President’s Message

Erlinda Valdez
2017-18 CFDA President

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Welcome to the 2017-2018 CFDA year! It is truly an honor to serve you as the newly installed President of the California Funeral Directors Association.  It is an even a greater honor to be a part of an industry and profession that serves our communities with such dignity and grace. The theme of our recent convention in Monterey was “Educate and Empower.” Reflecting on life’s journey, how I found myself in the funeral profession, and the impact we have on those we serve provides a special meaning to these words. Likewise, I believe we can all relate to them as funeral professionals.

My parents provided me with an upbringing that I feel molded me into a person with a solid foundation to be able to face life’s challenges and appreciate its rewards.  I was empowered by their words of wisdom, guidance, love and encouragement. Growing up, I attended public school and was fortunate to have educators that laid out some stepping stones in my path of life. These years also provided life-long relationships with special friends to share my joys and sorrows with.

Eventually I got married and began building a foundation with my husband for our family based on our upbringing and experiences in life. Our goal was to share those experiences with our two sons and set goals for their upbringing so that they could conquer the world with a wealth of knowledge while at the same time empower them to succeed in life.

As I was looking back on my path to becoming a funeral director, I reflected on the words of this years’ scholarship recipient, Karina Lopez.  Karina first experienced death when her neighbor, whom she called “Grandpa,” passed away.  She was frightened at what she might encounter as she and her sister attended the viewing. However, it was being in a serene environment and viewing a peaceful presentation that convinced her that perhaps she should look into being a funeral director herself.  This reminded me of my experience when my own grandfather passed away.  At the age of 18, I too, did not know what to expect.

Unfortunately for me, I swore that I would never step into a funeral home or another service with an open casket after that experience. However, 12 years later I found myself as the newly hired secretary of Wallin & Son Funeral Home in Sanger. I honestly did not know at that time how I would fit into this environment. The one thing that I learned quickly is that you can be anything you want to be as long as you first believe in yourself. To work in this industry, you also have to have the desire to learn, work hard, and be patient because each family and their requests are unique.  Most of all, I learned that it is gratifying to serve a grieving family especially when you have been blessed with the opportunity, ability, and the heart to do so.

One thing that Mr. Wallin instilled in me was that “You are only as good as the people that you surround yourself with.” Charles M. Wallin, who has been a mentor to many of us, and his father, Charles O. Wallin, established the funeral home in our community and were both Past Presidents of this association.  Their sense of compassion for the families we served was the primary reason that led me to become more intrigued with this profession.

All of these important events in my life bring me back to those two words: Educate and Empower. Although our formal education is extremely important, we are educated in many other ways. It is the knowledge that we have accumulated through life’s journey that defines us. We learn through our upbringing, our relationships with our family, friends, and colleagues, and our personal and professional experiences.

Specifically in CFDA, I have been surrounded by the knowledge and experience of past leadership of this association. Each one of them has brought their own unique style and knowledge to CFDA to make it an organization that we can all be proud of. We have networked with our colleagues in a manner that has allowed us to call on each other from the most northern part of our state to the most southern part and every place in-between!  We seek to educate ourselves by gathering information and absorbing the words of every professional in this industry. We have a talented and dedicated board of directors and staff: all of them ready to place their footprint in the path of one common goal. What more can we do for our profession that will make the greatest impact on our funeral establishments so that we can continue to serve our families and each other in the best way possible?

This is what being a part of CFDA is all about for me.  The journey of my life has brought me to this very moment just like every one of you. We all have a unique story to share with one another. We’ve been involved and we’ve participated; we’ve listened and we’ve learned; we’ve given and we’ve received. We’ve agreed and we sometimes have not agreed. But at the end of the day, we’ve used this accumulation of knowledge and experiences so that we might be empowered to do what many cannot do or want to do. That is, face the reality of death each and every day that we enter our establishments.  And then, we are empowered by the families that entrust us with their loved ones.

As we enter into a new year for CFDA, I’d like to acknowledge those of you who have contributed to our great association. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do. For those of you who are seeking a path to follow, I encourage you to invest in CFDA and make it a part of your life’s journey. You will find a wealth of education and you will find that the rewards of your profession can be even more empowering. Sharing your knowledge and experiences could only make our industry and association more valuable and our journey of life even more rewarding.