WEEKLY BRIEFING: A Mortician's Lifelong Dream Becomes Real

David Greenberg

For Bill Hawkins, becoming a funeral director was a dream deferred. As a child, he had initially considered becoming an Episcopal priest, but when he was 11 the deaths of three family friends caused him to question his faith and alter his plans. He was probably the only kid on his block who wanted to be a funeral director.

As an adult, his then-wife had other ideas. Unhappy with the limited income and 24-hour nature of the business, she prevailed upon him to become a life insurance agent and investment advisor. After 33 years in insurance, he is now switching to the funeral business Angeleno Mortuaries Inc. The company has operations in North Hollywood and Pasadena. Each has an adjacent Angeleno Casket Outlet.

"The last four years, I needed the income from my financial service business to fund the start-up costs of the enterprise. But I'm retiring from life insurance Dec. 31. There's a critical need for personalized compassion and care at a fair and reasonable price.

"Most funeral homes sell caskets but only for funerals in their facilities. We make available national brand name caskets for sale and delivery to the buyers' mortuary of choice within Los Angeles County. We sell approximately 500 caskets a year, 100 of which are to families who have selected another funeral home. There are 39 models on our price list, but there are many more that are available.

"Our caskets range from $275 for pressed wood covered with gray flannel cloth and a simple satin interior, to $5,200 for solid bronze with a velvet interior. We also sell vaults outer burial containers cemetery markers (headstones), guest register books, cremation urns, prayer cards and memorial folders.

"The margins on our casket business help to defray some of the overhead cost on the mortuary side. The opening costs were approximately $650,000 for the North Hollywood mortuary. Our investment in Pasadena is about half that but we don't own the property. We just bought the operation (formerly called) Pasadena Mortuary. Revenues for the combined operations will probably be about $1.7 million this year. Revenues for the casket outlets will be about $200,000.

"The cost of dying has become so obscenely expensive and there are a lot of people in Los Angeles with limited income. We have 10 full-time and five part-time employees (who) provide a significant service to the community."

David Greenberg

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