FAIRFIELD — Fairfield Funeral Home is located in central Fairfield, but that wasn’t the case when it began 50 years ago.
“When that building got built, it was outside of town,” owner Buck Kamphausen said.
The funeral home’s location hasn’t changed. Fairfield has. It added about 90,000 residents since then and greatly expanded its boundaries.
Stewart Comer started the business. Kamphausen bought it in 1971 from Mortuary of the Golden West, along with Skyview Memorial Lawn in Vallejo.
Even then, Fairfield was a far different place. Kamphausen got to watch Solano Town Center mall be built across the street.
“I think it was 1972 or 1973, they built the Penney store. It was like a sore thumb out there,” he said.
Edward Wallace started working for the funeral home in 1978. At that point, Penney’s still had a soda fountain where funeral home employees could go on a hot day.
“You went in that door and it was just inside,” he said, standing in the funeral home parking lot and pointing across the street.
Much has changed in the business over the years, as well. For one thing, Kamphausen as owner is less involved in some aspects of the day-to-day operations.
“I used to do all the embalming here,” Kamphausen said. “And went out on ambulance calls.”
An ambulance used to be run out of the funeral home in the early 1970s, as was common in past eras. That is no longer the case, as the county’s emergency medical response system has evolved. Fairfield Funeral Home dropped the ambulance in the 1970s.
Some changes have come about because of technology.
“We used to have to fill out a death certificate and take it to a doctor’s office or hospital or the coroner’s office and they’d sign it,” Kamphausen said. “We’d have to take it to the health department to get the burial permit.”
Now all the work is done electronically. That saves a lot of time traveling, Kamphausen said.
Forty-five percent to 55 percent of the cases handled by Fairfield Funeral Home are cremations, he said. That’s a big change since the 1970s, he said.
The funeral home offers a variety of services, such as a chapel, funerals, cremation, memorial services, prearrangements and cemetery arrangements. It offers markers, caskets, monuments and memorials. It offers a cremation scatter-at-sea service on an Orca 3 yacht.
Fairfield has a very diverse population, Kamphausen said. He attributes that to Travis Air Force Base bringing people here from all over the nation. That plays a role in his business.
“You get a lot of different needs and services that various ethnic people need and various religions needs,” he said. “We accommodate all of those.”
Advertising can be done on the Internet and other ways. But Fairfield Funeral Home also depends on word of mouth. Kamphausen said people who have used the funeral home tell others about it.
“It’s personal and direct contact and the past services,” Kamphausen said.
Kamphausen grew up in Littleton, Colo., at a time when it had only about 3,000 residents. He drove his first ambulance at age 16, he said.
“You have to learn early in farm town,” he said.
His experiences with ambulance companies led him along to wanting to be a doctor, Kamphausen said. But he later found out that the mortuary college had a two-year degree, compared to the multiple years it took to get a medical degree. He opted for the mortuary business.
With that move, he launched a long career that continues today.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.