Making Funeral Arrangements

Parent Q&A

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  • We're looking ahead to setting up a final resting place.  We'd love thoughts or experiences with Chapel of the Chimes and Mt. View Cemetary.  We love walking in Mt View and it's always felt so welcoming -  though less so now as they've limited public access since the pandemic.   They also have construction projects going on that don't seem to be progressing.  We'd be cremated but have a spot selected for us in either place.   Thanks for your thoughts!!  

    Personally, I found the customer service for the cemetery services appallingly bad. We did not have a chapel service because my mom died at the height of the first COVID wave so I don't have experience with the chapel. As for cemetery services, my brother and I were treated with great kindness and patience as we selected a plot. After she died, the service was poor for the average business but shockingly bad given the content area. Would I want her buried anywhere else? No. Just like you, I have happy memories of walking with my mom in the cemetery. When I called to notify them of death an hour after she had died, the first comment was "how would you like to complete your payment?" It continued like that. My experience with Mountain View, from death until stone placement, made a pretty miserable time of my life worse. It wasn't just one person, but my brother and I found the majority of staff to be extremely insensitive.  Also, it's gotten better now, but while it was completely closed to the public, I got a pretty thorough grilling every time I went to visit her grave. The cemetery is gorgeous, but just be prepared that the service after death may not be as sensitive as one would hope. If you and/or the person handling your final arrangement is aware of that, then go for it.

    I think both are nice.  My husband's relatives are at Mountain View and we go once or twice a year to visit them. His parents and grandparents are buried on a hill near a big oak tree and his great aunt and uncle are in the large crematorium that looks like a Greek temple.  We bring flowers and they supply brass vases to put them in on the little doors, and outside there are containers for flowers too. It's such a beautiful place and so pleasant to walk through the grounds which are well maintained.  Mountain View has a really interesting history - it was designed in 1863 by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same guy who designed Central Park in NYC.  A lot of famous people are buried there and there are sections devoted to special groups. The Oakland Historical Society does guided walks through there every once in a while that I highly recommend.

    My elderly mom passed away in February and we used Chapel of the Chimes to handle her cremation. We had an excellent experience. My mom had not made any plans ahead of time but she had been clear that she wanted to be cremated and her ashes taken to Tennessee where her parent are buried. So we were purchasing the very minimum of services from Chapel of the Chimes. We used them because that is the service that the skilled nursing facility used where my mom lived. The people at Chapel of the Chimes were lovely and were able to meet with us the same day we called them. They handled everything, they did not push any premium services on us or try to sell us anything, and afterwards they gave my sister and me a private tour of the mausoleum and chapel, which was designed by Julia Morgan (who is buried at Mtn View) and is absolutely gorgeous. They host a yearly music festival where musicians are invited to play in all the different little rooms. Both Chapel of the Chimes and Mountain View are hidden gems of the East Bay and well worth a visit.

    We toured both for our parents' final resting place. It's not clear from your post if you have already purchased a niche at either or both places, but if not, you should schedule a sales visit at each before you make your decision. Chapel of Chimes is so grand and beautiful, the older portions are like being buried in a Rockefeller mansion, but the newer, available niches are in the newer portion, which has a different feel entirely. We found the niches at Chapel of Chimes much more expensive than the choices at Mountain View. We eventually chose Mountain View because they had recently built a few more outdoor niches with sweeping views of the hills and the bay, and it was just so beautiful. They do have some indoor spaces, but I didn't like the cold feel of the building. I believe the construction going on is to build a reflecting pool (?) with space for more niches, so that might be very peaceful and beautiful too when it is complete.

    As for our experience with the funeral services, the rep was verrrry slow to reply to emails and sometimes didn't pay attention to details. I know another poster said the staff was rude, but we never experienced that. Our rep was always appropriately respectful and considerate. He kept offering his condolences and even remembered our parents who had visited many years ago before they passed. We just had to call him over and over again to get things done in time, and we had to be eagle eyed to proof read the inscriptions (multiple typos!). By the way, I think this is how many funeral homes are. We unfortunately have had to arrange a few funerals/burials in the past few years, and all the funeral homes we have dealt with have told us they are swamped, understaffed, and none of them were good at returning calls or emails. But in the end, all the funerals happened, were sad but lovely, and nobody noticed any glitches.

