By Dawn Krebs
FORT PIERCE -- Tucked off U.S. 1 in Fort Pierce, Hillcrest Memorial Gardens has quietly sat, watching St. Lucie County grow around it.
But no matter how hectic or how stressful a traumatic event can be for a family, the staff at the gardens and Aycock Funeral Home, a cemetery combination facility, does everything they can to help people through a difficult process.
"The memorial gardens were first here in 1954," said Meri Beacham, family service advisor for the gardens. "Over the last 50 years, we have added mausoleums, monuments and a cremation garden."
In addition, the gardens offer a veterans garden, a Masonic garden and more.
"We place many cremated remains in our cemetery," she said. "It's a place for the entire family."
Last year, the business placed a butterfly garden within the cremation gardens, planting butterfly-friendly plants and bushes.
"We want to make it as comfortable for the family as we can," she said.
The business also handles all funeral products and services, that allow families the ability to do all their planning at one time.
"The families need you so badly during this time, and it's so good to be able to help them," Ms. Beacham said.
A common misconception is that most people wait until tragedy strikes to make funeral arrangements, but in reality, preplanning is playing a bigger and bigger role.
"When things are done ahead of time, the family has peace of mind," she said. "Putting your wishes down in writing and making sure your family knows what to do is everyone's responsibility."
The mobility of families is another thing the business addresses.
It offers a national transferability program through the Dignity network, where any product or service purchased here will be honored by any other Dignity provider in the United States.
Other services include bereavement travel services, which can help with costs associated with airline travel and hotel stays; a grief management library, which offers a variety of grief support literature, as well as a compassion hotline that allows families to talk to a grief counseling professional.
One program the company has allows veterans to purchase burial spaces and receive a space for their spouse at the same time.
There's even a program to assist with homeless veterans.
"If a veteran cannot pay the cost of burial, the company makes sure the soldier gets a veteran's funeral," she said.
But here in Fort Pierce, there are hometown touches, as well.
Every year, Hillcrest Memorial Gardens holds a candlelight service during the holiday season as a way for family members to remember their loved ones. The event is open to the public, and this year will be held at 6 p.m. on Dec. 11.
"More than 3,000 luminaries are placed on all the roadways within the gardens," Ms. Beacham said. "Then a non-denominational service is held. About 300 people attended last year. It's just another way we want to help the families here."
Hillcrest Memorial Gardens is located at 6026 N. U.S. 1 in Fort Pierce. For more information, call (772) 461-8912.