Bill Dering specializes in advance funeral planning for J. Warren Funeral Services, which has opened an arrangement center in Maricopa. Photo by Ethan McSweeney

By Ethan McSweeney

For years, Maricopans faced a unique problem when it came to death: there were no funeral parlors in the city.

That changed this month when J. Warren Funeral Services opened a small office, called the J. Warren Arrangement Center, in the Maricopa Business Center.

Janet Warren, chief financial officer and an owner at J. Warren, said the Casa Grande-based business decided to open in Maricopa to establish a larger foothold in the community.

“We’d like to be the first [funeral] business to serve the community,” Warren said. “Maricopa is a growing community.”

Currently, three people work out of the J. Warren Arrangement Center from Mondays through Wednesdays on a rotating basis. They haven’t seen anyone out of the Maricopa office, yet, but they hope to soon as they make their presence in the city known, said Bill Dering, who works in advanced funeral planning for J. Warren.

Dering works one day a week in the Maricopa office along with Sharon Gilbertson, outreach coordinator, and fellow advanced funeral planner Kristin Gramando.

J. Warren Funeral Services, founded in 1953, also has offices in Casa Grande, Eloy, Coolidge and Ajo. It operates the Mountain View Cemetery off Interstate 8 on Skyway Avenue in Casa Grande.

The family-owned business offers burial services, funeral planning, pre-arrangements, cremation and other services — a “one-stop service,” Dering said.

Warren, who has worked in the funeral business for 46 years, points out that J. Warren has been serving customers from Maricopa for years, even though it hasn’t had a storefront in the city.

The office in Maricopa is still growing, but someone who uses J. Warren for funeral services would have access to the company’s resources around Pinal County, Warren said.

“You can make any kind of arrangement out of the office,” she said.

Dering said while it’s not something people want to be thinking about, funeral planning is an important service.

“The only thing we’re guaranteed when we get a birth certificate is that eventually we’ll get a death certificate,” Dering said.

So, his area of focus for advanced funeral planning is serving people who want to plan ahead for their funerals rather than having loved ones make arrangements right after their death. That, he said, takes the grief out of the equation when it comes to trying to plan a funeral right after someone dies.

Pre-planning – and pre-purchasing – funeral arrangements also fixes costs before prices inevitably rise, Dering said.

Maricopa doesn’t have a cemetery, so burial would still need to take place elsewhere. Warren said the business would like to put in a funeral home — the current Maricopa office isn’t classified as a funeral home — and cemetery in Maricopa in the future as it expands.

Warren said the business hasn’t set a definitive plan yet for how it will expand in Maricopa.

“This is pretty limited at the moment,” Dering said about the office, “but you have to start somewhere.”

This story appeared in the July issue of InMaricopa.


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