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Industry honors local funeral director

Hillview Funeral Chapel owner Mark Kuhn was recently honored by the California Funeral Directors Association. Kuhn, left, is pictured with association President Rick Gutierrez.

Hillview Funeral Chapel owner Mark Kuhn was recently honored by the California Funeral Directors Association. Kuhn, left, is pictured with association President Rick Gutierrez.

Local funeral director Mark Kuhn received a rare honor recently in recognition of his ongoing contributions, leadership and dedication to the industry.

Kuhn, owner of Hillview Funeral Chapels, was presented the California Funeral Directors Association’s Honorary Membership Award in June at the group’s convention in San Francisco.

He becomes only the fourth recipient of that prestigious honor in the 100-plus year history of the association.

Industry honors are nothing new to Kuhn, who was named the Young Funeral Director of the Year in 1989 and Outstanding Funeral Director of the Year in 1993 and again in 2003.

He is a past president of the 680-member statewide organization, and has served as president of the board which oversees the $70 million California Master Trust since 2002.

That trust, which operates under the umbrella of the association, holds funds for pre-planned funerals.

While Kuhn has been active as an industry leader, his focus is on serving the local communities. Hillview operates chapels in Gustine, Newman and Patterson.

As an independent in an industry increasingly dominated by corporately-owned chapels, Kuhn said, Hillview continues to be able to provide personalized service with the goal of meeting every family’s needs.

Compassion, dedication, integrity and honesty are all critical to a successful funeral chapel, he noted.

Despite the challenges inherent in working with families who are facing one of life’s most emotional and difficult times with the loss of a loved one, Kuhn and the Hillview staff of four strive to meet their needs.

“I like being able to help people through this,” Kuhn reflected. “Each family is different, with different needs. We try to meet all those needs. (As an independent chapel) we are able to be more responsive, and to be more flexible to meet any and all needs.”

Without hesitation, Kuhn said children’s funerals are the most difficult aspect of his job.

Hillview, he noted, does not charge for funerals of local infants or babies, one way of giving back to the community while supporting families who have suffered a tragic loss.

“I believe that is our professional obligation to the community,” he explained.

Those in the industry must be dedicated to their profession, Kuhn remarked.

Among the challenges of the industry, somebody must be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Integrity is also essential.

“Our reputation, I hope, is a good one. We treat people fairly and honestly,” commented Kuhn.

He acknowledges that the industry is not for everyone.

Kuhn grew up in Patterson with designs on becoming an architect, but became intrigued by the funeral industry while working for a local florist and delivering arrangements to the local chapel.

He was offered a job, which became a career.

Kuhn attended mortuary college and returned to work for the Evans and Evans/Krieger chapels. After working at the chapels for six years, he bought the business in 1985.

Kuhn said he has never reconsidered his career path.

“This is a special calling,” he reflected.

In presenting the Honorary Membership Award, the association applauded Kuhn as a role model whose diplomacy, planning and organization were exemplary, and who is guided by a dedication to the highest of ethics and to the families served.