    We never had a problem visiting the cemetery at Mountain View. There is a security person at the front, and they always respectfully wave us through when we tell them we are there to visit a gravesite. We go visit our parents' niche often and we love how the niche is outdoors, parking is easy, and the view is amazing. It is such a serene place, a lovely final resting place.

  • Planning ahead for the end of the line

    (9 replies)

    My wife and I are in the winter of our years and we do not know have many more seasons we will enjoy. Realizing this scenario we want to plan ahead for the inevitable outcome especially if one of us dies while at home. In this case some representatives of a mortuary must come to collect the body. Because neither of us has the experience with such matters we would very much appreciate any recommendations for local mortuaries which have a very good reputation for help in this matter at the appropriate time.. We would like to deal with a business which is tactful. kind, sympathetic, compassionate as there will undoubtedly be some anguish and discomfort felt by the remaining spouse as we have been together for over 60 years. As a side note, both of us wish to be cremated. Many thanks for your suggestions.

    I'm sorry to hear of your situation.  Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland handled my father's body and his cremation after he passed away at home last year.  They were incredibly kind and supportive, and I would highly recommend them.

    It's great that you are planning ahead, as hard as it is to contemplate your own deaths.  Many people I have worked with have used Neptune Society or Smart Cremation to do the pre-planning.  Counselors at Neptune Society have been particularly sensitive to work with.  It gives a sense of peace to know the plans are made ahead of time, and it spares a little of the anguish later. You could do the planning for both of you now and make sure you both have agents on your Advance Directives or in your estate planning to carry out your wishes.  I wish you both all the best.

    My parents have an agreement with the Neptune Society for cremation. I am not sure how it works however suggest you contact them for information. 

    I highly recommend the Neptune Society.  My late mother did all of her arranging years before she became ill and incapacitated.  They are professional in every way.  I also accompanied my late aunt to her consultation with them and when she passed away a few years later, I had the same compassionate and professionally handled experience.  I have worked with three different offices (San Francisco, Novato, and Walnut Creek).  Going now and doing the pre-planning will alleviate a lot of the concerns you may be having now.

    Good luck

    In my will I have Chapel of the Chimes, Piedmont expressed


    When my father passed away somewhat unexpectedly, I used Pacific Internment Services and was very happy with them. We had not arrangements with them in advance but they still showed up in the middle of the night to transport my father’s body. They were very kind and professional at every step. We opted for a cremation and kept everything simple. They coordinated various paperwork requirements for us (obtaining death certificate, notifying social security) and everything went smoothly and was done with open communication about fees, etc. Although we did not make any advance arrangements with them, I imagine this would be possible. 

    I don't have a specific recommendation for you but the non-profit Funeral Consumer's Alliance is a good source for more information.  I don't have experience with the local chapter but they are a good organization in my home town.

    I had a good experience with the Neptune Society with my parent which included the cremation and distribution of cremains. My mother signed up for it years before she was even sick, and I think they may have had a local mortuary that they worked with specifically. For those of us involved in end of life, it was as smooth as it could be. I was located in AZ at the time, so I can't comment on the specific mortuaries used here, but if you look up the Society you can see if they are a good fit for you. They provide services all over the country. 

    I applaud you and your wife for being proactive with your aging experience and would like to let you know about a new program called Gateway.  Gateway is a peer-based, prevention and early intervention program of the Berkeley Age Friendly Continuum and is funded through the City of Berkeley, Kaiser, Sutter/Alta Bates and the Gerbode Foundation.  Gateway offers a free, one-time home visit to people over 65 living in Berkeley, to engage older adults in meaningful and reflective conversation in order to explore financial and housing needs, social, technology and transportation options, and safety issues among other things. Gateway looks at challenges and concerns and then helps the person to access resources in the community that can aid in mitigating barriers to positive, healthy aging.  Each participant receives a binder of resources to take their next steps. The goals of the program include reducing accidents, emergencies, medical costs, and supporting older adults to age the way they want to!

