Our Story

Learn our story, from the beginning and into the future.

We have years of experience caring for families, from all walks of life. Each family comes to us because they know we are leaders in our profession, dedicated to excellence in service, and have the highest integrity. Celebrating our 100th year of service to the community of Fresno.

 
 
105
years in business
 
 

Learn the legacy.

1914

On July 1, 1914, the Fresno crematory was opened. The crematory consisted of two cremation chambers, a chapel and a columbarium. The property is located on Belmont Avenue, west of Roeding Park, and north of the Mountain View Cemetery, which was established in 1888.

Originally behind the crematory, there was a streetcar track that ran through Roeding Park and dead-ended at the crematory.

There was also a self-made airport on the balance of the property. Local aviators, who flew bi-planes for their own pleasure, established the airport.

1914

The crematory was a product of prominent citizens who wished to establish a crematory in the Fresno area. They formed a private stock company in order to finance the project. The Fresno crematory was the first crematory in the valley. The closest crematory before the Fresno crematory was built was in Oakland.

Mr. Lawrence Moore, president of the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, was also a designer of cremation chambers. The developers of the Fresno crematory knew nothing about cremation chambers and once they discovered Mr. Moore, they contracted his services for the crematory.

1919

The developers did not want to manage or run the crematory, so they were looking for someone to take it over and they approached Mr. Moore. Mr. Moore agreed to purchase the majority of the stock and he became the owner in 1919.

Herbert Hargrave worked for Mr. Moore at the Chapel of the Chimes and was asked by Mr. Moore if he would come to Fresno and help find someone who could manage the chapel, with the agreement that when he found someone he could return to Oakland.

1919

Mr. Moore never found a manager and he remained at the chapel for 60 years as manager.

Mr. Moore had his work cut out for him. He first made it a point to become known in the community, and at that time there were many organizations that were very active. He joined many of the clubs and lodges, as well as the Chamber of Commerce. Soon, he became well known in the community.

The crematory has become a place of early Fresno history. Many of the movers and shakers are inurned in the old or original section.

1979

In 1979, Herbert Hargraver retired because of bad health and his son, Robert Keith Hargrave became manager of the chapel.

1983

In 1983, the chapel was sold to Buck Kamphausen, a funeral director. Mr. Kamphausen, added another service to the chapel and that was the funeral home.

The following are some of the prominent names you can expect to see:

Dr. Chester Rowell - owner of the Fresno Republican Newspaper, served three years as state senator, and was mayor of Fresno. He died in office. A statue of Dr. Rowell remains in the Courthouse Park. Dr. Rowell was inurned in a silver urn, which was donated by the Armenian people of Fresno. When the Armenian people migrated to the valley they did not have many funds and when they became ill, Dr. Rowell took care of them and often did not expect any remuneration.

T. W. Patterson - in 1888 he came to Fresno as a young real estate capitalist and built the T. W. Patterson building which still is in existence in downtown Fresno.

T. C. White was a raisin farmer and the first person in Fresno County to plant a Thompson seedless vineyard. Mr. White also constructed the White Theater and the Fresno Hotel.

M. Theodore Kearney was a person of great means and a developer of large areas of property, primarily vineyards. He promoted the first California Raisin Growers Association. He owned the Kearney Mansion and more than 5,000 acres of land. Mr. Kearney died at sea in 1906 and his body was taken to his destination in Europe and cremated there. The cremated remains were sent back to Fresno and placed in a safe at the Kearney Mansion.

Robert Barton built the Barton opera house in 1890 and for a quarter of a century the opera house was filled with professional music and was enjoyed by all.

Oscar j. Woodward was a well-known banker throughout the valley. The Woodward Park was named after him.

One of our most unusual urns is a replica of a home on Van Ness Blvd. Mr. & Mrs. Ben Levy were in the process of building a home in what is now known as Fig Garden on Van Ness Blvd. and the home was close to completion when Mrs. Levy took a trip to Texas to visit her sister. Mrs. Levy was in an automobile accident and was killed. Mr. Levy came to the chapel and made arrangements for her niche.

The first additions to the crematory were two columbarium rooms. The rooms were faced with stone and beautifully designed. At that time they brought in Doris Day, a protégé of Julia Morgan. Ms. Day had worked with Julia Morgan at Hearst Castle for some years. Ms. Day did all of the interior designing of the buildings and you will be able to appreciate her artistic ability when you view these two rooms and the chapel, which she also worked on.

All of our future indoor additions were mausoleums and were built at the west end of the buildings. We included niches within the mausoleum. Aaron Green, who was a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright, designed our new buildings. Mr. Green's buildings reflect the very modern and beautiful design style of Mr. Wright, which are reflected in the cathedral type ceilings and the beautiful pools and fountains.

We continued to add on many more mausoleum buildings both inside and outdoors. Along with our growth, more well known Fresno people were interned in the buildings.

The most famous was William Saroyan, an author. When Mr. Saroyan passed away they had a committee who was in charge of making all of the arrangements. They came to the chapel and wanted to select a niche and two matching bronze urns. One urn was placed in a niche in Fresno and the other was taken to Soviet Armenia. The urns were engraved exactly the same, except for the one detail. The committee insisted that the words "born in Fresno, California" appeared on the urn.

J. C. Forkner - a land developer. His greatest and most memorable work is in the Fig Garden area, which consisted of 12,000 acres. Mr. Forkner surfaced 120 miles of road and planted 600,000 fig trees and 60,000 ornamental trees.

Today this is still the most beautiful area in Fresno. Unfortunately there are only a few fig trees left. Christmas Tree Lane and the Van Ness extension, with all of the beautiful homes, are all a part of this Forkner acreage.

We are the only place in Fresno that can offer a full service arrangement - funeral home, mausoelum, cemetery and crematory. In order to have a state-of-the-art funeral home we added 5000 square feet to the facility, which consisted of a casket selection room, two state rooms, offices, a hospitality room and an apartment.

Chapel of the Light has become Fresno's premiere funeral home. They continue to give back to the community that patronize their firm. they support many local causes such as Hinds Hospice, and various church and civic organizations. Being one of the few remaining locally owned and operated funeral homes, Chapel of the Light will celebrates its 100th Anniversary this year.

Who We Are

Meet our staff. Members of the local community make everything that happens possible.
Together, we make this place amazing.

Michael J. Rabara

Michael J. Rabara

General Manager
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Matthew A. Pascua

Matthew A. Pascua

Funeral Director
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Rita L.. Mendoza

Rita L.. Mendoza

Funeral Counselor
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Rosemarie  Valenzuela

Rosemarie Valenzuela

Office Administrator
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