The manicured grounds of Mountain View Funeral Home, Memorial Park & Crematory seemingly whisper a century’s worth of South Sound history.
The cemetery boasts some of the region’s most noted figures. From Harry L. Brown, co-founder of the Brown & Haley candy company, to Marcus Nalley, founder of the Nalley food company, and from Ben Cheney, owner of Cheney Lumber who helped standardize the 2-by-4, to Jose Calugas, one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II, individuals who shaped the region and country rest eternally among Mountain View’s sprawling grounds off Steilacoom Boulevard Southwest.
But the region’s historical celebrities mingle amongst thousands of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and friends who have come and gone.
James Richard Thompson started Mountain View Memorial Park in 1915 to “provide a service for the community that was badly needed,” according to General Manager Clarke Thomson. The first burials took place Dec. 15, 1915 – three people, to be exact.
Over the next century, more than 100,000 families and friends have buried or cremated loved ones through Mountain View, according to the funeral home’s records. It has supported and guided Lakewood and South Sound residents during their most difficult times.
As the funeral home celebrates its 100th year – an astonishing feat for any business or organization – nearly everyone who works or is associated with Mountain View can marvel at the role it has played in the Lakewood community.
One thing that hasn’t changed, and perhaps is the biggest reason for the cemetery’s century of success, is Mountain View’s mission: Provide quality service to the community when it’s most hurt.
“Our role is to provide assistance so families can focus on the emotional part,” Thomson said. “You have three to 14 days to plan for a funeral. You only have one chance to do it right. Families should not have regrets. When they look back at the decision, they should feel that they made the right one.”
Growth, Evolution on the Grounds
With Mount Rainier overlooking, Mountain View’s 160 acres provide a postcard-worthy backdrop. It includes 181 varieties of trees, 575 rhododendrons and a prize-winning rose garden – all designed specifically to comfort families and friends who are hurting.
About two-thirds of the cemetery is developed. In 1942, the original owner’s son, J. Arthur Thompson, who became president after his father’s death 15 years earlier, added a funeral home. At the time the funeral home-cemetery model was considered revolutionary, and Mountain View was one of two in the nation that followed it.
In 1956, Arthur’s son, Brewer B. Thompson, came to Mountain View and eventually became president. Under his leadership, Mountain View continued to grow. It built a second funeral chapel on the grounds, computerized its operations, increased staff size to 68 full time employees, acquired 80 additional acres for the memorial park and became debt-free.
In 1987, Cynthia Thompson began working with the family business, becoming president in 1996. After a stringent vetting process, NorthStar Memorial Group purchased Mountain View in 2009.
Today, Mountain View handles about 1,000 burials and assists nearly 1,400 families with funeral services annually. In recent years it has added an urn garden with more than 3,000 inurnment spaces, another mausoleum, increasing the mausoleum capacity to more than 5,000 casket spaces and more than 10,000 niches for urns. It also has had to respond to industry shifts and accommodate families looking for non-traditional ways to memorialize loved ones. For example, it has increased its capacity for cremation – a type of memorialization that has wider social acceptance compared to 100 years ago – by an additional 2,000 spaces.
Five sections in Mountain View are dedicated to veterans, many of whom served at some point in their lives at nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
It also has a First Responders Memorial that includes the names of Lakewood’s Fallen Four – Police Sgt. Mark Renninger, Officer Tina Griswold, Officer Ronald Owens and Officer Greg Richards. One of the officers was buried at Mountain View.
Mountain View employees are part of several Lakewood service clubs and contribute to causes such as Relay For Life and the Boys and Girls Club.
As Thomson puts it, Mountain View has been part of Lakewood for 100 years because it cares about the community as a whole, as well as its families.
And despite changes in the funeral home business over the last century, Mountain View never wavered on its relationship with Lakewood, nor with its relationship with those who have lost loved ones.
“That’s a lot of trust being given to us to make sure everything is spot on,” Thomson said. “That’s what kind of keeps us going, at the end of the service, when the gratitude comes from the families. It’s what continues to drive everyone here at Mountain View.”
For its success and commitment to our community, the City of Lakewood would like to recognize Mountain View Funeral Home, Memorial Park & Crematory as its Business Showcase for October 2015.