A New Resource
HIGHTSTOWN: A New Resource for South Asians in their Time of Need
By Jennifer Kohlhepp, Managing Editor
September 3, 2015
There are only a handful of funeral directors in New Jersey who specialize in providing memorial services for the people of South Asian ethnic groups and one recently opened Ruby Memorial Funeral and Cremation Services in the borough.
Christine Cuoco has been a licensed funeral director in the state of New Jersey for the past 13 years. With much experience and dedication, she has embraced the growing South Asian population in Mercer, Middlesex and Monmouth counties and has dedicated herself to serving its memorial ceremony needs.
“Over the past 15 years I have cared for many Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Christian families only to realize that my background and attention to ceremonial details have allowed me to focus on preserving culture and tradition,” Ms. Cuoco said. “My services and funeral home provide the availability for traditional ceremonies that accompany the many different cultures and rituals associated with the needs of each individual family.”
Ruby Memorial serves families of all faiths but Ms. Cuoco learned early on in her career as an intern with Mather Hodge in Princeton that she particularly had a passion for and was proficient with all aspects of South Asian funeral ceremonies, poojas, customs and traditions.
“I’m one of only three funeral homes in the state of New Jersey that caters to this population,” she said, adding that while the varying South Asian Indian cultures and faiths each have their own little traditions most ceremonies include cremation and spreading ashes in the Ganges River in India, which requires much to be done within the first 48 hours of death including the execution of proper documentation with the general consulate.
Whether it’s paperwork, providing white cloths to cover floors or organizing an area for families to place their shoes, she takes all of the steps of the grieving process with a family personally.
“It’s all very personal to me and it’s all because of experiencing the loss of loved ones myself,” Ms. Cuoco said. “Ruby was my grandmother and a geriatric nurse. She was a strong woman who always cared for others. She amazed me with the work she did. Ruby is also a significant gem for Indians. It’s very powerful to them in that it gives them strength to get through obstacles in life.”
When her grandmother passed away in 2005, the funeral director helped guide her family through the tragic loss. She was inspired to be that person for others.
She’s on call 24/7 to answer death calls at any given hour and to guide families while supervising staff through the funeral process and helps manage ceremonies within specific financial parameters. She writes obituaries, prepares legal documents, handles life insurance claims as well as arranges washings and dressings with loved ones and coordinates Skyping with family from overseas.
“I want the family to feel with complete confidence that they can put their trust in me and that I can take care of all of their needs,” she said. “I’m passionate about it so it’s not a job it’s a ministry to the people.”
Ms. Cuoco added, “I don’t just want to provide a service. I really want to get involved in the community through volunteerism. I want to be a part of the community in more ways than just through death.“
Ms. Cuoco can also be reached at 609-448-4717 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Ruby Memorial is located at 202 Stockton St. in Hightstown.