There’s an integral, silent role funeral director Ron Malmas plays in the community.
He helps provide a service that often goes unnoticed, but it’s a crucially important one nonetheless.
His foray into the career began at a young age. Growing up in Abottsford, Malmas’s home sat adjacent to a cliff, overlooking a cemetery. He said his grandma would often ask him and his three siblings what they wanted to be when they grew up.
“I’d say I wanted to be a doctor, but not for people who were alive,” Malmas said. “I don’t know why. I didn’t know what it was, what it was meant to do, but she thought I was a wicked child from that moment on. It’s always that it was there, and it’s a fascination I’ve had ever since I was a kid.
“We lived overtop of a cliff in our backyard and it was overlooking a cemetery and I could see it all the time. I’d always sit there and watch all the funeral services happen and I thought, this is cool. I don’t know why, I just thought it was cool.”
In 1978 Malmas’s fascination led him to begin studying a career as a funeral director, which took him to Quesnel 10 years ago, and to Williams Lake five years ago to become the director and embalmer at Compassionate Care Funeral Home.
Prior to beginning work he spent one year working on the job at a funeral home and another two years in post-secondary education at Simon Fraser University.
“Our courses that we study are biology, microbiology, physiology, anatomy, funeral psychology, funeral law and ethics,” he said. “Funeral law is a big, one-inch book and there are so many laws we have to know.
“We have to know everything about a human body a doctor needs to know and how it operates, except our bedside manner is different. We’re taught basic medical procedures as an embalmer, too.”
Malmas said the work they do at Compassionate Care Funeral Home is an integral part of the community.
“No one ever anticipates to come here but we better be here when they need us to be,” he said. “It’s very integral in a quiet way. When we graduate from university our oath is that we’re available to the community, to the world, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and never, ever walk away from that thought.”
That type of work schedule was tough at times, he said, but he and his two children learned to adapt.
“My kids kind of grew up with ‘Oh, well, the phone rang. Dad’s got to go to work. It’s Christmas morning but that’s OK — Dad’s got to go to work.’ I’ve worked 48 hours straight, missed numerous family functions — I missed my youngest son’s graduation from high school because of work — but that’s just the nature of the beast, as they say.”
Despite that he said it’s been an extremely fulfilling career.
“When I look at the more than 30 years I’ve got in here now, it’s definitely interesting,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. The person that comes in with the attitude of wanting to help a family, to help somebody, those are the people who stay because they’ve got that caring nature about them. You have to be in it for the right reasons.”
That caring nature, Malmas said, is a gift he was given.
“I look at the rest of my family and I’m the only white-collar worker,” he said. “I grew up in a very red-neck home. My family still gives me that sideways look every now and again.”
Outside of his career Malmas said his passions are photography, cooking and providing ministerial services to Williams Lake and Quesnel. He’s also a director with the Williams Lake Daybreak Rotary Club (WLDRC).
He said Williams Lake and the Cariboo-Chilcotin provide so many great avenues for him to explore in photography.
“Most people go hunting with a gun,” he said. “I go hunting with a camera. I’m into scenery photography — environmental scenery, animals, trees, whatever.
“I love the Chilcotin. I love the Cariboo — just going out and taking pictures and seeing the nice areas we have. Williams Lake as a whole offers a lot — it’s a great, little community with numerous things to do if you want to do them.”
As a director with the WLDRC since 2009 Malmas has helped with projects such as Haiti relief, a fundraising project for Fukushima tsunami relief, which raised several thousands of dollars and he’s now exploring a water project with a group from Belize.
“Locally we’ve got First Nations libraries we’re putting in around the Chilcotin,” he said. “We’ve got two already done — one in Dog Creek and another in Toosey. Mid September is when the next one will be completed. And, of course, the Williams Lake Daybreak Rotary Stampede Parade is a big effort.”
Malmas said he happened upon the local Rotary Club by chance.
“They came to me and asked for permission to use my parking lot property for their parade and they invited me to a breakfast afterward to say thank you and I never left,” he said. “I thought, ‘You do all this stuff? Cool.’ I joined them and stayed. It’s a chance to give back and help others around the world less fortunate than we are. Our motto is service above self.”
Despite all of the work Malmas contributes to the community, he does find time to get away to reunite with his family for one week a year.
“My older brother, older sister, younger brother and my dad — we do an annual fishing vacation for a week every year and that’s how we all get to see each other,” he said.
His oldest son is currently in school at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, while his youngest son is in the military in Oromocto, NB. with his wife and their two-year-old daughter.
“That’s something I’m looking forward to this year,” he said. “I get to meet my granddaughter in 21 days. They’re coming out here to visit so that should be fun.”