Fairhaven Blog

Things of interest around Fairhaven.

Fairhaven Memorial Park Honors Ten Orange County Residents

Cynthia Adair - Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On Nov. 12, we honored 10 inspirational caregivers at our third annual Oliver Halsell Care Awards, at our Mission Viejo location. The individuals – from throughout Orange County – were recognized for dedicating their lives to serving with the utmost care and compassion and improving the lives and spirits of those they help.

Photo of 2014 Oliver Halsell Care Awards: (clockwise from top left) Fairhaven Memorial President Marla Noel, Phyllis Straight, Amy Sorenby, Fredy Dominguez, Ginger Thomas, Linda Armas, Fairhaven Memorial Manager Michael Alarcon, Kari Buist-Baker, Leslie McSparran, Pratibha Seth and Micki Souter.  

2014 Oliver Halsell Care Award Winners: (clockwise from top left) Fairhaven Memorial President Marla Noel, Phyllis Straight, Amy Sorenby, Fredy Dominguez, Ginger Thomas, Linda Armas, Fairhaven Memorial Manager Michael Alarcon, Kari Buist-Baker, Leslie McSparran, Pratibha Seth and Micki Souter. 

Honorees, joined by their family and friends, enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres as they mingled before dinner. Each Care Award winner was presented a crystal statue by Marla Noel, president of Fairhaven, and Michael Alarcon, manager of Fairhaven Memorial Services, during a special program. Mission Viejo Councilmember Rhonda Reardon attended to congratulate each of the honorees.

We created the Oliver Halsell Care Awards in 2012 to pay monthly tribute to Orange County caregivers who have demonstrated exceptional care in their profession and community. The award was named in recognition of Oliver Halsell, who founded Fairhaven in 1911 to provide a peaceful and comforting place for families to honor their loved ones.

“Our Care Award winners were carefully selected throughout the year for their dedication to serving others,” said Noel. “We are proud to honor local caregivers who have made serving from the heart a way of life, as our founder Mr. Halsell did so many years ago.”

The 2014 Care Award honorees include:

  • David Nakashima volunteers with OC Hospice to give back to the community.

  • Micki Souter (Trabuco Canyon) volunteers with Silverado Hospice as a tribute to the care her husband received during his final hours.

  • Ginger Thomas (Mission Viejo), employer relations specialist at Mission Hospital, was motivated to work in the care industry by her mother, who worked as a Registered Nurse for many years.

  • Pratibha Seth (Anaheim), nurse at St. Joseph Hospital, enrolled at Santa Ana College to pursue a career as a nurse after she immigrated to the United States from India to be with her husband.

  • Kari Buist-Baker (Mission Viejo), founder & CEO of Senior Life Management, Inc., began her career as an obstetrics nurse; after her mother was diagnosed with dementia, she resigned from her job to pursue her passion of helping others find care for their senior relatives.

  • Linda Armas (Fullerton), president & certified senior advisor at Clear Choice Senior Services, was faced with the challenging task of finding her parents a home, which inspired her to start her own business to help others.

  • Phyllis Straight (Capistrano Beach), president of BrightStar Care, opted out of retirement and dove headfirst into her dream of working with people.

  • Leslie McSparran (Orange), volunteer with St. Joseph Hospice, helped care for her father when he was diagnosed with cancer; a former aerospace engineer, McSparran now volunteers for the No One Dies Alone program, which provides patients with a volunteer companion as they transition to a peaceful and reassuring atmosphere during their final hours.

  • Fredy Dominguez (Huntington Beach), community relations director at Attentive Home Care, created a unique networking group for professionals in the care industry to gather monthly to share experiences and educate each other.

  • Amy Sorenby (Orange), certified nursing assistant for Cross Country Per Diem, is pursuing a nursing career in honor of her two-year-old daughter who spent most of her life in the hospital before she passed in 2003.

For more information and to nominate a deserving candidate, visit click here or email CareAwards@FairhavenMemorial.com.

Fairhaven Memorial Park Honors Orange Resident

Cynthia Adair - Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Amy Sorenby, October recipient of Fairhaven's Oliver Halsell Care AwardAmy Sorenby, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at Cross Country Per Diem, is our October recipient of Fairhaven’s Oliver Halsell Care Award.

