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Southern Arizona Memorial Gem: Marana Mortuary

I am excited to share that we have a NEW location for natural burial in Southern Arizona: located at the Marana Mortuary and Cemetery in Marana, just northwest of Tucson. I recently met with Douglas Joseph, Funeral Director Manager and Larry VanHorn, Director of Outreach & Marketing, to discuss this welcome news.

Where the farmer parked his tractor.

Where the farmer parked his tractor.

When you visit their facility, you are surrounded by agricultural land and views of the Tortolita mountains. Cows stand like sentries by big old mesquite trees near the natural burial section of the cemetery. Larry shared that the first natural burial to occur in their cemetery was for a local farmer who liked to park his tractor and rest a bit under the shade of this tree. This location thus made perfect sense for his family to provide his final resting place.

Marana Mortuary & Cemetery offers an open, spacious and at once welcoming series of spaces for families to either make arrangements for, grieve, honor or celebrate the lives of their departed. The architecture is modern, the colors are cheerful, plus the interior spaces are all open and flooded by soothing natural light. (Definitely not the gloomy funeral parlor that might come to mind, with doilies and frumpy upholstery!) What I really appreciate is the non-corporate, completely genuine and caring demeanor of everyone I meet when I’ve visited this special place. The calm and pleasing physical environment is merely the icing on the cake.

Entryway at Marana Mortuary

Entryway at Marana Mortuary

Here is bit of the conversation Larry graciously shared with me:

KB: What makes Marana Mortuary and Cemetery unique among other funeral service providers in southern Arizona?

LVH: We are unique because we are only two years old and innovative; with fourteen acres to expand into so we can create new areas of interment and inurnment. We offer several options for cremated remains to be placed in , such as glass front niches indoors, brick niches outdoors or estates. We have a small and friendly staff with a combined experience of over 100 years in the funeral industry. We treat each family with respect and dignity, regardless of their finances. Plus, we are situated in a beautiful country setting.

KB: When did you begin offering green burial and how are families receiving it as a new option?

LVH: We started the project in October 2013 and opened the new portion of the cemetery in January 2014. Most families we serve have expressed an interest and think it is a good idea. Last week, we already experienced our fourth natural burial.

KB: Congratulations! I imagine families appreciate knowing they have this option. You’ve mentioned your chapel is a community gathering place for ceremonies and celebrations beyond remembrance. Can you explain more?

LVH: Our chapel is available for community events of all kinds. For example, those we’ve had range from dance practice, quilting groups, church functions, prayer and bible study groups, non-profit functions and a couple of weddings.

The chapel set for guests.

The chapel set for guests.

KB: That is wonderful! The space is so beautiful I can see how a variety of groups would enjoy it. Can you share any advice for individuals or families as they handle funeral or memorial arrangements for their personal plans or in support of others?

LVH: First, to pre-plan if possible with a Thoughtful Decision Guide (TDG) – which includes pre-planning information for individuals like vital statistics and final wishes you would like fulfilled. We offer these to families at no charge. You can fill this out and make arrangement choices to lock in a price and ease the financial burden on the family. This may also control over spending because of grief or guilt. I also recommend having some type of public memorial or celebration of life. This service optimally includes a circle of family or close kin AND their community of friends. I think it is often overlooked how, if folks choose not to have a public service or memorial, for the next several months the principle mourner(s) may encounter people in the community who just found out or didn’t know about the passing. This may present more of a series of emotional challenges than holding one big meaningful and supportive celebration. We encourage families to find a sense of completion in honoring the life lived — within their community circles — by offering a range of options for holding services or memorials.

KB: This is clear in the work you and your team are doing, Larry. Thank you for sharing your time and knowledge with us today! I look forward to hearing more about your innovative work and seeing our community benefit from what you offer.

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