photos: Original location 802 West Broadway, 1918 / Newly opened Heritage Gardens, 2018
My name is Trevor Crean; my father and I are third and fourth-generation funeral directors. In 1908, my great-grandfather bought a funeral home in Vancouver. Since then our profession has experienced many changes, in this city and across the country. To be succinct, death has become big business. Many of the family funeral homes faced two choices: a generation succeeded the previous or they sold to consolidators.
When my father was born in the 1950s, there were 14 family-funeral homes in the City of Vancouver (proper) and a grave cost $50. Today, only one real family-funeral home remains and graves cost $23,000 and higher. Financial means now often takes precedence over adherence to beliefs. In Metro Vancouver, where the cremation rate hovers steadily around 80%, it is not uncommon that families forgo the cemetery experience, choosing to scatter cremated remains or keep them at home. The perception is that it saves cost and Grandpas often say, “Just cremate me and scatter me off the back of a boat.” While that is fine for Grandpa, some families struggle later when grandchildren wish to pay respects or visit his resting place and the response is a shrug along with, “Well, he’s somewhere between Bowen Island and Victoria.” With no solution readily apparent, my father and I began looking for a way to provide affordable and sustainable burial space.
In 2016, Dad sold his half of the funeral business to his brother and we set out to build a cemetery. Today, we are proud to announce we’ve opened Heritage Gardens – a sustainable and environmentally-conscious cemetery in South Surrey. With the urban landscape regularly swallowing history, we believe cemeteries can play a larger role in healthy communities. They are places of identity, remembrance and respect.
We want to reconnect society with cemeteries by focussing on the positive: the deceased are not just your family; they built our communities and they’re part of the fabric. These are the folks we tell stories and write books about. Heritage Gardens can create neighbourhoods to capture and preserve the history of organizations, such as labour, faith groups and service clubs. People benefit from having a focal point where they can stop and reflect. Take, for example, the world’s fascination with social media. In essence, it is people establishing significance. Whether it’s about feelings, family or events, we are driven to share and discuss our experiences because when people respond, it makes the subject significant. A family name carved into stone can go a long way; after all, what is more significant than a life lived?
Heritage Gardens reflects the values of the families we’ve spoken to. People want natural and sustainable options. By using the space effectively, we can bury two caskets and up to eight urns in one plot; that’s 10 family members. We also give families the option of whether they use a grave vault or not, meaning they can observe green burial practices in their plot. At our recent open house, we polled visitors about whether they preferred the grounds herbicided and manicured, like a traditional lawn, or to let weeds and flowers grow to give pollinating insects a foothold. The response was 100% in favour of keeping it natural and pollinator-friendly so much so that we may add bee hives in the spring!
As the first new cemetery to open in the Lower Mainland in over 50 years, it’s been a challenge to rezone and develop the property. While it may have been easier to build condos, we know we’ve created something meaningful and lasting. If you share our vision, or want to learn more, get in touch with us.