Sunshine White strives to be a ray of light for others in dark times
For the Craig Press
The passing of a loved one can be the worst moment of a person’s life.
However, a burst of Sunshine can make all the difference in those difficult moments.
Sunshine White, that is.
White serves as the office manager for Grant Mortuary and Crematory in Craig, a business where she has worked for more than a decade.
In that time, she’s learned that one of the best icebreakers for clients is her first name itself.
“My legal name is on my business card, so when I hand that to them it lightens the air a little bit,” White said.
She added that she tends to go by a nickname, given how much people like to comment on her full name.
“Sunny is a little less intimidating for some people. Sunshine is the kind of name that’s really robust,” she laughed. “All of my siblings have common names except for myself, so I don’t know why my parents picked it. It’s been a real positive name for sure, and I don’t know whether that’s molded me or I’ve molded around it.”
Regardless of her name, she works to provide the same kind of helpful service to all who are going through bereavement.
“It’s mainly talking to families, finding out what they need and how we can best assist them through a difficult time. Something they don’t teach you in school, but they should, is how to navigate through different family dynamics,” White said. “I feel like I have a pretty good handle on that by now. You can tell when somebody was ready to go into the next adventure or if it was something really tragic and people weren’t prepared for it.”
Over the years she’s also learned that every grieving family is varied.
“Even when I think I know what I’m getting into, it’s always a little different. That’s really what I enjoy about this job is it’s not the same thing every day. It’s always new people, new stories,” White said.
An early loss that played into her current career. As the middle of nine children, White was 15 when her closest sibling, only a year older, passed away.
“I’ve experienced a lot of loss in my own family, and I think that helps me engage with other families, whether it’s a parent or a sibling or estranged family dynamics, every single family has helped me with the next family I’ve encountered,” she said.
Moreover, the former owner and namesake of Grant Mortuary, Owen Grant, seemed like something of a hero to her.
“Owen was one of the funeral directors at the time who helped my family,” she said. “I didn’t know at the time how impactful that would be for me, but when it came time for me to choose my own profession, I found myself going back to those memories of how effortlessly he was able to just come in and put us at ease and how everything was fine as long as he was helping us. I just wanted to be that person, that Owen, for somebody else.”
White graduated from Moffat County High School in 2007, and, after receiving mortuary training — in topics ranging from mortuary law and restorative arts — she and her husband, Joshua, relocated to Craig in 2009, where they’ve raised two daughters: Ary and Andy.
She was employed at Grant Mortuary by 2010 and has been with the business through three different owners, currently Service Corporation International.
As manager, mortician and Moffat County coroner, Jesse Arthurs always appreciates White’s presence in the office.
“Sunny is very compassionate and empathetic, and she treats every family like they were her own. They just adore her,” Arthurs said. “Me and Sunny are best friends. We work really well together. We didn’t really grow up together, yet I feel like I’ve known her all my life.
White noted they form a great team.
“Jesse does 99 percent of everything when it comes to preparing remains, but I do have experience in that realm,” she said. “I just choose to deal with the living instead.”
Outside of work and spending time with her family, White spends a great deal of time with projects through Craig Rotary Club, such as the Book Buddies reading program in the elementary schools and scholarships at the high school.
Another highlight for her is performing on the flute with the annual Christmas Cantata.
She has been a flautist since the fifth-grade, though it was a rough start.
“I didn’t even want to play an instrument at the time,” White said. “My parents were working and they had to take out for work to come help me pick out an instrument that day, and it was kind of a big deal for them to be off of work for that day. I remember it was just the first one that I picked up and I tried to make a sound on it. I was successful so my dad was like, ‘Yep, that’s the one, I gotta go!’”
She joked that the plus side of the flute is it’s among the easiest to transport.
For White, there was a good amount of moving during her adolescence. She was born in Grand Junction and also lived in Cañon City and Denver as well as in Louisiana and Washington, relocating to and from Craig more than once before she finished high school.
Even so, the small-town experience has always been appealing to her.
“I like being outdoors so that’s really nice that we can still have a little bit of a bigger town, but we’re not, you know, Denver or anything crazy like that,” she said. “I just have always really enjoyed it here. I don’t know what it is about it, but I’ve always loved it here.”
Whether it’s her profession or personality, White said she’s embraced her place in Craig.
“I know that most people say, ‘Oh Craig, everybody knows your business, you can’t go to the store without running into somebody,’ and that’s actually something I really enjoy,” she said. “I like that I know the community, especially being in this business too, that certainly helps things. You know who’s related to who and you know certain things that may have happened in their recent lives that might impact how they feel when they come through our doors.”
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