Fairhaven Blog

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Put the Phone Down and Say ‘No’ to Distracted Driving

- Tuesday, June 09, 2015

A Fairhaven Memorial employee guest blogs her personal experience

As a long-time New Yorker, I never needed a car to get around. With easy access to subways, buses and taxis, many lifelong New Yorkers don’t even have a driver license.

Life in Southern California is a different story. In order to get anywhere, driving is a necessity. However, since it’s something we do every day, we tend to forget that each time we get into our cars we put lives at risk – not only our own but also the lives of others on the road.

In California, several thousand people are killed annually in car accidents, many of which were the result of distracted driving. They didn’t need to happen.

We’ve all been guilty of it. Your cell phone rings and you know it’ll be a quick call so you choose not to use a hands-free option. You get a text message and can’t resist the urge to reply immediately. You can’t keep yourself from checking your Facebook news feed while sitting in traffic on the freeway. You fumble with your GPS or phone to check traffic conditions or get directions to your destination.

Last Tuesday morning, on my way to work, I was driving 22 miles per hour in a school zone on a major street. I had the right of way when a woman turned left from a stop sign and crashed into my car. My airbags deployed, my body was jostled and my beloved car was wrecked. At less than 30 miles per hour, the damage was beyond repair.

After assessing the situation, I got out of my car to check on the other driver. “I didn’t even see you!” were the first words she said to me. She was holding her iPad and rummaging around the floor for her cell phone. She was clearly distracted. I wondered what was so important for her to read on her iPad screen – was it worth it? In a split-second moment of poor judgment on her part, I am left with having to buy a new car and dealing with insurance, medical appointments, mounds of paperwork, and lingering pain.

In comparison to our lives and well-being, no distraction is worth the risk of injury or death. We have a false sense of control when behind the wheel, especially when our minds are elsewhere. We think we have a good view of our surroundings. We think we’re safe. We think it won’t happen to us. But in a split second everything can change.

I’m grateful to say that neither of us was severely injured last week. I’m grateful my car did what it was designed to do: give up its life to save mine. I’m grateful for family and insurance.

I work in the funeral industry and come face-to-face with death every day so I know the results could have been drastically different. No text or phone call is worth it. Distracted driving is dangerous and destructive … it can even be deadly. So please do your part and say ‘NO’ to distracted driving. 

Western Medical Center Administrator Named First Honoree of Our 4th Annual Oliver Halsell Care Awards

- Friday, January 30, 2015

Theresa Jamieson, staffing coordinator at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, is the January 2015 recipient of our Oliver Halsell Care Award.

For many years, Theresa wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps by pursuing a career in nursing. After obtaining her Associate of Science in Human Biology from Santa Ana College, she began working as a medical assistant at Planned Parenthood during a time when HIV was a relatively new disease. Theresa was responsible for educating patients about HIV, providing them with testing and guidance. It was there that she learned her true calling was education.

“During her four decades in the care industry, Theresa has provided exceptional education and direction for her patients and staff,” said Marla Noel, president of Fairhaven. “Her positive attitude is an inspiring trait in her line of work – a characteristic we honor with the Oliver Halsell Care Award.”

As staffing coordinator, Theresa wears many hats. In addition to assigning nurses to patients and ensuring quality care, she also helps educate nursing staff, acts as a liaison between floors, handles decedent affairs and assists patients and families with filling out necessary paperwork.

“Theresa is constantly going above and beyond her job duties,” said Sandra Moreno, Director of Nursing at Western Medical Center. “She’s always more than willing to help and does so with a kind and loving heart.”

Theresa 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 on her behalf to her selected charity, Alzheimer’s Association, Orange County – in honor of Theresa’s grandmother who passed away from the disease.

We are currently accepting nominations for the 2015 Oliver Halsell Care Awards. For more information and to nominate a deserving candidate, click here or send us an email

A Movie is Worth a Million Words

- Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A picture is worth a thousand words, and in this day of technology, a movie is worth so much more. With the New Year upon us, creating a movie of your loved one may be the perfect way to commemorate his or her life, and a great way to capture memories that can be replayed for years to come.

A few years ago, I was fortunate to be able to have a professional company videotape my parents. Initially, Mom and Dad were uncomfortable with this process. However, the woman, Mary Ann Osness from CorElAnn Video Productions spoke gently as she interviewed my parents, helping them to relax. She asked about where they grew up, how they met and many other questions.

During my father’s funeral service, we played the movie; my nephew read a eulogy; and my sister, niece and a few close friends spoke. I couldn’t have talked without sobbing, and didn’t try. After the service, many commented on how much they appreciated seeing the movie. The video of my father brought tears to everyone’s eyes and even a few chuckles when my father made humorous comments.

On the recording, my father talked about how he met – and courted – my mother. Few people in the audience knew what a true romantic my father was. He talked about a vacation we’d experienced and many other memories. My father talked for maybe ten wonderful minutes, which we shared with those who attended his funeral.

We will have this video of my father to show great-great-grandchildren someday, along with the pictures, of which there are many. But a movie with my father talking, his mannerisms, his voice, the way he used his hands to emphasize what he was saying and his sense of humor, is so much more meaningful. This movie is a precious memory.

I have suggested this type of movie to others. One of my friends who had just months to live came to me to pre-arrange her funeral. She followed my suggestion and made a movie with Mary Ann. In her video, she talked about so many things; about her vacations, her community involvement, and the many aspects of her life of which her children weren’t aware. She started several organizations and helped so many people. She was truly an inspiring woman. She did not brag or boast, but talked about the things she enjoyed.

The woman’s children were in their early twenties, too young for children of their own. They will be able to share her with their children and those who follow, because she knew how precious a movie would be for them. A picture is worth a thousand words, and a movie, so much more.

Always in Our Hearts

- Friday, December 19, 2014

For the past two evenings Waverley Chapel was filled with families who came together to remember loved ones they lost throughout the year. “Always in Our Hearts”, is our annual holiday remembrance program dedicated to our families who experienced the loss of a loved one. We invite all families to join us at this special service for a time to honor and cherish the special people no longer with us this holiday season. It is also a wonderful opportunity to connect with others who have experienced loss and who understand that the holidays can be a difficult time.


Chaplain Randy Hill shared some “Hope for the Holidays”, reminding us that even though the holidays can be sad after a loss, there is still always something to celebrate. The names of the loved ones that people came to honor were read and a member of their family came forward to accept a memorial ornament. The program concluded with the singing of holiday songs, lead by Tim Ringgold. Joy to the World was the last song of the evening.


Our goal is to provide our families with a special event where they can find comfort and support and leave filled with compassion and hope. It is an evening to remember those who will be Always in Our Hearts. Before our families left Chaplain Hill read a poem by Wanda Bencke, My First Christmas in Heaven.

I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below

with tiny lights, like Heaven's stars, reflecting on the snow.

The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away the tear,

for I am spending Christmas with God this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear

but the sounds of music can't compare,

with the Christmas choir up here.

I have no words to tell you, the joy their voices bring,

for it is beyond description, to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart

but I am not so far away, we really aren't apart.

So be happy for me, dear ones, you know I hold you dear.

And be glad I'm spending Christmas with God this year.

I send you each a special gift, from my heavenly home above.

I send you each a memory of my undying love.

So have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear.

Remember, I am spending Christmas with God this year.


Fairhaven Memorial Park Honors Ten Orange County Residents

- 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

- 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

Fairhaven Memorial Park Honors Huntington Beach Resident

- 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.

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

- 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.

Will You Join Us On The “Longest Day”?

- 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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