Over the Hill

Memorial society marks a milestone

A young woman, just 22, had a serious, but manageable, medical condition. Then a few months ago, she developed complications and required hospitalization. Doctors and nurses did their best, but the woman died.

Family members at the hospital were heartbroken. They were also responsible for the body of their loved one.Fortunately she was a member of the Central Coast Memorial Society, which has a contract with a mortuary. Family members called that mortuary. Then they could deal with their grief while the mortuary dealt with removing the body and cremating it. The mortuary’s charge was set by the memorial society’s contract.

The Central Coast Memorial Society describes itself as a nonprofit, nonsectarian consumer alliance dedicated to funeral and memorial arrangements that are simple, dignified and economical.

The society has 4,100 members in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. It is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month. All members are invited to the anniversary party Saturday, Feb. 25, at 1 p.m. in the fellowship hall of the United Church of Christ Congregational, 11245 Los Osos Valley Road in San Luis Obispo.

The origin of the Central Coast Memorial Society can be traced back to Dorothy and Charles Gates of Morro Bay. In 1959, they wanted to make advance arrangements for simple, economical cremations for her 90-year-old parents. Five local mortuaries weren’t interested.

The Gateses eventually joined a funeral society in Berkeley. Then they contracted with a local mortuary to transport the bodies. Forty other people soon joined that arrangement.

Then in 1961, two events sparked community interest in forming a local funeral society: The mortuary canceled the Gates’ transportation contract; and The Saturday Evening Post published an article titled “Can We Afford to Die?” So, on Jan. 12, 1962, the Central Coast Memorial Society was chartered.

Since 1974, the society has contracted with the McDermott-Crockett Mortuary. It’s in Santa Barbara, so for deaths in this county, McDermott-Crockett may arrange for local mortuaries to perform the services. In instances such as the death of the 22-year-old woman I mentioned, it charges $970.

None of that money goes to the memorial society. The society’s income comes from donations and its $30 lifetime-membership fee. It has only one part-time employee.

You can get a list of mortuary services and charges, as set by the society’s contract, by calling 543-6133 or at the society’s website, www.kcbx.net/~ccms.

Reach Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.