This week’s Meet a Mom interview is with Jennifer Graziano, a Greenwich Mom and fourth generation Funeral Director. In addition to owning Coxe & Graziano, she recently launched the RememBar Collection, a gorgeous jewelry line that allows people to carry their loved ones with them every day. We spoke to Jennifer about her dedication to mourning families, adapting to COVID during this time, and details of the RememBar Collection.
Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
I was raised in Westchester where I currently reside. I own and operate three funeral homes alongside my father and brother, the most recent one located right here in Greenwich. I’m passionate about planning ahead and tending to details. I take the sensitive nature of my work very personally. I know grief hurts and the pain is often unbearable. I’m committed to helping people navigate through these difficult moments. I’m blessed to be the mother of a beautiful and spirited nine year old girl. I’m further blessed to have met the love of my life, whom I get to marry in a few months, and also be the step mother of his two children.
Congratulations! Would you please share a bit about Coxe & Graziano?
The funeral industry has been considered a sacred calling by my family for 4 generations. My father’s grandparents began over a century ago and my great grandmother was one of the first women to hold a funeral director’s license in New York State. I grew up carefully paying attention to my father and recognized early on, he was doing something of significance…he was making a difference. He, along with my mother, instilled in me the importance of going the extra mile and helping others whenever possible. Our family approaches the funeral business from the perspective that this is a one-time life event. You can’t do this over. Therefore, it’s our mission to pay attention to every detail and anticipate a family’s every need. We are providing a service to people in their darkest hour. Offering the finest service has always been the hallmark of our reputation.
What else separates your business from others?
I believe what separates Coxe & Graziano from others is the dedication and commitment of my family. We’ve never considered this “work” and my father cautioned me years ago, when it becomes “work”, just a job, it’s time to go. We take this personally. My father, my brother and I are sympathetic to a family’s pain. When tragedy strikes, we experience our own sadness when helping that family. This is work that you take home with you. You can’t turn off the images of tears and sounds of cries that you’ve heard that day. It affects you and overtime, changes you. But for us, it’s our family serving yours.
So lovely. How has COVID affected your business, both in terms of protocols and the way people are able to mourn?
We’ve adapted to COVID by adhering to local and federal guidelines. We’ve reduced seating capacities in the chapel and maintained an exceptional standard of cleanliness. But those changes are merely procedural. The emotional impact of COVID has certainly infiltrated our business. We’ve watched families come in heartbroken that they were denied the chance to be by the bedside of their dying loved ones. They were kept from hospitals and nursing homes and now charged with the task of arranging a funeral for someone they loved. In addition, they were limited in the type of services they can have. People were denied the chance to say their proper good byes and communities were denied their chance to pay their respects. I’m grateful for the restrictions that have been lifted and hopeful we continue our return to normal.
Did you always know you would go into the family business?
I always say the funeral business chose me, I didn’t necessarily choose “it”. To my parent’s credit, they dissuaded me from falling into the generational trap of a family business. They wanted me to explore other talents and encouraged me to graduate law school and become an attorney. There is extreme gratification in knowing there are many opportunities available to you, yet you select the path where you feel you’ll have the greatest impact. I really did believe that as a funeral director, I could make the bigger difference. I look back on my choice and all these years later, I’m still confident it was the right decision. No regrets!
It is a tough dichotomy to explain whereas the hardest part of my job is also where I derive the most satisfaction. The pain of grief is so difficult to dabble in day after day. It has certainly weighed heavily upon me over the years. However, that is where I feel I’m doing the most good as I walk hand in hand with families as they start along the path of grief.
The RememBar Collection is beautiful. What was your inspiration to create it?
The RememBar Collection was created when I recognized a void in the market for quality, beautifully designed memorial jewelry. With cremation on the rise, many people are in search of an alternative to traditional urns. In addition, people who opt for traditional burial, also look for tangible comforts to honor their loved ones. I created RememBar to offer a beautiful way to remember for everyone who mourns. It’s not just a piece of jewelry, rather, it tells a love story. I expanded the line to include pets, which are dear to my heart, with PetBar. The paw on the bar replicates the paw print left on your heart following the loss of a pet. The jewelry collection includes 2 other lines, StoryBar, a custom bar designed to tell your story. Purchasers are able to add multiple birthstones along with engraved names, dates or phrases that capture the people and moments of that mark their life. (Great gift for mothers and grandmothers!)
The final piece in the collection is the most dear to my heart, The Sunrise Pendant. I created this in memory of my mom who waged a brief yet difficult battle with cancer. Portion of sales are donated to Swim Across America to aid them in their mission of cancer research. A sunrise reminds us of the promise of a new day, it reminds us to have hope, Following the loss of someone you love, it’s a powerful message and a comfort to know the sun will rise again.
Do you have a favorite piece?
It’s hard to have a favorite piece. I have a special place in my heart for the vertical and horizontal bar pendants, the originals in the collection. I’m also very tied to the Sunrise piece with the connection it has to my mother.
There have been so many stories from people who have been inspired by their necklace. When I see someone open the box and see their piece, there is always a guarantee of tears. But there is a happiness recognized in those tears. They feel the loss but they are also feeling the hope.
Will your daughter follow in your footsteps?
I always tell my daughter that the world is so much bigger than what she knows and therefore, aim as high as you can. I personally don’t wish for her to follow in my footsteps as a funeral director, yet it calls to mind conversations my parents had with me many years ago. My goal for my daughter is to find happiness in her purpose. She happens to be an incredibly talented young girl; she’s academically gifted, intuitive, an amazing ice skater …oh, and she sings, too! I’m not sure how she’s mine but I’m blessed and I want to keep reminding her the sky is truly her limit.
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