Robert Zakar gives back to community
EL CAJON — There is a scene in the classic 1941 film, “Citizen Kane” where an exuberant millionaire playboy Kane (Orson Welles) exclaims, “I think it would be fun to run a newspaper.” The context here being that publishing a paper is nothing more than a simple diversion.
In local terms, Robert Zakar, who was raised in a family of merchants and has successfully operated gas stations, grocery outlets and convenience stores, decided to take a left turn and delve into — well, for lack of a better term — the body transport business.
“When people pass away, we will take the deceased to a hospital or funeral home,” Zakar said. “My brothers would handle the actual transportation, while I would do the marketing and accounting.
“At first, I did not want anything to do with removing bodies, it seemed pretty creepy to me; but when I thought about it, I realized that it was about the loved ones left behind,” he said. “I found that, yes, there is still a rather macabre element to it sometimes, but I could do so much to help those grieving a terrible and irreversible loss.”
That was in 2003.
Five years later, after California Transports Solutions has become the standard in the industry, Zakar branched out and took over the East County Mortuary. And while many might think it’s just something to do between his real job, to him and his family, this was the next logical step.
“I am a person who loves life and everything about it,” he said. “The thought of death was not something that was constantly on my mind. But, I saw so many people in pain who had lost loved ones and had no place to turn.”
For him, it was about the respect a person was entitled to. The overwhelming and often prohibitive cost of the the service, though had given the industry a black in recent decades.
“The costs of funerals were so high, I wanted to give those left behind some options to honor their loved ones without driving them into poverty,” he said.
Do not look for “Crazy Eddie’s Funeral Shop,” however. Zakar stresses that he does not offer cut-rate or cheap memorials, just promises to work with clients and give them the best services for what they can spend (he does offer various plans for customers to help them in any way he can).
According to Zakar, services are not for the dead, but the living. He claims he strives to do his best to give those left a beautiful remembrance of their loved ones lives.
“Here, we strive to accommodate all religions and creeds,” Zakar said. “We serve many people in the East County and beyond. Recently, we had a service for a Buddhist and a Chaldean on the same day.
“We’ve had situations where we could not hold an open casket memorial, but compensated by offering other amenities for the family and friends.
“Then, we had a funeral for a young auto accident victim whose mother felt we could NOT hold an open casket service, but we were able to prepare the deceased so his mother could see him one more time, for closure and her last look at him.”
Those moments seem to mean more to Zakar and his staff than praise heaped upon him or even money in the bank.
“During these circumstances, even I will get emotional, and weep just like the loved ones.
He said that it doesn’t matter if a client purchases a Mercedes service or a Pinto, he vows to give each his own personal attention.
One of his new favorite items is the “Ask the Mortician” ad in this publication. “You would be surprised at the great questions that people want to know about.”
Still, it comes back to service.
“In my years of retail, I dealt with many people and built a real comfort zone, and always tried to give back as much as I received. That’s been my motto.”