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Seaside Funeral Home connects to community, celebrates life

T. Mark Cooper, managing partner for Carriage Services, which owns Seaside Funeral Home and Memorial Park in Corpus Christi. Photo by Carrie Robertson Meyer/Third Coast Photo

Seaside Funeral Home and Memorial Park, Corpus Christi Funeral Home, Rose Hill Cemetery and Seaside Cemetery. Together, they add up to more than 150 years of service to the Corpus Christi community. To the man who runs them, T. Mark Cooper, it all adds up to family.

“Our customers are like family,” said Cooper, who has served as managing partner for the Carriage Services properties for the past 10 years. “A lot of our directors have been here a long time, unlike a lot of other funeral homes, where there is a lot of turnover.”

That longevity has led to a feeling of family and community among the staff and the people they serve.

“They know people in the community,” Cooper said. “People come in and ask for specific directors. I think knowing the people is an important thing.”

Also important is the ability to operate the two funeral homes and three cemeteries like independent businesses and not a conglomerate. Carriage Services, which is headquartered in Houston, asks its managing partners to treat each location as a single business, working to serve the needs of an individual community.

“It sets us apart from most of the rest of the funeral homes,” Cooper said. “We don’t operate by manuals with locked-in policies and procedures. We run it just like it was an independent funeral home, and that has worked out well.”

That sense of independence and connection to a region allows a funeral home to honor local customs and culture in a way that celebrates an individual’s life. Cooper noted with sadness that some families come and say they want nothing more than a memorial service, while others just want a quick burial.

“They are not celebrating that individual’s life,” he said. “A funeral should be about that person and what they loved in life.”

He pointed to recent services for a man who loved to fish.

“The family brought in pictures of him fishing, and we put them up on a big screen,” he said. “It was a celebration of his life. It’s a good way, I think, to go through the grieving process.”

Cooper’s expertise on the topic comes from a lifetime of experience in the business.

“I grew up on the back of a grave-digging truck in East Texas,” he said. “My grandfather dug graves by hand. My aunt’s mother ran the funeral home in Grand Saline. I went to school to learn about it, and here I sit after 50 years.”

Before coming to Corpus Christi, Cooper worked at a large funeral home with 12 cemeteries in Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston. He retired from the business for three years before he got the call to come down to Corpus Christi.

“I said no at first,” Cooper said. “They said they really needed me, so I agreed.”

He has stayed with the Corpus Christi operation because he says it serves the community and works with people to provide the best, most meaningful services to fit a family’s budget.

Over the years, Cooper has seen significant changes in the business, especially when it comes to the issue of cost. Cremations, which are cheaper than burials, have increased to 31 percent of the business from 21 percent. People are also shopping around more, making comparisons before decisions.

Pre-planning has also gained in importance, allowing people to decide on their own services and locking in costs. Prices are always increasing, especially when it comes to burial plots. Pre-planning saves money and stress, Cooper said, which brought him back to the subject of community.

“We are driven to be involved in community,” Cooper said. He is a member of the Mustang Club, which cooks for charity events and has four big barbecue pits that he loans out to churches throughout the year at no charge.

Other employees belong to the Westside Business Association and the Corpus Christi Black Chamber of Commerce. They have received citizenship awards and are involved in helping fundraisers and events throughout the year.

“I think we are a friend to the community,” he said. “We help the community in all sorts of ways.”

Not the least of which is providing the care, compassion and consideration families need during the most trying times of their lives.

Seaside Funeral Home and Memorial Park is located at 4357 Ocean Drive. Call (361) 992-9411 for more information or visit The other funeral homes and cemeteries can also be reached with the same phone number.

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