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PDF version available at http://www.iccfa.com/files/SFDmagazinearticle_jfrew.pdf
Breaking News….”Theatre Major Turns to Death Care”, yes you read that correctly. I graduated college in 1998, taking a little longer than anticipated and immediately started working what was supposed to be a two year gig as the switchboard operator, which has now turned into thirteenyears. The job roles have changed a few times but have maintained as the Community Events Coordinator and Public Relations for the last eight years just recently adding Human Resources to the resume.
A strong independent woman in a man’s world, is it possible? You really want my answer, it’s more than possible, it’s realistic and I am living proof. My work ethics began at an early age when I started cleaning my father’s office building and from there I just kept working wherever I found employment. I’ve always been outgoing with natural skills to talk to others with ease so I never doubted my ability to provide quality customer service. However, if you would have asked me thirteen years ago, would I be working in the Death Care Industry, I most likely would have laughed and responded with, you’re kidding right!
When I first started working at Green Hills Memorial Park in 1998, I looked at it as just another job but it has become a journey and the end is unforeseen. I have grown and experienced more in this industry than a lifetime of jobs could provide. Although I have always been active in my community with organizations such as Pediatric Therapy Network, Leadership Torrance, CERT, Partners in Policing, Kiwanis Club of Torrance, and my most recent endeavor as the Chair for a Veterans Career and Resource Fair through the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce, my life truly took a turn for the better when I became involved with the ICCFA (International Cemetery Cremation Funeral Association). It started with attending the Annual Conventions but in 2005 my boss was elected to a one year term as the President of the ICCFA so in addition to the convention, he felt it was important for me to attend the ICCFA University in Memphis Tennessee where you sign up for specified college courses taught by some of the best in the industry. This is a four year program treated just like a typical University only with one week courses once a year. During my time at the University, not only did I have the opportunity for continued growth, knowledge, experience, and networking, I also met some of my best friends to this day. Who would have thought all of this could come from a one week course in humid Memphis during the month of July. I graduated from the ICCFA University in 2008 not only with certificates from each college program; I also graduated as a Certified Celebrant. I may have “graduated” but my time has not ended at the University as I have continued attending and I am currently aiming at my goal of presenting or even one day being one of the College Deans. You can never reach too far as long as you believe you can touch the stars.
In late 2008, I was approached by the President and a highly respected Board of Director and College Dean from the ICCFA asking if I would consider running for a seat on the Board of Directors for a three year term. I must admit that at first I was shocked but honored that they would even consider me. I took a moment and realized why not, why couldn’t I be just as respected not only for what I do but for who I am. You see, what I failed to mention earlier is that my boss is my father. One that I am continuously compared to but I can say with all due respect, that I am my own person and the only shoes I walk in are the ones that fit my size ten feet. I was once asked is it hard following in your father’s footsteps. My response was simply, not really! I indicated, I’m not trying to follow in his footsteps, we just happen to share the same passion.
In March 2009, I was elected to the Board of Directors for the International Cemetery Cremation and Funeral Association. I was now one of approximately eight females voted onto the Board.A year later I was asked to organize the ICCFA Members and Veterans Memorial Service at the 2010 Annual Convention. I was complimented by many mentioning that it was the best memorial service they had seen in all their years of attending. What an accomplished feeling that moment was but I guess organizing the largest and best attended Memorial Day Observance in California and quite possibly the Nation provided some good practice. My involvement in the Memorial Service as well as being the Community Events Coordinator for Green Hills Memorial Park has allowed me opportunities such as the Veterans Career and Resource Fair that I am chairing on Thursday, November 10, 2011. This event was an idea I had after listening to a presentation given by Colonel David Sutherland,the Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with principle focus on Warrior and Family Programs where he travels around the world reaching out with his mission of matching the donor to the cause that provides assistance, benefits, and opportunities to our returning veterans. With the Career and Resource Fair, we contacted businesses, organizations with resources, and Veterans Associations to discuss benefits that will either provide job opportunities or guidance as they transition back into society. Serving those who have served.
It was also in 2010 that I served my first year as a member of the Next Generation Committee, a recently created organization that is focused more on the “Next Generation” up and comers of the Death Care Industry. We are erasing the stereotypical image of what a death care representative should be, meaning that without taking dignity and class away, we are proving that times change and that the classic saying if it’s not broken don’t fix it doesn’t necessarily stand for itself anymore. Improvement is always necessary and thinking outside the box can be beneficial in the long run. In 2011, I was appointed as the Co-Chair for this organization where we raise money for ICCFA University Scholarships along with providing a networking group that exudes our mission statement.“Next Generation acts as an incubator for aspiring professionals in the Death Care Industry, providing a foundation for continued education as well as a forum for communication, acknowledgement, experience, and achievement for success”.
I experienced my first dealing with death at the age of six and now at the age of thirty eight, never giving a thought to the Death Care Industry until I actually stepped foot into, I am now responsible for the organization of the largest and best attended Memorial Day Observance in California, voted onto the Board of Directors for the ICCFA, led one of the best Members and Veterans Memorial Services, graduated the ICCFA University and became a Certified Celebrant, appointed Co-Chair of the Next Generation, and chairing an event with purpose for our veterans. I am still considered a young female; however, I am accomplishing more in a short time in this industry than most might in a lifetime. I am making a difference with all that I do and all that I am. I am a young professional expressing to other young professionals to always believe in yourself, never let your goals or aspirations be deprived, and continuously reach for the stars because they are obtainable, and always walk in your own shoes because they fit the best. I heard a quote in a movie once that I felt was appropriate for so many situations whether it be every day life, love, health, or our professions. “The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all. Go and be Brave.