Young Professional Spotlight: Candace Hawkins

Candace Hawkins is a 35-year-old funeral director and care center supervisor at Lakeside Memorial Funeral Home, Inc. in Hamburg, New York. She also serves as the location manager for one of their offices.

Candace HawkinsHow many years have you worked in funeral service?

I have worked in the industry for 13 years, 10 in California and three in New York.

Why did you begin working in funeral service?

I fell into this business a little bit by accident when offered a job by the owner of the local funeral home where I lived in California. It wasn’t really in my career plan, but I was immediately interested and quickly grew to enjoy it. Now I can’t see myself doing anything else.

What is the most rewarding part of your occupation?

Getting feedback from families that they appreciate the work I do and that I made their grief process easier is always the best – whether it’s because I prepared their loved one, handled the arrangement process or directed the funeral.

What are your professional goals?

I don’t really have any above and beyond serving my families and seeing where this path leads me.

What are you proud of that you have achieved so far during your career in funeral service?

I have been honored to work with and learn from some of the brightest professionals in this field, and earn their praises.

What are some important/notable trends that you have noticed in funeral service?

Having worked in different areas throughout the U.S., the thing that seems the most notable is how increasingly adaptable funeral directors have to be. Not only do we have to be prepared to handle the personalized memorial services for non-religious cremation families that are becoming more and more common, but we still have to be prepared to handle the traditional religious funerals for an increasingly diverse clientele.

We also have to adapt to all of the technological changes that come each year, and to working with an increasingly diverse population of funeral professionals and meeting their needs in this profession as well.

And I can tell you from personal experience that this business is a whole different world from one part of the country to another, so anyone who relocates has that to contend with that, too!

How has your funeral home been impacted by COVID-19?

While our area saw its share of COVID-19 fatalities when New York state was at its peak, we didn’t deal with anything near the struggles of our colleagues across the state in New York City.

Still, all statewide mandates from the governor applied equally across the state. For several months, we were unable to hold funerals with any more than immediate family present, which obviously impacted our revenue even when we were handling a higher call volume than ever before. Since everyone opted for direct disposition and planned to hold a memorial service later, we had to quickly adapt our recordkeeping process to try to keep up with 6 months of funerals at once and keep those families in the loop as to what the newest rules were at their cemetery or church of choice, or at the funeral home. We are still working through the backlog of postponed services, many of which are being further postponed due to travel restrictions even though our numbers locally are pretty well under control.

Like most funeral homes, we are also faced with the challenges of trying to enforce social distancing and mask requirements, having employees who have conflicts with childcare now that schools are closed and trying to get both our employees and our families through the emotional hurdles of being isolated from family and friends during such a difficult time.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

Is there anything in particular that you enjoy doing? I am a collector of rescue animals and have one 16-year-old child at home who I’m trying to focus on spending more time with before graduation and college time arrive.

I love camping, hiking and kayaking whenever I can get enough time away from work to do it! I try to visit my family in California as often as possible (though this year isn’t looking hopeful).

I also dabble in gardening, home improvement projects and am trying - mostly unsuccessfully - to teach myself to play guitar.

What are 3 personal goals you have?

To get my kid through high school, take a celebratory trip to Japan and to start my own family business someday.

What is your favorite phone app?

The internet browser – I’m still amazed at the wealth of knowledge we have right in our pockets!

What is one thing that you believe your peers would be surprised to know about you?

I travelled to Chernobyl in 2012.

What is one thing that you think is just “golden” — really wonderful, exciting?

As someone who was always a dog person, I have gotten way more enjoyment than I can put into words from watching my two newest rescue kittens play together.

What do you value most about OGR?

I love the peer support and interaction from other members.

The organization as a whole tries to “follow the Golden Rule.” What other words do you try to live by?

One of our local priests has on his voicemail – “Don’t sweat the small stuff - and remember, it’s mostly small stuff.”

This article was originally published in the Fall 2020 issue of The Independent. Click here to read the entire issue.


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