    A resource included in the binder (which may be relevant to your issue) is Bay Area Funeral Consumers Association at BA-FCA is a non-profit organization that does not have ties with the funeral industry or any religious group.  This is just one example of the resources that Gateway could assist with.  Check out or contact Barbara Williams, Gateway Program Manager at (510) 559-0036 for further information!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


My mum wants me to make funeral arrangements - good mortuaries?

Jan 2014

Any advice out there for handling funeral arrangements? My mum just went on hospice and I want to have my information ready in advance so I'm not gathering that info under rushed stress. She already has a plot at Rolling Hills in Richmond and she wants a graveside service and plain casket.

I would like your input on mortuary services - ones that are good or ones to stay away from - and your experience; any advice or information you wish you had had at the time.

Sincere thanks, jessica

Dear Jessica - My heart goes out to you. Before my father died I found the all- volunteer nonprofit Bay Area Funeral Society. I signed up myself and my dad for a pittance and got a list of local mortuaries with their services and prices. I didn't have to wade through awful mortician sales bs, the Funeral Society had already contracted with them for the best price. Frank the mortician (in Emeryville) was no nonsense and took care of the details (pick up, cremation, sea scatter) for less than $1000 - well within my student budget.

Currently, the BAFS is not active (they need new volunteers) but the Funeral Consumers Alliance of San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, is 'dedicated to protecting the right to choose meaningful, dignified, affordable death care'. They have information on your rights, planning ahead, plus info on DIY, green burial, etc. Plus, a limited price/services spreadsheet for Alameda, SF and Contra Costa County mortuaries. Even a hotline!

This is really hard stuff and good on you for getting a handle on this before you need to. Wishing you and your mother an easy transition, Shirley

Stillborn cremation

Sept 2014

One of my twins passed away at 20 weeks and I would like to have him cremated once he and his brother are born. I would like a recommendation of a mortuary that will do this at a low cost. I can't cope with the thought of my son being treated as medical waste but we are also very low on funds. Grieving Mom

I'm so sorry for ur loss. I had a stillbirth and the hospital social worker arranged a low cost cremation at a local crematorium. It was $10-15. wishing u all the best in ur grieving and healing. feel for u

I am so very sorry for your loss. We were in a similar situation and our OB recommended the Neptune Society of Northern California. They waive most of the normal cremation fee for babies so it was only about $100 or so (if I remember correctly) - that was about 6 years ago. I almost didn't go ahead with it because it felt too difficult to make the phone call to them but I was so glad that I did. They were very kind and compassionate and everything was taken care of in that one phone call. They dealt with the hospital when it was time and then we picked up her ashes later from their office. The number for the Oakland office is (510) 451-0887 or, if you are in a different area see for their other locations. Take care of yourself on this difficult journey. Been there

I'm so sorry for your loss. A friend of mine is a rabbi and I remember her mentioning that when she was called to the hospital to support a family in a similar tragic situation, the funeral home did not charge the family. Maybe a local clergyperson or hospital clergy or social worker could help you figure this out. (My rabbi friend is in another state or I'd consult with her on your behalf.) Hope this is helpful

My grandfather wants to be cremated - make arrangements in advance?

Feb 2012


I ended up taking care of my elderly grandparents. I know for sure my grandfather wants to be cremated. Can anyone recommend a place in the East Bay? Do arrangements have to be done in advance?

Thank you! ellen

dear caring granddaughter~ in my opinion there is only one place to go. Pacific Internment in emeryville. I recently helped a young man (22yo) navigate losing his father. Pacific internment could not have been more sensitive, professional and appropriately communicative. -zero upselling or bait & switch (no grief gouging) -cheapest cremation in bay area -excellent reputation -chosen by jessica mittford, author of 'the american way of death' for her own cremation. (read this yrs ago... REQUIRED reading for us all; available in every library.) This was the third time I've worked with this company. Class act each time. ~~privledged to have been there

