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New funeral home opens formally

A formerly unkempt and gutted, ugly duckling of a building on Midway Boulevard has emerged as the proverbial swan answering to the name of Whidbey Memorial Funeral and Cremation Service, Inc.

The extensive renovation project was lengthy and trying, but owner Paul Kuzina learned through the process to channel his frustration and cease dwelling on minutiae. Oak Harbor’s second and newest funeral home opened in December, fulfilling the calling that has burned inside the longtime funeral director.

“It borders on miraculous to me,” Kuzina said. “I took baby steps. When I felt overwhelmed, I moved on and didn’t dwell on the problems. I’m learning to take life a little more in stride.”

In a serendipitous turn of events, Rodger Truax, another experienced funeral director, contacted Kuzina when he and his wife moved to Oak Harbor in May. The two professionals hit it off immediately and Truax was hired to share funeral director services with the owner. Edie Silvey was brought on as office manager.

“There has been incredible timing with all of this,” the owner said. “I’m 58 years old and I know this is what I was meant to do. Roger and Edie have been a huge boon to me.”

Kuzina’s wife, Heidi, the marketing director for Regency on Whidbey, has helped add a personal touch with her tasteful interior decorating.

The 2,400-square-foot building has been transformed into a welcoming, cozy funeral home designed to cater to families and lessen their grief through empathetic attention and meticulous service.

“The whole idea is to take care of the family,” Truax said. “There’s no other reason for doing this. That’s what we are all about.”

From the meeting room, where a computer will soon be installed to offer a venue by which condolences can be sent over the Internet, the facility branches off into a room displaying 22 different casket designs. A section of each York casket is mounted on the wall, along with samples of the inside, to utilize available space.

Shelves are also being installed in the room to showcase a variety of urns made from bronze, wood, marble or cultured stone. Keepsake — or sharing — urns are also available.

“Some people like to give their offspring some of the ashes or a lock of hair,” Truax said.

Kuzina has taken pains to offer products with a wide price range. He said absolutely no sales pressure is applied.

Another section of the funeral home, tastefully hidden in an accommodating meeting room for family consultations, displays different styles of stones and memorials.

“Sizes, shapes, military markers, we can do whatever the cemetery allows,” Truax said.

A modest-sized chapel with a 50-person capacity is accessible from inside or from a separate, outside entrance. The room, a multi-purpose meeting area able to accommodate receptions or other gatherings, is also available for funerals as well as rosaries, viewings, or services.

“We can wheel, or carry, a casket easily through the door,” Truax said. “This is a nice, cozy environment for the families.”

The viewing room proper can be used to display a loved one prior to cremation. The funeral director said viewing opportunities for family members are endless. For people who died after a long battle with a terminal illness, the deceased can be made to look as loved ones remembered, before the onset of the disease.

“We can bring that out,” Truax said. “It gives a lot of peace and a comforting final image of the person.”

Embalming is done in-house and cremations are performed in Skagit County. Contracting crematory services has allowed Whidbey Memorial to keep costs down and pass savings on to customers.

“The body’s always in our care,” Truax added. “We personally take them over and back.”

“Now that it’s all done and put together, I’m really, really gratified that we took time with the attention to detail,” he said. “We are blessed. I feel very attached to this community. Pouring myself into my passion gives significant meaning to our tagline, ‘Putting heart into quality service.’”

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