When Amy lost her two-year-old daughter in 2003, she vowed to go back to school to become a nurse as a tribute to the care her daughter received before her death. Now working as a CNA, Amy works in hospitals all over Orange County, with plans to further her education to become a registered nurse.

“Amy’s strength and determination to become a nurse in spite of a traumatic experience is inspiring,” said Marla Noel, president of Fairhaven. “The love and care she pours into her patients is what we hope to recognize with our Care Award.”

On June 16, 2001, Amy went in for an emergency Cesarean section due to complications with her twin girls. Alexis was born at one pound, 15 ounces, and Brianne at one pound, one ounce. Due to her size and condition, Brianne spent nearly her first year in the hospital. Prior to Brianne’s release, Amy was required to stay in the hospital for a week, learning how to check her daughter’s vitals and monitor her nasogastric tube. This training not only prepared Amy to care for her daughter but also inspired her to pursue a career in nursing.

In 2003, Amy’s then-husband was deployed to Iraq with the Marine Corps. Soon after, Brianne fell ill and was admitted to Naval Medical Center in San Diego for testing. Amy spent the next five months at the San Diego Fisher House to be near Brianne, while Alexis was cared for by her grandparents. Doctors ultimately diagnosed Brianne with pulmonary hypertension and, while doctors would have recommended a heart and lung transplant, Brianne’s fragile condition prevented her from this solution. Brianne passed away later that year.

Although extremely painful, this experience guided Amy to fulfill her calling as a caregiver. Amy now works daily to provide patients with the best possible care – treating them as though they were her own family. Somehow, Amy finds time to fit it all in, not only caring for others, but also her two children as a single mom.

Amy will be honored at Fairhaven’s Oliver Halsell Care Awards banquet on November 12 at Fairhaven’s Mission Viejo location. The banquet honors a year’s worth of achievements within the local community. Additionally, Fairhaven will make a donation in her honor to her selected charity, The Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher House in San Diego.

For more information about Fairhaven’s Oliver Halsell Care Award and to nominate a deserving candidate, click here or send us an email

Touching Lives

- Friday, October 10, 2014

Last week, in my Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) meeting, we had the opportunity to tour the Make-A-Wish Foundation office in Irvine. During our tour, one of my fellow members noticed I was very quiet and asked me if I felt okay. I didn’t know how to react but then realized I had very conflicting feelings about the work this organization does.

As a mortuary, one of the saddest situations we witness is the loss of a child. It’s heartbreaking for all of our staff and I can’t imagine how the parents must feel. I guess this is what I was thinking as we toured the office of an organization whose purpose is to provide enrichment to a life that may end soon. People frequently ask me how I’m able to work in a mortuary – after my tour, I wondered how a person can sit with a child who may have months to live and figure out how to grant a wish. My job is easy in comparison; I don’t know how I would handle helping so many little ones face the reality of death.

There are many angels out there; those who work with sickness, those who work in hospice, and those who work in organizations like Make-A-Wish. We’re lucky there are people among us who have found their calling. I feel fortunate to know about the angels who work at the Make-A-Wish Foundation – they add so much hope, strength and joy to such young lives.

Fairhaven Memorial Park Honors Huntington Beach Resident

Cynthia Adair - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fredy Dominguez, director of community relations at Attentive Home Care, is our September recipient of Fairhaven’s Oliver Halsell Care Award.

For the Huntington Beach resident, working in the care industry wasn’t initially part of his career goals. With degrees in art and business, Fredy began his journey as the business development, sales and marketing director of Ideal Homecare DME. After nearly three years of interacting with seniors, Fredy unearthed his true calling in the care industry.  

“Fredy has channeled his passion for working with seniors into an opportunity to help others as they age,” said Marla Noel, president of Fairhaven. “We are proud to recognize his ability to connect individuals across the senior care industry to make an impact on improving lives in the senior community.”

For the past decade, Fredy has worked in various positions that have supported his passion for working with seniors. Now the director of community relations at Attentive Home Care, he assists seniors and their families, while utilizing his education to support the company’s business goals. Fredy is responsible for marketing Attentive Home Care, meeting with families to explain the services provided to their loved ones and educating and encouraging staff and social workers to serve from their hearts.

