Ashes to Ashes

Ashes to Ashes


A Profile of John Tittel and the Co-op Funeral Industry

We are mortal.  There is no escaping that fact.  There will come a day when we will have to handle funeral arrangements for someone we love or even pre-arrange our own.  Do we all know what our family members want?  Do we know what we want?  Do we know all the options out there?  Is there something new that would tie in with new sensibilities?  How much will it cost?  Can someone help navigate the waters in this complex situation occurring at such a difficult time? 

Mr. John Tittel is General Director of the Cooperative Funéraire des Laurentides situated in St. Jerome.  On the surface, he's just a neighbour like any other.  He and his wife and two daughters live in an average bungalow on a quiet side street in Dorval North near the Pine Beach commuter train station.  A tall man, he is often seen walking with his family to the nearby community centre, tennis rackets or beach towels in hand, or walking the dog, waving to neighbours as they pass.  An involved parent, he actively participates in his children's schools' governing boards - an important task not many are able to take on.  Like many in the Dorval area, he's concerned with the environment and recycles and composts regularly.  How do these characteristics connect with his livelihood?  Well, John is part of a funeral cooperative, a movement with a 60 year history in Quebec.  With a network of 178,000 members, it continues to grow, not only in the province, but also throughout Canada. 

A co-op is a group of people who pool their resources in order to offer to their members - and to others - full services at reduced prices.  Co-ops are intended to serve the needs of the members and the community in which they are located.  They operate with a more humane, customer-oriented attitude rather than one where profit is everything.  The company is owned by its members, with a duly elected Board of Directors.  One does not have to be a member to access services, but members get discounts, usually in the area of 10%, plus some additional services.  Membership costs a mere $20.00 and is good for your lifetime.  This membership fee can actually be returned to the heirs or the estate of a deceased member, if so chosen.  Many co-ops were originally set up because Quebecers were not able to pay for the services offered by funeral companies.  Today, the context has changed and cooperatives stand apart by virtue of their humane, professional approach and the ability to provide quality products and services at a lower rate.

Cooperatives operate with a strong set of ethics and values, not the least of which is the idea that the customers come first and their wishes are to be respected.  The co-ops offer services tailored to the individuals' wants and needs, respecting religious and cultural traditions, whatever they may be.  When making prearrangements, members are not locked in to any one cooperative.  Arrangements are transferrable to any of the hundreds of co-ops in the province.

These cooperatives are highly environmentally conscious, working hard to be sustainable enterprises and making every effort to reduce their carbon footprints.  They offer such items as biodegradable caskets and urns, environmental alternatives to disposal of remains such as eco-responsible cemeteries which are not clear-cut spaces but natural settings with trees, paths, streams, and benches to sit on.  They offer re-usable utensils when serving lunches for the family gatherings, use biodegradable cleaning products, eco-friendly construction materials, lighting, etc.  Efforts are made to purchase as much of the goods and supplies they need locally.  Not only does this support the local economy, it also keeps costs down and reduces the distance the goods must travel, thereby reducing gas emissions.

At the age of 46, John already has 13 years of experience in the funeral industry and was one of the co-founders and co-owners of the first ecologically friendly cemetery in Quebec: Les Sentiers Commemoratifs de la Rivière in Prévost, Quebec.  Along with his BA in French from Concordia University, he has certificates in Human Resources and Leadership, Marketing, and Secondary Education and Teaching.  He is well-known for his customer service skills and has been a counsellor with the J.J. Cardinal Funeral Home.  Combine those skills with his environmentally conscious way of thinking and he's in the right spot.  His days can be long, starting at 8:00 a.m. and ending at 10:00 p.m., but he does that willingly because it is something he really believes in and appreciates.  It comes with the territory when he follows the "customer first" motto of the cooperative.

In this time of eco-sensibility many of us make efforts to do the right thing.  We recycle, we compost, we re-use as much as we can.  We try to live right.  This is evident with co-ops.  A program known as the Heritage Project is in place to offset the co-op's use of damaging fossil fuel, whereby annual per-cooperative consumption is calculated and a number of trees are planted based on their CO2 consumption and oxygen output.  For every tree planted in Quebec, a tree is planted in Guatemala, supporting a small forestry co-op there where half of the members are women - a rarity in the industry.

It is comforting to know that with the help of these cooperatives, we can leave this life as we lived it, leaving behind a large pool of happy memories but only a small carbon footprint.


(n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2013, from Coopérative funéraire de l'Ile de Montréal:

(n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2013, from Féderation des Coopératives funéraires du Québec:

(n.d.). Retrieved October 26, 2013, from

(n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2013, from Coopérative Funéraire des Laurentides:

Le Guen, F. (2013, February 21). John Tittel, directeuer général de la Coopérative funéraire des Laurentides. Journal Le Nord. Quebec. Retrieved October 26, 2021

Le Guen, F. (2013, June 10). Le prix de Coopérative funéraire de l'année pour la Coopérative funéraire des Laurentides. Journal Le Nord. Quebec. Retrieved October 26, 2021

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