Chapel of the Chimes Debuts Bay Area’s First Witness Crematory

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With Opening of New Facility in January 2012, Cemetery in Hayward, CA, Responds to Growing National Trend Toward Cremation as End-of-Life Choice

More than 60% of people in California make the end-of-life choice to be cremated. California is among several states leading the trend toward cremation, which has been on the rise throughout the United States. With the debut of the Bay Area’s first witness crematory, allowing loved ones to view the ceremony leading up to cremation, Chapel of the Chimes in Hayward, CA, is responding to the rapidly growing requests for the service.

“We’re seeing more families deciding that cremation is the right choice for them,” says Harry Blakeman, general manager of Chapel of the Chimes in Hayward, CA.  “We serve people of all faiths, and we see many different situations. But cremation continues to be a growing preference among loved ones. With the opening of our new witness crematorium, we’re responding to what the apparent trend that cremation is becoming the end-of-life choice standard.”

According to the Cremation Association of North America, 14.9% of Americans were cremated in 1985.  By 2015, the percentage is expected to reach 44.42%. By 2025, more than 55% of Americans will choose cremation as their end-of-life process. Traditional burials are on the decline in California and throughout the country.  Cremation is now the preferred rite for taking care of remains after death.  Religion, economics and personal preference are a few reasons for the shift.

In America, profound demographic changes are driving the increase in cremation acceptance. Indian religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism all mandate cremation.  As society grows increasingly multicultural, growth in cremation practices will increase along with it. Today, most religions allow cremation, including nearly all Christian faiths across North America.  The Roman Catholic Church began to accept it in recent decades, as long as it is not chosen for reasons contrary to Christian teachings. 

“As our culture becomes more diverse and people start moving away from traditional burial choices, cremation continues to emerge as the preferred passing ritual,” says Blakeman. “We have embraced this change at Chapel of the Chimes. The recently renovated Witness Crematory offers families the opportunity to witness the cremation process and provides an area to pray, gather and visit. This grants the opportunity for the same ceremonial practices and traditions associated with burials.”

Cremation is simple and trouble-free allowing for less for families to worry about during this emotional time.  But cremation doesn’t mean forsaking the ceremony and reverence of a traditional burial. Today’s cremation services include many ceremonial proceedings and rituals associated with burial services.  Still, more people today feel they don’t want their bodies buried in the earth and prefer the “efficiency” of cremation.  Additionally, as we become more environmentally conscious, cremation is a viable green decision.  It conserves land and space, particularly in heavily populated urban areas.  

Today there are fewer restrictions around funerals and memorial services.  People are looking for flexible, personalized services, oftentimes non-denominational.  Cremation seems to be a natural fit with this thinking. Cremation has become preferred irrespective of religious background.

“Whether for religious, economic or personal reasons, the practice of cremation continues to grow,” says Blakeman. “We’re continuing to evolve our business to be responsive to those trends and provide a personalized service during a difficult time. Cremation has become a preferred choice for many but visitations and memorials in the cemetery will always be important for remembering loved ones.”


Chapel of the Chimes Hayward provides end-of-life services to families with diverse religious, ethnic and cultural traditions. Established in 1872 as a 7-acre cemetery in what is now Chapel of the Chimes Hayward, today the family of cemeteries, funeral homes and crematories has locations throughout Northern California. Chapel of the Chimes offers the most comprehensive end-of-life services of any company operating exclusively in the region. For more information, visit

Press Release 3-30-12

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