New leadership takes helm at cemetery

05/14/2014 1:08 PM

05/14/2014 1:19 PM

The Los Banos Cemetery District is hoping to put a tumultuous 2013 to rest with the hiring of a manager who believes in compassion but is a product of military tradition and discipline.

Linda Brown was hired by the cemetery’s board of directors and took the helm May 1. Brown’s hiring follows a tumultuous 2013 at the cemetery that included cemetery manager Deborah Lewis being accused of not showing compassion toward grieving families, throwing away mementos left at gravesites and being criticized for enforcing the cemetery’s decorations policy.

Lewis gave her resignation effective March 9, but stayed on as interim manager until her replacement could be hired.

“The Los Banos Cemetery District Board of Trustees is pleased to announce the appointment of a new cemetery manager, Linda Brown,” said Duane Brehm, Los Banos Cemetery District Board president, in an email announcing the hiring. “The Board of Trustees felt that Ms. Brown’s mortuary and cemetery experience, coupled with her extensive administrative and supervisory experience, was a strong match for the requirements of the position.”

Reached for comment, Brown said, “I think Los Banos is a really nice small town. I’ve lived here almost four years.”

Brown, a Minnesota native who grew up “an Army brat,” spent three years working at a private Catholic cemetery in Los Altos. She said her family has deep roots in the industry.

“I was married to a man who was in the cemetery business his whole adult life. He expected his whole family to be in it too. So I was in the business before I was in the business, and my sons are funeral directors,” Brown said.

In Los Altos, Brown helped people with selecting plots and was asked to perform bookkeeping duties.

When asked about how she would balance enforcing the decorations policy with the desires of grieving loved ones, Brown responded, “I think it’s our mission as a cemetery to serve the people in the community. You have to have compassion.”

Brown is a military veteran. She left the Army as a corporal in 1990. The Armed Services trained her to work on helicopters.

Brown said she has spent her first week on the job “putting out fire.” She would not elaborate.

Brown is scheduled to have a cemetery walk-through with the board of directors next week. She said she is happy to oversee the operation of the cemetery.

Brown’s first cemetery board meeting as manager is May 19.

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