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Same name, new owner at mortuary
Steve Forrest considers his career choice a "sacred calling."
Forrest isn't a preacher, priest or pastor — he is a mortician and the new owner of Hall Brother's Corning Mortuary.
When Jim Kerr, former mortician and owner of the funeral home since 1996, decided he was going to retire about a year ago, he started looking for the right person to fill his shoes.
"With both of us being morticians, Jim and I knew each other," Forrest said. "I had told him if he was ever interested in selling the funeral home to let me know. He called me and here I am today."
Forrest, 45, of Redding, has been a mortician for 22 years. He earned his degree in mortuary science from Cypress College in 1991 after his father-in-law, himself a mortician, asked Forrest to join him in the business.
"I married my wife, Amber, in January 1991 and previous to that had been in acting, doing commercials and sitcoms. We decided acting wasn't a good career choice for a family man and so I considered going into law enforcement," Forrest explains. "That is when Amber's father counseled me about becoming a mortician."
Forrest has never looked back.
"I would make the same decision again. I love what I do and feel it is more than just a job, it is a very important responsibility to the families I work with and their loved ones I care for," he said.
After earning his mortician degree, Forrest working in his father-in-law's business, Allen and Dahl Funeral Chapel in Redding for 14 years.
He then bought a funeral home in Weaverville in 2006, where he served as a mortician and the Trinity County deputy coroner.
"Working as a deputy coroner is a story in-and-of-itself," Forrest said with a grin.
Forrest's purchase of the funeral home from Kerr was finalized in June and he has been running the business since then, with the help of his assistant funeral director Blanca Rico, and most recently Brad Markwith, who also served as assistant funeral director.
"The people of this community have been more than welcoming. They have opened their arms to me and have been extremely kind," Forrest stated. "And I love it here. I love the traditional feel of this area and its people."
As he serves his community as a mortician, Forrest said the words of his father-in-law, Jim Allen, stays close to his heart.
"He told me when I am handling people's loved ones, I should do it as if I were handling one of my own loved ones, because one day, when it is my time to go, I may meet in heaven those I have cared for and I want them to meet me with a thank-you for the care I provided their bodies," he said.
Forrest, a Christian who believes in life after death, said he would serve as a mortician and funeral director even if he didn't get paid.
"It's that important to me," he stated.
Although he realizes the minute a person hears the word "mortician" they think of death, Forrest said his job is really more about the living.
"This is about helping people when they are really in need of help, when they are sometimes at their lowest. When a family leaves the funeral home I want them to have been comforted, and at peace with their decisions and know I will give the best of care to their loved ones," Forrest explained.
The community's new mortician has plans for the funeral home, but one thing will definitely stay the same.
"I have no plans to change the name, it will definitely stay Hall Brothers Corning Mortuary," Forrest said. "I want to keep the same tradition of service that Jim (Kerr) provided. I have big shoes to fill coming in here after Jim."
Some of the changes Forrest has planned is to repair and paint the outside of the mortuary, located at the southwest corner of Fifth and Marin streets.
He is also going to remove the old garage and build a new facility for the care and preparation of those who have died.
"I will also be moving the mortuary's chapel into a bigger room and using what is currently the chapel as the newly refurbished lobby," Forrest stated.
The mortuary will continue to offer cremation services, working with the crematorium in Chico.
"This is not 9-to-5 work," Forrest said. "We are available 24/7. I welcome people in the community to come in and meet me and my staff at any time of the day."
Hall Brothers Corning Mortuary's number is 824-3792.