2015 AFCCA Awards Banquet Dinner

Thank you to all that attended the 2015 Denim and Diamonds Awards Banquet, held on Thursday, June 4, 2015 at the Carefree Resort and Conference Center. This year we honored 3 Lifetime Achievement Recipients, as well as the Funeral Director of the Year, Funeral Home of the Year, Cemetery of the Year, and Supplier of the Year. The new AFCCA Board of Directors were installed by Past President, Kurtis Lauffer and the official passing of the Gavel was done from our now Immediate Past President, David Long to the new 2015/16 President, Paul Neville.

We would like to thank our evening’s sponsors: awards were sponsored by Vince Monterrosa of Hepburn Superior Chemicals, floral arrangements donated by Charlie Cox with Arizona Expressions, and the dinner wine services was sponsored by SCI Phoenix, Dignity Memorial.

The AFCCA Lifetime Achievement Award will recognize an individual(s) who has made a significant contribution to the Arizona Funeral, Cemetery or Cremation Industry over a sustained period of time. The Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded to an individual who has an established history of distinguished service to others in the industry as well as the families who required their service. They have made a lasting contribution to the Aftercare Profession; exhibited leadership and provided inspiration to others in the profession; positively influenced the funeral industry on a state, national or international level; and have been heavily involved with their communities throughout their career.

The AFCCA Lifetime Achievement Award is an individual award in recognition of a person’s outstanding contributions Funeral Profession. These contributions may be a new innovation, new knowledge, or ways to improve professional practice. Importantly, the contributions should be above and beyond the everyday and have had a long lasting impact in the sector.

The 2015 Lifetime Recipients:

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Martha Adair – Adair Funeral Homes

In recognition and gratitude for her years of caring and compassion, her implementation of high standards of professionalism provided to every family Adair Funeral Homes serves, and her exemplary leadership to peers and her own family members, thus maintaining the original values and principles that have served Tucson since 1956.


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William B. Addison – Evergreen Mortuary, Cemetery and Crematory

In recognition and gratitude for his years of exemplary leadership among his peers, his expertise in both the funeral home and cemetery aspects of the industry, and carrying on the traditions in funeral care that his family put forth at Evergreen Mortuary, Cemetery and Crematory since 1960.


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Frank Aragon – Diocese of Phoenix Catholic Cemeteries & Mortuaries

In recognition and gratitude for his years of exemplary leadership among his peers, showing compassion and understanding towards the families he has served, his expertise in the development and implementation of successful mortuaries and cemeteries, and his faithful stewardship of the Diocese of Phoenix Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries and its partnership in ministry with the parishes and the parish priests.


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The 2015 “Of the Year” Awards

Each year the AFCCA awards individuals and firms that work hard to improve the industry in Arizona. A committee is formed to judge online nominations in four categories:

  • Community Involvement
  • Demonstration of Professional and Ethical Standards
  • Active participation in the betterment of the funeral industry in Arizona
  • Overall good character and leadership in the industry

It is always a tough decision and this year was no different as we even had to bring in outside help to break ties. Congratulations to the winners and nominees for 2015’s “Of the Year” awards!

Supplier of the Year Recipient – Rory McKeown, The Dodge Company

IMG_2832Like most good supplier vendors, Rory attentive to his clients’ needs, is in constant communication with those that he serves and always makes efforts to “under promise and over deliver” on the commitments that he makes. These alone would make for a good nomination. However, the reason that I believe Rory is deserving of the Supplier of the Year award is because of the work that he does with the up and coming Funeral Directors of tomorrow. Rory is consistently in communication with the MCC Mortuary Science Program Directors to offer his services about product knowledge and use, to better inform / educate the students. He has also been instrumental in the creation of the Dodge Award for the MCC Mortuary Science Program, which recognizes an exceptional student graduate and provides them not only accolades via plaque and monetary reward, but helps to instill a sense of great personal achievement on an emotional level which re-enforces that student graduate’s decision to carry forward in the aftercare profession with a sense of purpose, pride and compassion.

Supplier of the Year Nominee – Stephanie McNaughton, Matthews International

Stephanie represents all that I could ever ask for in a supplier rep. She is attentive and quick to act for the needs of our mortuary. When it came time to design our arrangement and selection room, she was careful to make sure that the room was done in a way to benefit our families and make the planning process easy. She is always there when we need something and is happy to help. It feels more like she is a part of my team than a sales rep and for that I nominate Stephanie McNaughton as Supplier of the Year.