In addition to his work at Attentive Home Care, Fredy founded a grassroots networking group for professionals in the senior care industry. With meetings in Los Angeles and throughout Orange County, more than 100 caregivers, social workers, nurses and other senior care professionals gather monthly to network, share stories and educate one another. Fredy also maintains positions with various nonprofit organizations, including: a member of the Council of Advisors for the Senior Care Hero Awards, a yearly program created to honor unsung heroes who care for seniors; Marketing and Outreach Chair for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Long Beach; member of the Speakers Bureau for the Alzheimer's Association - California Southland Chapter; and committee member for the Strike Against Stroke, an event hosted by Stroke Association Orange County Chapter.

Fredy will be honored at Fairhaven’s Oliver Halsell Care Awards banquet on November 12 at Fairhaven’s Mission Viejo location. The banquet honors a year’s worth of achievements within the local community. Additionally, Fairhaven will make a donation in his honor to his selected charity, SeniorServ.

For more information about Fairhaven’s Oliver Halsell Care Award and to nominate a deserving candidate, click here or send us an email.

Celebrating Our Melting Pot

- Thursday, September 18, 2014

“Death is a part of all our lives. Whether we like it or not, it is bound to happen. Instead of avoiding thinking about it, it is better to understand its meaning. If from the beginning your attitude is 'Yes, death is part of our lives,' then it may be easier to face.” – Dalai Lama

As president of Fairhaven, I have the opportunity to witness funeral rituals from all around the world. Recently, one of our families held a Buddhist funeral here that touched me. I’d like to share my experience with you, to show how important it is for every family to celebrate a loved one in their own way.

It was a warm summer day and family members dressed in beautiful white cloth – symbolizing grief and seriousness – gathered around the body of their loved one. Guests dressed in black joined in to pay their respect. The family invited a monk who chanted to encourage the good energy to be released from the deceased, to allow the soul to detach itself from this life. The room filled with positive energy and a moving feeling of love. The family expressed their gratitude to guests in attendance with a red envelope containing a gift.

Although I’m not Buddhist, this experience stayed with me, as do many others. Families come to Fairhaven with heritages from a variety of cultures and religions with Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist and Hindu the most frequent. All of us at Fairhaven have learned about the beliefs of each culture and religion as this helps us serve each family with sensitivity during a very stressful time.


No matter what culture or religion a person associates with, I can see from first-hand observations here how important it is to memorialize a loved one and honor the life they’ve lived. Expressing grief is a difficult process, but doing so in your own way can help you and your loved ones find comfort in the rituals and traditions of your culture. I do appreciate the cultural melting pot we see here at Fairhaven and I’m honored I get to observe so many interesting and loving tributes.

Fairhaven Affiliate Works With Mexican Consulate to Ship Loved Ones to Mexico

Cynthia Adair - Wednesday, September 03, 2014

For 19-year-old Giovanni Lopez* from Santa Ana, losing his stepmother was an unexpected tragedy. Recently married and already caring for his younger brother, gathering the information to fulfill his stepmother’s dying wish to be buried in her native country was overwhelming for Lopez. Wanting to ensure a smooth process to allow his family to grieve, Lopez sought support from Family Mortuary in Santa Ana. Several days later, Lopez’s stepmother arrived safely in Mexico, thanks to the experts at Family Mortuary who worked with the Mexican Consulate in Santa Ana to compile the documents to meet all legal requirements for shipping a deceased loved one to another country.

For more than 17 years, Family Mortuary in Santa Ana has served Orange County families from a variety of cultures and religions. Along with its parent company Fairhaven Memorial Park, Family Mortuary continues the long tradition of providing customized funeral plans both at the time of need and through advanced planning.

“The added stress of shipping a loved one out of the country further complicates the process due to the many legal requirements and documents that are needed,” said Omar Gallarzo, vice president of Family Mortuary. “At Family Mortuary, we understand that the death of a loved one is never easy and we hope to help more families in their time of need so that they can heal and honor their loved one.”

