be returned to you or will they be buried in a common grave? Many questions exist in this new area of human remains disposition. Many people can benifit from the donation of harvested body parts both for science and future quality of life.  Please consider but also be informed.

To conclude, remember, all funeral homes charge different prices for cremation. Some cost more than others and many people feel comforted in paying a little more. That is ok, if you can afford the charge and are comfortable with it, then it is your right to do so. Just remember that there are those out there that can’t afford as much, and they need locations and services that can accommodate their budget as well.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


First things, please pardon my spelling, now that it is out of the way.....

Sugarland Mortuary
I have a very good friend of mine, I consider him a good friend for as well I am very close to his mother. I started in the funeral industry under their supervision at "Williams San Diego Memorial Chapel" I refer to Miss Williams as Miss Sheila or "Mother" I am grateful for the introduction and opportunity they gave me by allowing me to serve under their business and teach me the ways. As much as I learned from Miss Williams, I learned just as much from her Son who is the Owner of "Sugarland Mortuary" in Sugarland, Texas. I learned a great deal from Mr. Williams. At a young age of 29, he taught me not so much as how to work in the funeral industry, but how to be a humble servant and man in such a grandiose environment that he has created for himself  to serve the people. Mr. Williams has a immaculate palatial funeral home. Let there be no bones about it that every and anyone that comes to him for his services has a true understanding that "You get what you pay for". Mr. Williams had his facility built from the ground up with funds he worked night and day, very very hard in the two facilities he established in Oakland California prior to his return to Sugarland Texas.
Sugarland Chapel
 At Sugarland, you pay. But it is with the understanding that this is what you asked for. He is not one that is trying to sell you something that is not, nor is his facilities and services less than the appearance of his business. He is very exclusive and elaborate. Some may say "over the top" I do not because those that choose to frequent his facility for "end of life" arrangements are well to understand that his pricing reflects the amount of capitol and effort he has put into his business.  I remember when I worked for his Mother that there was no secret that this was his life's dream. And as much as he is fulfilling his dream, he has NEVER put himself above his Mother, who owns San Diego Memorial Chapel, or myself, knowing that I can still turn to him for advice if need be, and I do, I feel very comfortable doing this. What a good, good man he is. As much as he has grown at such a young age he never, ever felt that himself, his staff, his business nor his environment grew to big for anyone including a little guy like me trying to help people. He has told me on more than one occasion, "Miguel, just help people, it will come back to you" He said it is those in the industry that get to large for their pants and forget that they too started small will be doomed to failure, It is those that choose to grow or reach the top on the backs of others that are doomed to fall, maybe not fail, but fall"

Reception Hall

I remember when Mr. Williams would come down from Oakland CA. to San Diego how he would tell his Mom about his dream. It is exactly how he said it would be. And as big and grandiose as it is, he always has time to take my call. What a great guy, there are so many that could learn so much from him in this industry. They have so much to share and offer if perhaps they were a bit more humble. But unfortunately there are but a few "Mr. Williams" in this industry.

I was told in a conversation with a person that I had no idea the type of background or environment they came from when introduced to this industry. Well, my point being here is "Never make assumptions about anyone else's training or experience. Some of us choose to be where we are and do what we do because that is what we CHOSE TO DO!

You see, its not about the cost, the charge, or the price. Its not about the Bronze casket or the Mahogany casket or the Stainless Steel casket. Its not about the Motor Escorts or the Marble Vault or the $600 in roses arrangement. It is about what you pay for, and at a facility such as this, this grand Funeral Parlor of impeccable taste and style, I would expect you to pay $7,000 for a funeral service and you WOULD GET $7,000 worth of funeral service. I have yet to find ANY location near my business that comes close to this facility, it's style or its service.

Lets review, should you choose to pay that much for funeral services, ensure that you are receiving service that goes above and beyond THESE expectations, nothing less. If your working with a funeral home that cant offer you services and facilities as good as these and your pricing is above $7,000. Perhaps you should negotiate or search for a place that is willing to negotiate. I am not saying that you need to disqualify the standards of the location you are at, but perhaps they need a little bit of a rude awakening that their standards are maybe a little lower than they assume. Compared to Sugarland that is.

Mr. Williams once told me, "Miguel, almost every funeral home owner wants to get to the finish line, but none of them appear to want to run the race" Well, I'm finding this to be the truth, some cut across the lawn, some never even leave the gate and just wait for the first lap to come around and some never even show up. Don't be one of those. I told him I wont, besides, His Mom would beat the crap out of me!!!

My friend is very proud of his facility, rightfully so. It is not the type of facility I would own or operate. It is not me. He understands that. This is not the client base I want to serve. He is very secure with that as well. He has no insecurities with the other little mom and pop funeral homes in the area. He is not out to "Shut them down". He is a good man, and as long as she is living I will always refer to his Mom as "Mother". For she did right by raising her son to be such a successful and humbled servant. What a good man, a great man that does good things to help people, not for recognition or to "fluff" his ego, but because it is the right thing to do...

