A new 7,000-square-foot crematory and embalming facility is on track to become the next-door neighbor of a Mesa boys home.
Bunker Family Mortuary has submitted a preliminary application to the city to construct the facility behind its current funeral home at 3529 E. University Drive — next door to Prehab of Arizona’s residential center for adolescent boys.
The new building would facilitate all embalming and cremation services for the company’s five Valley funeral homes. Right now, most of the embalming is done at the East University Drive location. The cremation, however, occurs at an operation with only one retort, or furnace, on Apache Trail.
A larger centralized facility would be more personal for families, said Bryan Bunker, vice president and chief operating officer.
“Because of the way it’s designed, it has a public portion of the building as well as a working part of the building where the embalming or the cremation would take place,” Bunker said.
While some may squirm at such a proposal, that’s not the case at Prehab, said CEO Michael Hughes, noting that the Bunkers have always been good neighbors — crematory or no crematory.
“Whenever you have a boys facility, you always want to make sure the neighbors are OK with that. We’ve got the canal on one side of us and a funeral home to the other side, and the fact that we’ll have a crematory with more quiet neighbors doesn’t bother us in the least,” he said.
That’s not always the case. People are often afraid there might be a stench, but don’t realize a crematory should not emit a smell or any smoke, said Randy Bunker, president and CEO of the decades-old mortuary.
“There are those who are not as familiar with the process that fear the unknown,” Bryan Bunker said.
The largest crematory in Arizona is the Paradise Memorial Crematory owned by Messenger’s Mortuary in Scottsdale. It utilizes three retorts and although they are near a residential neighborhood, they do not receive complaints, said Jim Ahearne, the chief operating officer.
“A crematory will generate less pollutants than any use of ovens in the state,” Ahearne said. “You wouldn’t know if you had one next to you.”
The proposed facility would have two or three retorts.
It’s a somewhat rare proposal because crematories are expensive to build. But with a growing number of people requesting cremation, it makes sense to invest in a new one, Randy Bunker noted.
The Bunkers’ project could cost as much as $1 million to complete, including environmental permits and inspections, a refrigerating room, retorts and construction costs, Bryan Bunker said.