My husband did some work for Apollo Crematorium in Emeryville not too long ago and told me their seemingly quite affordable prices. I can't review their service itself but you might want to check them out at least. As I recall from when my grandparents died you can arrange all this after they have passed. It's nice to have in place beforehand though as you'll have many other details to think about at that time. L

We used Smith and Witter Funeral Home in El Sobrante last year.They were one of the best priced places, it was a decent neighborhood and they were very nice.We had them do the cremation and we picked up the ashes in a container and scattered them ourselves.We did not plan it ahead of time and first contacted them after our loved one died at the hospital. Ellen

Pacific Interment offers direct cremation for around $1,000. They are very sensitive, and professional. Here's their link: Beryle

Looking for a reputable funeral home

June 2011

I'm trying to help my elderly in-laws do some planning for what they want at the end of their lives. I'm looking for a reputable funeral home in the East Bay that can help us with the necessary arrangements at the time of their deaths. Any recommendations?

Also, has anyone had any experience with Sunset View Cemetery in El Cerrito? We are looking at the possibility of purchasing cemetery plots in Sunset View Cemetery for my in-laws. Any reasons to go ahead with this or to avoid this place?

Thanks! planning for the future

I recently dealt with Smith and Witter Funeral Home in El Sobrante.Their prices were better than most and they were pleasant people to deal with.We had a cremation done so I do not know the details about burials. Ellen

I recently had a fantastic experience at Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, located at the top of Piedmont Ave. They could not have been more thoughtful, helpful and I think the cost was very reasonable. I can recommend them very highly. They could not have been more kind or accommodating. They made a very difficult loss a little bit easier, and we so appreciated their services. We had had experiences with two other funeral homes in the past, and Chapel of the Cimes was absolutely head and shoulders above the rest. The fact that they are located in a beautiful building designed by Julia Morgan was yet another positive factor. Anon

I couldn't be more grateful that I found Pacific Interment Mortuary when I was looking: 1094 Yerba Buena Avenue; Emeryville, CA 94608; (510) 450-0187. They are philosophically opposed to the practices and prices of the mainstream funeral industry, and they carried their philosophy into practice.

There is also a movement that's been gathering steam regarding home funerals, green funerals and do-it-yourself funerals--searchable online. Wishing You Well

Cemetery/crematorium near to Berkeley?

June 2009

Hi, I was recently surprised by a request of my elderly mom who indicated that she would like to be buried in Berkeley, near where I live. (Or, near Berkeley, of course) She prefers to be cremated, and is a Veteran. Does anyone know what our options are? Is there a cemetery nearby? Being cremated, I assume (hope?) that she needn't have purchased a ''plot'' previously, but I don't know that. Can anyone provide recommendations? Thank you so much. Burial near Berkeley?

I don't know of any cemeteries in Berkeley, but Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland (at the top of Piedmont Ave) is lovely and has a crematorium/columbarium. It's one of the most peaceful and beautiful cemeteries I've ever been in. I, and many others, walk and jog there all the time, and it always seems full of life and happiness, oddly enough. It has a fascinating history, too. Surprised to be a Cemetery Fan Chapel of the Chimes Oakland Columbarium, Crematorium, Mausoleum, Funeral Home (FD#1254) 4499 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611 510-654-0123 (24-hour service) When my Mom died, they arrived in about 30 minutes, and took care of everything; no fuss, no muss. At that moment, that was a big plus. --been there

Please do yourself a favor and contact Raymond Lutnes at Chapel of the Chimes (510-435-8311). I know Raymond well, and he is a dear, dear man who can help you with any arrangements you need. Also, the place (adjacent to Oakland's Mountain View cemetery) is a beautiful Julia Morgan building that's a pleasure to visit. Laura

You would be well served by checking out Chapel of the Chimes beautiful landmark cemetery @ 4499 Piedmont Ave. in Oakland. I recommend asking for Raymond Lutnes (cell 510-435-8311) to assist you finding a memorial location to purchase for your mother. You can count on him to listen to what you want, show you the wide range of available options, and be there for you after the sale. Stu

Cemetery and funeral home for a ceremony

May 2009

My 96 year old grandmother just passed away peacefully 2 days ago. Next step is finding a burial location and funeral home for a ceremony. Oakmont in Walnut Creek wants to charge us minimal of $11,750 which doesn't even include a casket, which they quote us starting from several thousands.

