Tom Crean

The Coroner’s Corner

Thomas P.J. Crean: Funeral Director (licensed), Musician, Songwriter

Tom began his studies in Philosophy at UBC, to become President of Kearney Funeral Services Ltd. in 1978. In 1979, he bought Columbia Chapel in New Westminster, BC., who purchased Royal Oak, Woodlawn, S. Bowell and Sons, in 1991, amalgamating it with Columbia. April 2012, the BC Funeral Service Association celebrated its 100th Anniversary, and Tom and his family were honoured, being the only founding members still in business. Today the company is the largest family funeral home in B.C. Tom sold his half of the shares in the family firm to his brother Michael, in 2016 and in July 2017 he acquired land in Surrey, which he helped rezone into the first new cemetery in Greater Vancouver in 58 years. This burial market became one of the most expensive in N America. Tom secured partnerships with the Orthodox Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities, finally serving a market that had here-to-fore become a monopoly.  His team opened ‘state-of-the-art’ Heritage Gardens Surrey Cemetery in April, 2018.

Tom became involved in consumer advocacy and public education early in his career. With respect to funeral and cemetery service, B.C. had the least regulations in North America (NA), attracting the two largest funeral chains in NA to meet; first in Vancouver in the 1960’s. By 1990, the chains were handling more than 80% of the funeral arrangements in Greater Vancouver. In 2006, the biggest chain, Service Corporation International (SCI), of Houston Texas, acquired the second largest chain, Alderwoods of Vancouver (formerly The Loewen Group), and in 2013, acquired the third largest chain, Stewart Enterprises, of New Orleans.

By invitation, Tom offered testimony to regulators in many jurisdictions, including Ottawa, New York and Washington, D.C. He was asked to address a number of funeral associations and sustainable business groups including the American Independent Business Alliance and the American Sustainable Business Council.  Tom’s activism culminated in raising a civilian movement to save Vancouver’s only cemetery, ‘Mountain View’, from privatization in 1996.  In the US, working with the Order of the Golden Rule (OGR) and the Independent Funeral Directors of Florida Association (IFDF), organizing 4,000 Independent funeral firms, their Network of Independent Funeral Directors Assoc. (NIFDA), successfully defeated SCI trademarking of the phrase ‘family funeral care’, both in Canada and the U.S.

Tom’s penchant for going up against impossible odds led him to make an ironic choice of heroes, a man he calls the ‘patron saint’ of lost causes: Don Quixote. Since all five of his campaigns against the billionaires were successful (each time improving consumer protection for grieving families), Simon Fraser University’s faculty of Anthropology student, Matthew Hayes made a short film on Tom’s endeavours as part of his Masters Thesis. It won ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Screenplay’ at the Annapolis Valley Film Festival; a film called Tom Quixote.

As a result, both Tom (and BC) have become important ‘funeral law’ teachers for the rest of the world. The hundreds of protesters (and 6 television stations) who showed up for that meeting at Vancouver City Hall, May 16th, 1996, convincing the City of Vancouver not to turn over its only cemetery to Wall Street’s predatory invaders, became a world-wide ‘game-changer’ for the family funeral homes and cemetery profession. The top three funeral chains had roughly 6,500 funeral homes and cemeteries (roofs) at their peak in 1999.  Today, SCI owns all three of the formerly huge chains, yet only 1,200 ‘roofs’ remain.

With over 52 years in funeral service, Tom also serves locally on the board of several civic and professional organizations: Past-president of Rotary Club of Vancouver; President of the Family Funeralhome Assoc.; 7 year term as President of Surrey Hospice Society; and also serves on Board of the Canadian Institute for Information and Privacy Studies (CIIPS). Tom was elected to the Board of Governors of Catholic Pacific College. Father of three, Tom is an avid songwriter/musician, playing both guitar and banjo. He also enjoys hobbies of tennis, swimming, fishing and boating, being a member of the Royal Airforce Yacht Club, Southampton, UK.