Supplier of the Year Nominee – Steve Handley, Handley Precast Systems

Steve Handley and his crew are the easiest, most reliable and friendly supplier to work with. Year after year Steve provides excellent product and service to funeral homes and families. He and his group are professional, friendly and consistently reliable. What’ s not to like?

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Cemetery of the Year Recipient – Mountain View Cemetery

IMG_2839Mountain View Cemetery offers several events throughout the year including: A car show and fund raiser for a local non-profit. They host a safe Halloween event for local school children providing a free pumpkin and decorating, games, food prizes, photos and much more, we partner with Skyline High School Key Club for this event. The also have a memorial Day Service where over 20 military groups attend and present a wreathe for their fallen brothers & sisters. A flag is placed on the grave of every veteran placed in their cemetery. Mountain View also offers quarterly appreciation dinners to our families. They support and are active in a multitude of non-profit groups such as Kiwanis and Lions Club. They recently held a Mother’s Day event on Sunday May 10th offering free breakfast, flowers, dove release, and take home gift for all those who attend. They have already started planning our Easter Event for next year including an egg hunt, egg coloring and decorations table and a lot more.

Mountain View Cemetery has the greenest grass and many of our families will make a point to come tell us how beautiful the cemetery is. For services of children under the age of 21, they provide a free dove release for the family. They provide every possible option for memorialization for burial and cremation including waterfall niches, private cremation columbaria and benches for both indoor and outdoor placement. Their non-denominational cemetery features a variety of sections for many religions and groups including Mormon, Catholic, Christian, Veterans, Masonic, Jewish and non-specified.

Cemetery of the Year Nominee – City of Mesa Cemetery

Mesa Cemetery is the most accommodating cemetery in the valley. I am never disappointed when I go there. The staff is easy to work with and will always try to help the families they serve. This is the most simple cemetery to purchase from. This cemetery has no frills when it comes to paperwork. The process to use their cemetery is never difficult as it always is with private cemeteries. This is the only cemetery in Arizona with the rows of cypress trees creating a beautiful environment for Mesa. All around the City of Mesa Cemetery should win Cemetery of the year.

Cemetery of the Year Nominee – All Faith’s Memorial Park

All Faiths Memorial Park in Tucson is owned by the Diocese of Tucson and is a zero scape cemetery. The Cemetery is beautifully maintained and sits with gorgeous views of Saguaro National Park. The cemetery has a Catholic section, Protestant section, along with a separate Jewish and Muslim sections in order to serve all members of their community. The cemetery has been serving families from the east side of Tucson for over 30 years with professional service, care and compassion. The manager Anthony Crespo has done a wonderful job of maintaining the cemetery as well as providing the leadership for new capital improvement projects to help the cemetery well into the years to come.

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Funeral Home of the Year Recipient – Resthaven/Carr-Tenney Mortuary & Memorial Gardens

IMG_2847Deeply rooted in the south Phoenix area, the Resthaven / Carr-Tenney Mortuary & Memorial Gardens has provided the residents of south Phoenix and Tempe for over 100 years. While it has always been involved with hospice organizations in the area, most recently the mortuary has become a community partner with the We Honor Veterans organization and has achieved a “level three” status (highest is level 4 and should reach this level within the next few weeks), showing its dedication and commitment to serving veterans and their families with the highest level of aftercare service. In addition, the mortuary works closely with local hospice organizations and offers valley wide complimentary CEU training to hospice associates (via partnership with HFA – Hospice Foundation of America) to provide knowledge and answer questions about funeral service and the processes therein so hospice associates may help families to more comfortably transition a family member under hospice care at the time of passing.

Resthaven / Carr-Tenney Mortuary & Memorial Gardens is also highly involved with their neighborhood VSO (American Legion – William Bloys Post #2 in Tempe). Whether the mortuary is attending functions at the legion hall, donating time or materials to the legion, or the legion participating in mortuary events, such as Memorial Day or Veterans Day, there is always partnership and communication between the legion and the mortuary. It is this level of commitment and involvement to our veterans and hospice organizations to better strengthen the community relationship and the care of the client families served in their time of need that I nominate Resthaven / Carr-Tenney Mortuary & Memorial Gardens for Funeral Home of the Year.

