Bryan cremation specialist retires after decade of service

This man’s heart for others is demonstrated in his dedication and hard work
KBTX News 3 at Six Weekday EXTENDED(Recurring)
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 6:15 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2023 at 6:49 PM CDT
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - Ernest Upchurch, a Cremation Specialist for Hillier Funeral Home & Cremations, is retiring Friday after working with them for 10 years.

Upchurch’s journey started with his daughter’s death. Seeing the care and compassion his daughter received at the funeral home inspired the Bryan Fire Department Chaplain’s next steps.

“People think that cremation is just after thought of something, that ‘well, we’ll just do this instead of having to pay for a funeral,’ but they don’t realize it is someone’s last wishes and that it is someone’s loved one that you have in your care,” he said.

Now, each person that passes through his care receives the same respect his daughter did.

“Your loved one is in my care and they won’t leave my care until they return back to you,” Upchurch said.

It was never lost on Upchurch that families only want the best care for their relatives as they enter the next stage of life, his colleagues said.

“That is somebody to somebody, it’s somebody to Ernie, it’s somebody to Hillier. He never forgot that it was somebody,” Amanda Gittelman, managing partner for Hillier, said.

While his co-workers are sad to see him go, Gittleman says if anyone deserves to rest, it’s Upchurch.

“We’re really sad to see Ernie go. I think the news was really hard for us, it was definitely hard for me,” she said. “We’re really excited, he deserves it. Ernie has worked hard for a long time, he deserves to take a break now, but we’re gonna miss him.”

Hillier Funeral home threw a surprise party on Wednesday for Upchurch as he embraces this new season.

“I know that there are new and greater adventures that await me. I am not retiring from life, I am just retiring from this part of the life,” Upchurch said. “We’re going to see what doors God opens next and we’re going to pursue that. We’re going to pursue God very hard.”