Have you had a good experience w/ an alternative funeral home and burial? Thank you in advance. Susan

Not sure about the burial site, but I do recommend Pacific Internment in Emeryville. I was pleased with the way they handled things for my dad. (We opted for cremation.) They have a good reputation. Direct burial--not including casket or cemetery--is only $1100. Caskets can be rented or purchased. Maybe they can guide you on finding a cemetery that meets your needs. Website is Been There

I asked a colleague at Chapel of the Chimes and he writes: We accommodate families with a complete arrangement including local original transfer of remains to our funeral home, (Baron) metal casket, Chapel Service in your choice of one of our 3 beautiful chapels, and Indoor (Convenient street level access) 1st floor burial for one person (including family customized cast bronze memorial plaque and interment fees) at our Oakland Facility @ 4499 Piedmont Ave. location for a modest $12,800.00. The indoor burial location included in this price is (tier#6) located approximately 12 feet above eye level?.upgrades to eye level locations are available at an additional charge. Burial on 2nd and 3rd floors requires additional upgrade investment. For additional information, please ask for Raymond Lutnes Ph: 510-435-8311

Stu S

Funeral home for cremation

Jan 2009

We're planning ahead -- and saw nothing in the archives on funeral homes. We don't really need other funeral home services, just a way to get a body cremated. But, you can't contract directly with a crematorium, right? (Yes, my entire knowledge on this subject comes from watching Six Feet Under.)

So... our interests are logisitcal simplicity and cost. Is there another way to get a body cremated? If we do need to go through a funeral home, do you have recommendations on which one?

Thanks, guys! anne

We used Neptune Society. You can choose to have a funeral or not. They cremate and will help you with distribution of the ashes if you want. They are no-nonsense and economical, and our experience with them was really good. Linda

In my experience with my mom's remains we didn't have to go thru a funeral home. We used a crematorium in Emeryville. I don't remember the name. They were very good. They came to her nursing home and took her out, did the cremation and we picked up the remains. They gave us all the proper paperwork (esp. since we wanted to travel by air with her need a permit). They didn't pressure us to get any fancy containers.

What I had to do in advance is contact them and let them know that when my mom passed we wanted them to be the ones called. It all went well and very smoothly.

We had a memorial service at our synagogue. If you are looking for a place to do that, or to show the body before being cremated you may need a funeral home...I don't know about that part. Good luck. HOpe this is helpful. anon

Pacific Internment society, located in Emeryville and Oakland. Locally owned and ethical, also the lowest price I found. I did a lot of research on cremation companies(like Neptune, Nautilus, etc.) and spoke with some of the local non-profit funeral societies before making my decision. Jessica Mitford, who wrote the original expose on the funeral home business (The American Way of Death) used them. They handled my father's cremation well. You can fill out all the paperwork now without paying anything--I did so for family members (using my POA) and for myself. Lola

When I cremated each of my parents, I looked into lower-cost ways such as going direct to the crematorium. There are legal issues and also additional fees for several required things. So I used a funeral home. It was easier and probably the same cost in the long run. I asked a business associate of mine at Chapel of the Chimes and here is his reply.

In order to have cremation done in the state of California, a business licensed as a funeral home is contracted to pickup up the (human remains) body and transport it to their establishment. The funeral home also applies for a permit for disposition of the remains from the Health Department before cremation can legally be performed as well as processing information and submitting application for certified copies of the death certificate.

When the permit has been obtained, cremation can be scheduled. Some funeral homes, including Chapel of the Chimes, have a crematory on the premises. Others don't, making it necessary for the family to make separate arrangements with a funeral home, and a crematory. If the latter is the case, the funeral home will deliver the human remains to the crematory at a time of the crematory's discretion after necessary documentation has been completed.

For additional information, please contact: Raymond Lutnes Lifemark Group/Chapel of the Chimes Ph: 510-435-8311

To arrange for pickup of human remains, please phone the Chapel of the Chimes reception # 510-654-0123

Stu S