As part of its extensive list of services, Family Mortuary specializes in international funeral shipping. In addition to assisting families in coordinating all aspects of transportation, Family Mortuary works with each consulate – from Mexico, Central and South America to the Philippines – to obtain all the necessary documentation required for shipment. If a language barrier exists, Family Mortuary helps translate and notarize documents, to make the process and transition as smooth as possible for each family it serves.

Lopez was grateful that he was able to fulfill his stepmother’s dying wish and appreciative of Family Mortuary for making the process of working with the Consulate so easy.

Additionally, Family Mortuary’s Public Relations Coordinator, Erika Rodriguez, was recognized by the Mexican Consulate at Alzheimer’s Association, Orange County’s (AAOC) Latino Caregiver Recognition Day for her work with AAOC and the Latino community.

*name was changed to protect family’s confidentiality 

More Than Your Neighborhood Memorial Park

- Friday, August 15, 2014

Memorial parks can offer families a place to celebrate and memorialize loved ones who are no longer with us – a chance to come together and reconnect with their loved one. 

At Fairhaven, families are presented with various opportunities to come together as a community. Neighbors are invited to visit our park to enjoy a picnic or read a book  under the lush trees whenever they choose. When Oliver Halsell created Fairhaven Memorial Park over 102 years ago, he shared his love for trees by planting so many different varieties from all over the world.

We also are happy to open Fairhaven to the public to enjoy the vast expanse of elegant, graceful trees through our programs and annual events. During the summer, we invite guests to bring blankets and snacks to enjoy our movies and concerts in the park with their families. During our holiday events, such as our sunrise Easter services and Memorial Day event, our park is filled with the sounds of music and laughter. Thousands attend to celebrate and enjoy our beautiful grounds.

We also offer “Explorer Tours” where we encourage schools to bring their students to learn more about the famous people buried here and how they helped to shape our community. We love sharing the rich history of Orange County with our guests, especially our community’s youth.

Come visit us on Saturday, August 16 for the last event in our summer entertainment series – a screening of “Stand By Me” under the stars.

For more than a century, Fairhaven has served Orange County families as though they were our own. We are happy to offer our beautiful surroundings to celebrate life and support families.

Click here for more info about Fairhaven’s events.

Dana Point Business Woman Honored by Fairhaven Memorial Park

Cynthia Adair - Tuesday, July 15, 2014

From Electrical Power Executive to End-of-Life Caregiver, Dana Point Business Woman Honored with Fairhaven’s Oliver Halsell Care Award

Phyllis StraightPhyllis Straight, owner of BrightStar Care® in Lake Forest and Dana Point, is our July recipient of Fairhaven’s Oliver Halsell Care Award.

When the Dana Point resident retired from the electrical power industry five years ago, Phyllis knew she wasn’t ready for a sedentary lifestyle. With her husband’s support, Phyllis opted out of retirement and dove head first into her dream of working with people. After witnessing family members who spent their remaining years alone in nursing homes, Phyllis opened two BrightStar Care® locations in Orange County offering families at-home quality care.  

“When we started the Oliver Halsell Care Awards in 2012, we did so to honor individuals with compassionate and caring hearts,” said Marla Noel, president of Fairhaven. “Phyllis truly has a heart to help. She goes above and beyond to make sure her clients’ needs are met and ensures her staff has the support required to do so.”

As the owner of BrightStar Care, Phyllis hires and trains staff for both locations, working to remain compliant with state licensing. She visits clients and their families and since some clients are unable to go to a church or synagogue, Phyllis often has the opportunity to pray with them. Phyllis and her staff work hard to give families more quality time with their elderly loved ones, allowing them to be more than just a caregiver. 

“At BrightStar, we ask families what they struggle with as caregivers, and we take the heaviest weight from the family caregiver to help make their life easier,” Phyllis explained. “The most important part about what we do is making things more possible in peoples’ lives by serving and loving our clients and families in an excellent way.”

In addition to running her own company, Phyllis co-founded the Pregnancy Resource Center of San Clemente, which provides women with resources for unplanned pregnancies. The nonprofit organization offers women a non-judgmental environment to obtain free pregnancy tests, education and assistance with adoption.  

Phyllis will be honored at Fairhaven’s Oliver Halsell Care Awards banquet in November at Fairhaven’s Mission Viejo location. The banquet honors a year’s worth of achievements within the local community. Additionally, Fairhaven will make a donation in her honor to her selected charity, Pregnancy Resource Center of San Clemente.