Funeral Home of the Year Nominee – Mountain View Funeral Home

Mountain View Funeral Home & Cemetery is a 3rd generation, family owned and operated combo location that has consistently exceeded family’s expectations. Housing their own crematory right inside the funeral home provides their families peace of mind and 100% accountability. Mountain View recently started sending a survey to every family we serve and 100% of returned surveys said they would recommend us to another family member or friend.

The comments received about their service, care, compassion and beauty of the cemetery have been top notch. Mountain View performs an after care follow up with each family we serve. Every family meets with a Licensed Funeral Director and License Cemetery Agent. ALL of Mountain View’s team members are Licensed professionals. Mountain View funeral home is in the process of being remodeled and updated with a larger reception room with more catering options.

Funeral Home of the Year Nominee – Vistoso Funeral Home

Vistoso Funeral Home, of Oro Valley, is a modern funeral home offering an on-site reception room with catering options. It offers tribute videos that are played on huge screens in the chapel. They have delayed webcasting of services that can be uploaded to memorial pages on it’s website so that family and friends who could not make it to the service can view it online. They also have a great dane that is a therapy dog to provide comfort to the families they serve. (…and the staff is awesome!)

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Funeral Director of the Year Recipient – Steve Palmer, Westcott Funeral Home

IMG_2854Steve has devoted many years of service to his client families, local community, colleagues and profession. In addition to his local community in Cottonwood, AZ (Fund Raising: Cell phones for Soldiers; Drunk Driving Awareness: Accident Recreation; Missing in America Project Participation, etc.) he is a large supporter of his State Association, both on a local and nation level. Steve currently serves as a Board Member of the AFCCA, is a Past President and is the current NDFA Policy Board Representative for the state of Arizona. Steve puts forth large amounts of his own personal time to travel across the country, attending various meeting regarding current and upcoming legislation to keep the AFCCA up to date on the “issues” at hand and how those issues may affect our profession at both a state and national level. It is because of Steve’s overwhelming dedication to his profession that I nominate Steve Palmer for Funeral Director of the Year.

Funeral Director of the Year Nominee – Evangelina Baez, Advantage Crystal Rose Funeral Home Tolleson

Evangelina Baez, Funeral Director number 1002. Evah is retiring at the end of this year after a 22 year career in the Funeral industry, which has had her working at the following mortuary establishments. Greenwood FH, Mortenson & Kings FH, East Resthaven FH, AL Moore/Grimshaw FH, Best FH, Able FH, Greer-Wilson & Crystal Rose. As her manager for the past 4 years I have found her to be consistent in her dedication to her job and the families that she cares for. She is quite in her ways, but focused on always making sure the best results for the family and funeral home are accomplished. She also represents the industry properly in her work with the community. She has been involved with the Tolleson annually Thanksgiving meal, serving of the food and the other local events with Veteran organizations and their efforts to raise funds to purchase bicycles for the local children. She is our led person on a couple of different up coming speaking events where the mortuary will have the chance to speak with both Hospice and VFW groups.

The strongest skill that I will miss of Evah’s once she does retire will be her expertise in Mexican ship out cases. Her skills in making sure all documents are properly filled out and translated in the absolute timeliness manner have been requested not only from other locations inside the SCI family, but 3 times from other firms in the State that were not as familiar or as close as we are with Mexican Consulate.

Even a lady at the age of retirement, such as Evah; she still required me to teach her how to photo retouch some pictures that were sent to her so they would appear there best for the presentation in the families printed material. Besides all that, she does a good job putting up with Kurtis Lauffer as her boss.

Funeral Director of the Year Nominee – Jaime Parker, Melcher Mortuary

Jaime is the most level-headed, good hearted Funeral Director I have ever met. She consistently cares for each family she serves as if they were her own, going out of her way to treat them with the utmost respect and compassion, staying at work until the job is done. She has the ability to juggle an extreme workload and is always ready to lend a hand to her fellow coworkers no matter how busy she is. Jamie is patient and kind to all. She has the incredible ability to handle difficult families with care and ease. She always has a friendly demeanor and a smile on her face, with a compliment ready for all she comes in contact with. Her background as a Family Service Counselor makes her a well-rounded Funeral Director. She genuinely cares for the families she serves and it shows when the families hug her after each service has been completed. She is truly blessed in this field as a funeral director she deserves to be nominated as funeral director of the year.

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