Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Alyssa Erdley
Observer Staff Writer 

Gates Kingsley Gates Guarantees 100% Satisfaction in New Office Location

What Happened to Gates Kingsley Gates?

 

April 23, 2019

The funeral home in the style of an English country house, situated conveniently down the block from Saint John's Hospital, once prepared the remains of former President Ronald Reagan. It had been a Santa Monica fixture for 75 years. But the place has been empty for years now, with a sign announcing it's for sale. So what happened to Gates Kingsley & Gates Moeller Murphy, the only funeral home servicing Santa Monica and points north? Where are we supposed to go for this service we will all inevitably need?

I am happy to report that Gates Kingsley & Gates Moeller Murphy is still around - and still in Santa Monica. But it is quite a different experience to visit them now. Instead of the formal, stuffy, and sometimes intimidating funeral home, you will meet them at a lively shared-business facility located on the ground floor of the office complex at Broadway and Cloverfield. They will also visit you at your home.

"Some people have a phobia about going to a funeral home," Stanley Scott, manager, explained to me. Outside our glass-walled conference room young people sipped lattes and typed on laptops. Another reason for closing the stodgy English country house location was the dramatic increase in people choosing cremation over burial - up to 63 percent. In Santa Monica, particularly, people try to choose "green." They also choose more economical. A large physical location was no longer needed for the funeral home.

In addition, the family business was acquired by a national corporation, Dignity Memorial. However, operating with a name the locals didn't recognize wasn't working, so the home "reentered the market" with its original name, Gates Kingsley & Gates Moeller Murphy.

I sat down with Scott and Family Services Counselor, Letitia Garcia, as they explained what goes into planning for death. Or rather, they wanted to talk about pre-planning. The death of a loved one causes enough upheaval. The kindest thing one can do for those left behind is to have made arrangements (and payment) well beforehand. With the exception of providing burial plots, Gates Kingsley & Gates can take care of everything. Once that's done, all loved ones will need to do is make a phone call.

Scott told me that 70 percent of the public does make arrangements beforehand. But he would "like to protect as many people as possible." This means helping individuals collect the information their relatives will need, such as bank account numbers and social media passwords. It also means having people think about and express what sort of service they want.

In his years as a funeral director, Scott has seen all types of personalization, from dressing participants in favorite football team colors to handing out bowling pins. "Personalization is what we do," he told me. Garcia agreed when I commented it sounded like event planning. "But we have to do in two days what event planners do in a year," she commented.

The building on 20th and Arizona, where once former President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan lay in repose, is now for sale or lease. But GKG lives on.

Gates Kingsley & Gates can support any type of arrangements desired: secular, Christian, and Jewish. Any ethnicity and its requirements can be satisfied. There seems no contingency the funeral home hasn't thought of, from the possibility of moving to a different state to that of dying in a foreign country. You can even buy funeral insurance.

"We guarantee 100 percent satisfaction" Scott made sure to tell me.

When it comes to sales, discussing the inevitability of a client's death has got to make the job of funeral planner one of the most difficult. To be successful, one has to combine all the aptitudes of a salesman with true authenticity and caring. Whether one is meeting clients in a English house replica ,in a latte-drinking shared office space, or in the client's own home, one must be ready to respond to some of the deepest questions about the meaning of life - and death.

"It's a ministry in itself," says Scott.

 

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