For more information about Fairhaven’s Oliver Halsell Care Award and to nominate a deserving candidate, click here or send us an email.

No Regrets, Please

- Friday, June 20, 2014

Regret. It’s one of life’s most uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, emotions. When we wish we had done something differently, but can’t go back and change it, we are likely to feel regret. In my position here at Fairhaven, I frequently encounter people that feel regretful. Perhaps most common is the feeling that they have not spent enough time with a loved one.

But another whole category of regret involves decisions people wish they had made earlier in life. For example, I encounter widows who wish they had taken time to understand their finances before their husbands passed away. I meet widowers who regret putting off trips they always talked about, but never found time to take before their wives became ill.  For some, the regret involves not moving to a retirement community, or just downsizing into a smaller, more manageable home. The list goes on and on.

The lesson learned here is that we should not wait too long to make decisions that will shape the last years of our lives. Perhaps the best time to evaluate these decisions is when retirement is looming. This is the time when questions need to be raised about what you -- as a couple or an individual -- want to do in the years ahead. Where will you live? Is your estate plan set? Will your heirs have a huge tax burden because you didn’t do enough estate planning? Are there trips on your bucket list? Are you working with advisors to guide your decisions -- an attorney, CPA and financial advisor?

Of course, I also hear regret related to not planning ahead for funerals.  People who take the time to talk among themselves, including with their adult children, are usually much less stressed when the time comes for the arrangements. Naturally, they are grieving, but much of the stress is gone.

Many people find it difficult to talk about death, especially their own. I’ve found that conversations about funeral pre-planning are naturally prompted by attending a funeral. Actually, any ceremony, even a wedding, can lead to these kinds of conversations. And these conversations are so useful, resolving issues such as do I want to have a ground burial, entombment or cremation? Do I want a large or intimate ceremony? Do I have a passion or hobby that can be added to the arrangements that fits my own personality? For example, I have a collection of fine wines and I’ve made it known I’d like the collection to be opened and enjoyed at my funeral. Without my planning in advance, I doubt anyone would know this was my intention. But now that I’ve planned, I’m sure my farewell will be the kind of party that I, personally, would enjoy – with friends and family swapping stories and fabulous wines  flowing. 

Whenever you are ready to consider funeral pre-planning, feel free to visit our website for a little help: http://www.fairhavenmemorial.com/learn/advance-planning.htm 

Will You Join Us On The “Longest Day”?

Cynthia Adair - Thursday, June 19, 2014

As part of the Orange County community, Fairhaven has a responsibility to care for those in need. The O.L. Halsell Foundation supports charitable organizations throughout the county. In addition, many of the staff are involved with various organizations, including Alzheimer’s Association, Orange County. Each year, during the summer solstice on June 21, Alzheimer’s Association invites teams around the world to raise funds and awareness of Alzheimer's with a day of activity.

When thinking about how to commemorate the “Longest Day”, I thought about my mother and the movie nights we had when I was a child. My sister, brothers and I would put on our pajamas while my mom made a big bowl of popcorn to take to the drive-in. Once there, we would back into the space and sit in the back of the station wagon with our pillows and blankets to watch the movie and eat popcorn. Most of the time, I would fall asleep before the movie ended.

My mother was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in September of 2006. Only six months later, she passed away. In those 210 days, I lost my mother over and over again to Alzheimer’s disease. Every day it took away a little piece of who she was and the memories of all the things she once enjoyed.

Each year, Fairhaven Memorial Park hosts a summer entertainment series, comprised of a concert and two movies in the park. This year we will be kicking off our three-part series with E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, in honor of my mother and her enjoyment of buttered popcorn and feel-good movies. Please join us on the “Longest Day,” Saturday, June 21, and bring your popcorn, blankets and watch E.T. with your family and friends.

In addition to supporting Alzheimer’s Association’s Longest Day, Fairhaven is also participating in the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” at Angel Stadium on November 15.

Click here to visit our walk page and support our team: http://act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2014/CA-OrangeCounty?team_id=206065&pg=team&fr_id=4971.  

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