Oh, by the way, Donell told me I could use the pictures  from his website, were tight like that..... We go back a few years.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Well, that is quite a topic. First things first, everyones pricing is "affordable" to someone...

Recent funeral convention...
I was privileged enough to sit with another local business owner this week and get a better understanding of another persons perspective and how ones upbringing through society and their life reflects on their business goals.

I learned and understand that some people have bigger goals than me. That is OK, I see no problem with that at all, if we were, as a society restricted in our ability to have big goals we would be just like the Soviet Union, and were are they today?

The topic came up with this gentleman about what we wanted out of our business. He shared with me a great dream, a desire to do a great deal with what he has, I could see it in his eyes. He really has a great, great passion to move forward with his dream. This my friends, is America, there is nothing at all wrong with that. I listened to his very detailed vision with great respect and understanding. It made me smile because privately I knew that I was part of that, for without spirited rivalry, ones path is to easy. He finishes his talk and then it was my turn.

I (me, Miguel Legaspi) also have a dream, as I shared it with him, I will share it with you.

My business and focus of everything I do in my life, is to help people. I like doing that, and that is not wrong. If I can only help people a little bit with what little bit I have, I will help were I can. But, I also know that I have to run a business, and it does me no good to "give the farm away" because then I would not be able to help anymore.

I say allot of things on these blogs that allot of people will find very offensive and interpret as a personal attack against themselves and their business. They are not.  

I have a real real big problem with the very scandalous and corrupt side of the industry. It is very bad, but my blogs are not a personal observation of the industry as a whole. 

This was the first time myself and this fellow business owner have ever spoken, it was a little tense, a little shuffling from left to right, but after a few cups of coffee I noticed a few smiles moving in and it came out well. 

You see, no matter how much people think it is within them to drive others out of business, I don't see that, It was not my intent to open Avenidas Funeral Chapel to hurt or think I had any type of clout to push anyone out. You would be surprised how many other facilities think that they have it in them to "Shut another" down. That's silly. 

Funeral homes are like Auto Dealers, Some people go buy Cadillacs because they like them and can afford them, But now and again you find someone trying to buy one that cant afford one. Other people will buy a simple ford or Chevy or even a Hyundai because that is all they can afford. There is no shame in that. Like a funeral, it accomplishes its purpose. BUT there is nothing wrong at all either with someone who wants to buy a Cadillac.

My business associate told me a very wise thing, It stuck in my head and He was right. He said that he felt that  "people should die like they lived". I agree with him 100%. Unfortunately, allot of people don't. But you know what? That is their choice! Some go direct cremation when they can afford a mahogany casket with all bells and whistles ant then there all those that prefer it all when they really have no funding to do anything.  Then there are those that can aford all that and so much more and all they want is to be cremated and put in a coffee can, go figure.

So, are funeral homes competitive you ask?

Get away from him I'm doing this funeral
It depends on the owner, I don't think I am, where we are located there are 3 other funeral homes in a 12 mile radius. I do not compete with them because I can not be them, I can only do the best that I can do to help others bury their dead. That is what I want to do, believe it or not, no matter how harsh some of my blogs are, I have no ill will towards anyone.

But on the other hand, I will not sit back and allow subtle back door attacks that are camouflaged in the name of "business" to be thrown at my business out of ones false inflated concerns of my existence. That is ones attempt to drive one out of business without getting to know them and that's just plain mean spirited, no matter what the business is. If pushed, as any man would, I tend to push back a little harder. If it is discomforting, then don't push.

I opened my business on a fair playing field and all I ask is a fair chance to run my business so I can provide good business without having to worry about my suppliers or service providers being forced to serve one client over the other out of fear of me being competitive, I am not, I just happen to be in the same business! Remember, I don't sell Cadillacs.

Did you know there are funeral homes in the valley that do everything they can to get every single service there is in the valley every day? First off, that's crazy, were would you put all the bodies and you couldn't do all the paper work. That is just greed as well, there is enough business to go around. I have a very open door policy. I serve everyone but it is no secret that a vast majority of my client base is Hispanic, Why? My Name? My Location? It probably is a variety of different things. there are funeral homes out there that feel threatened by that. Why? I don't know, again, because they want it all.

Many have asked why I am so negative about the industry I work in. As said to me, It appears that I was introduced to a very negative and immoral, unethical side of the industry through "most" of the employers Ive worked for, You know what? The person that told me that was right, and I am only trying trying to do what I can to help you stay out of those types of locations.

I don't want it all, I don't want to compete, I don't want to get rich, I don't want a new car......

I just want to help people, that's all. 

Oh, the way I choose to help people is through my affordable pricing, There is nothing wrong with that. I can charge what I please as can any business owner, and I fully support their decision to price their merchandise and services as they see fit. It does not make them wrong at all. And it does not make me right, or wrong. It is just my price, thats all.