Thomas P. J. Crean certainly has an end-of-life story to tell. In November 2019, he published It’s Your Funeral: How Grieving Families Are Being Exploited, and How We Can Stop It. It is a timely piece of nonfiction intended to educate people about the funeral business.
Crean is the grandson of Thomas James Kearney, who founded Kearney Funeral Services in Vancouver, in 1908. Crean became president of the company seventy years later. At the time, in the late 1970s, funeral-and-cemetery service was loosely regulated in BC, and the two largest North American funeral conglomerates were buying out nearly all the family-owned funeral homes. Profitability was their sole objective, and the exploitation of grieving families became part of the playbook.
Crean, disturbed by the conglomerates’ tactics, became involved in consumer advocacy and public education. He has testified before funeral industry regulators in Ottawa, New York, and Washington, DC. He has also addressed numerous funeral associations and sustainable-business groups, including the American Sustainable Business Council and the American Independent Business Alliance.
By 1996, the chains were handling more than 80 percent of funeral arrangements in Greater Vancouver. That year, Crean led a successful movement to save the management of Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver’s only cemetery, from privatization. He then organized 4,000 independent funeral firms to prevent Service Corporation International – in Canada and the US – from trademarking the phrase “family funeral care.”
In 2004, Crean joined the Surrey Hospice Society Board. Working with the dying and their caregivers helped him further understand the ways in which the corporate funeral chains manipulated people when at their most vulnerable, especially by garnering all the influence possible with the “end-of-life” caregiver community.
In April of 2012 the BC Funeral Service Association celebrated its 100th Anniversary. The Kearney-Crean family was honored as being the only founding member still in business. A few years later, Crean left the family business to devote himself to fighting the predatory and monopolistic practices of the funeral conglomerates.
Crean has served on the boards of many civic and professional organizations. A past-president of the Rotary Club of Vancouver, he is now president of the Surrey Hospice Society board and the Family Funeral Home Association. He also serves on the boards of the Partners In Care Alliance Society and Cooperative, the BC Association for Media Education, the Family Association for Media Education, and the Canadian Institute for Information and Privacy Studies.
In 2016, Crean acquired land in South Surrey, BC, rezoning it into the first new cemetery in BC’s Lower Mainland in 50 years. In 2018, along with family members and other investors, he opened Heritage Gardens Cemetery. It offers compassionate guidance and sustainable, reasonably priced alternatives to traditional burial and cremation.
It’s Your Funeral may be ordered at: ItsYourFuneral.ca