Bunker Family Funeral Homes and Cremation opened the Gilbert Memorial Park Cemetery & Funeral Home on Nov. 12, allowing the town of Gilbert to shed the distinction of being the largest municipality in the United States without a cemetery.
The cemetery has been four years in the making since Gilbert first put out a request for proposal for the land.
“We knew the history of Gilbert, and we had known that they were the most populated municipality in the United States without a cemetery,” Bunker Family Funerals President Bryce Bunker said. “We wanted to be a part of changing that, and it was a natural extension of our services to the community and another way that we can provide value and care for them.”
Mayor Jenn Daniels said the town has made many attempts to bring a cemetery to Gilbert.
“I'm just so pleased that we were finally able to make this happen, both for our residents but also for the future of our community,” she said. “I also don't believe there's any accidents, so there's some reason why in years past it didn't work out. But I know that today we were prepared, our community was prepared and our incredible partners, the Bunker family, who we cannot thank enough for their efforts, were also prepared.”
Bryce Bunker noted that the first burial happened this week, when their family moved his brother, Brad, who died at age 4 in the 1970s, from the Mesa City Cemetery to Gilbert Memorial Park. Bunker said it was personal decision for his parents, but that it was one that demonstrated a commitment to the community.
He also said having gone through Brad’s death played a part in the design of the cemetery.
“It has allowed our family to have real life experience with the difficulty of losing somebody that you love, especially unexpectedly, and allowed us to be able to see things through the lens of those who we have the honor of caring for,” he said “We thought back on the experiences that we had of spending time at his prior resting place, and that helped drive some of the decisions on how Gilbert Memorial Park was developed and designed.”
Bunker Family Funerals has a 99-year lease on the land from the town with two 25-year options. The town anticipates receiving $13.25 million in revenue over the course of the lease against an initial investment of $2.29 million, according to town documents.
Phase one of the property boasts 10 acres of funeral grounds with more than 3,100 burial plots as well as nine private family estates and 88 indoor glass front niches for cremation remains. A multiuse tribute center on the site can host services, luncheons, receptions or other special events.
An open house will be held for the public from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, with tours of the property and funeral home available.