by Janet M Kelly
You can learn the science and art of being a mortician, but you can’t be taught how to care for people. This is someone’s mother, or father, or child… not a statistic. Ben Creighton
Our job is caring for those who have passed, serving the family and the community, and honoring their loved ones. Steven Dillard
These two quotes sum up the heart and soul of a business that has served the Kingsburg community for ninety years… the Salser & Dillard Creighton Chapel. The business started in 1931 and has been owned by four families: The Ericsons, The Garners, The Creightons, and The Dillards. The names and ownership may have changed, but the commitment to caring for Kingsburg families during one of the most difficult moments they will experience has stayed constant. Their job has been to honor a loved one while helping mend a family’s broken heart. As a local hairdresser who does hair for deceased clients said, “This is the final kindness we can do for our loved one and their family”
Growing Up Next to a Mortuary
The Creighton Family owned the mortuary for fifty-five years and lived in the house next door. Ben Creighton operated the business until 2019. “It was natural to grow up next to a mortuary,” Ben explained.
Barbara Creighton Sletten-Garcia added, “Growing up right next to the mortuary was definitely different at times! Every Halloween my friends would beg and ask me if they could please tour the mortuary at night! Of course it wasn’t allowed.”
Bill Creighton’s recalled, “Upon moving to Kingsburg I remember my new classmates looking at me with questions in their eyes and minds. Our parents shared little information to us kids about work. As I grew older I learned of their VERY caring state of mind to the people they were comforting.”
Respect and care was provided by the whole family, who sometimes helped their parents in the mortuary. “I helped my Mom many times with the makeup and hair for the women. My Mom always did such a good job,” Barbara remembered.
For decades Jack, Tom and Ben Creighton continued the tradition of providing care to the Kingsburg Community. Ben observed, “There is a balance between emotion and objectivity. We work with people during the worst moments of their lives, and these are often people we know.”
Selling a Family Business
When Ben retired, and sold Creighton’s Chapel, he was concerned. The business had to go to someone with the same caring his family had provided for 55 years. A former employee of his father, Steve Dillard came to mind. Ben had known Steve for 40 years and trusted him. Steve owned a funeral operation in Visalia which he built from the ground up, and is now Tulare County’s largest funeral home. “Bringing Steve to Kingsburg would be a win-win for both families. Steve would bring the same kind of professionalism and caring to Kingsburg, and our family would feel our father’s legacy would be in good hands.”
Salser & Dillard Creighton Chapel
In May 2019 Steve Dillard bought Creighton Chapel, and remodeled the building while ensuring the original Spanish architecture was maintained. Inside and out, there is a feeling of tranquility and peace, plus modern additions such as large screen monitors. Without losing any of the 90 year tradition of personal service for his clients, he brought the business into the 21st Century. The chapel has a web-site that provides easy access for a variety of services.
- Every client has an individual Tribute Page with places to add an obituary, memories, photographs and condolences… each page can be easily traced via social media.
- Portals for ordering memorial items or flowers (Berman’s, our local florist, provides the floral arrangements)
- Memorial DVD’s
- Web-casting for out of town family and friends
- A research site for Veteran’s Services, how to write an obituary, funeral etiquette, and more
- Access to a modern, state-of-the-art crematorium, a European model from the Netherlands that is the first one installed in the United States.
The mortuary may have 21st century services, but Steve Dillard and his employees, including Lydia Paul who has been with Creighton’s for over 20 years, welcome everyone with the old-fashioned warmth and respect of family.
For Ben and Renee Creighton, selling their business and home was difficult. However, turning it over to Steve Dillard made the transition easier, almost like transferring the business into another family member’s hands. Plus, the business marquee still carries the Creighton name… a respectful and caring gesture from Steve Dillard, a new Kingsburg resident who has heart for both the community, and the families that share the mortuary’s name, Dillards and Creightons.