Featured Members 
Marie Hess

On June 26, 2018, the California Funeral Directors Association honored Marie Hess as Funeral Director of the Year at their annual Installation Gala. Marie is currently the Location Manager at Pacific View Memorial Park and Mortuary in Corona del Mar, CA. She began her career in the funeral industry in 1999 as a part time crematory assistant. At the time, she was working at Disneyland, the "Happiest Place on Earth" as a manager in Outdoor Vending. Although working for Disney was exciting, fun and truly a magical experience, Marie always knew there was something missing. Quickly, she realized she wanted to do more in funeral service. She began helping direct services, doing removals, running death certificates to get signed and filed and even became a Crematory Operator. It did not take long for Marie to realize she had a real passion for funeral service. She was offered an apprentice embalmer position in a Care Center and decided to leave Disney completely. She is a licensed Funeral Director and Crematory Operator, and spent the first 8 years of her career preparing loved ones for families' final respects.

A caregiver by nature, Marie finds satisfaction in helping others during some of the most difficult times of their lives. Marie has helped coordinate hundreds of funeral and memorial services, adhering to a wide variety of religions and cultures, making each service personal and unique. She is fearless, compassionate and goes above and beyond each and every day in assisting her team and the families they serve. As the Mortuary Manager, Marie valiantly leads a team of 18 full and part time professionals in the mortuary and care center departments. Marie's energy and dedication are infectious and her motives for giving of herself are pure and for no other reason than to add to the success of her team.

Marie and her Mortuary Family

Marie and Family

2018 Scholarship Winners

Each year, the OCFDA awards scholarships to deserving Cypress College Mortuary Science students who show passion for the industry, the personal fortitude to complete a demanding program, and who are willing to subject themselves to the grueling process of sitting in front of board members, answering a series of questions. This year's recipients (three of whom are showcased here) have varied backgrounds but all have a common goal: the desire to help others.

Ashley Artukovich made the decision to pursue a career in mortuary science and funeral services at an early age. While most people were shocked by her motivations, she saw the value in her decisions. Obtaining a degree in funeral service interested her because it fulfilled her curiosity for pathology, psychology, sociology, and the arts. More importantly, it meant that in doing what she loved, she was impacting others around her. She found great comfort in knowing that she may bring the bereaved some solace in their times of distress. Upon her first day in the Mortuary Science program, she immediately felt at ease with her decision to pursue her dream.

Since starting the program, Ashley has successfully continued her pursuit towards licensure, and at the end of the day, she is happy knowing that she touches lives at others' greatest time of need. While forging ahead in the program, Ashley is currently seeking a part-time employment opportunity with a funeral establishment in order to enhance her experience and professional development as well as build upon her education of current funeral practices.

Another scholarship recipient, Maria Veronica SotoRyan, aka Veronica, was thrust into the industry as an adult, following three personal deaths in a five year span. Mourning for those who died while grieving with those still alive sparked her interest as well as attention to the details in funeral ceremonies. Her curiosity fueled her desire to make things better, by bringing greater attention to detail and respect for the deceased and their loved ones.

Veronica previously worked in the art world, from community workshops to museums, which has enabled her to engage with people from all walks of life – all who merit the same attention and who have their own story to tell. In Veronica's words, "I believe my ability to communicate with a wide spectrum of people will enable me to be a successful funeral practitioner." She is slated to graduate from the Mortuary Science program in December 2018 and as Veronica said, "We are all destined for something in particular; I have just come across my destination a little later than most."

Finally, if you're in the funeral service profession, you're going to know about Alicia Razo. Being the recent winner of having the highest Pac-Man score at Chuck E. Cheese's, Alicia believes in the importance of not taking life too seriously. She chose to pursue a Mortuary Science career, believing this choice would give her life a greater sense of purpose. Alicia is nearing graduation and will be applying to funeral establishments shortly. Alicia has attended the CFDA Law Review and ACC CA Crematory Operator Certification Training Program at Rose Hills, is a regular at the OCFDA dinners, volunteered at this year's ABFSE's Annual Meeting, and completed her Funeral Directing Practicums at Scott McAulay Family New Options Funeral Home. Her goal: being employed full time at a funeral home and proudly saying "Today, I drove seven hours to pick up and take someone's loved one to the mortuary."

Congratulations again to these very worthy scholarship winners!

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