Inspired start for Eastside Memorial Park
December 20, 2018
They accepted it as a gift. It is something they have done repeatedly in their lives although it is not a common response. When an event or circumstance is challenging or difficult, they do not run and hide. They accept what is, evaluate possible responses, and choose the route most beneficial to their community. It is rarely the easiest route. No matter how uphill the path or how rocky the road, they dedicate themselves to traversing it with grace and kindness.
This is the legacy given to them by visionary and entrepreneur John Shahin. He was Nadia (Shahin) Sandoval's father and Irene Shahin's husband. John died in 2005 at the age of 62 here in Carson Valley, leaving a hole in the family's heart. They have filled this hole with their own private journeys to understand sorrow and grief, learning first hand how to climb out of that slippery deep-sided bowl. They have put every ounce of their energy into honoring their loved one by carrying on his dreams.
A true adventurer, the lovely Irene was born in Venezuela and is the only one of her siblings to leave. She set out by herself to learn English. After traveling the world, she landed in Logan, Utah but continued to explore the country. She eventually got her degree in electrical engineering from Long Beach State.
Irene actually met John in Venezuela, but they married in Los Angeles in 1981. It was a few years later that he retired at age 45, and moved here to Carson Valley. John was a successful entrepreneur who had graduated from the University of California Los Angeles, garnering a degree in math. They went everywhere together, but the wild beauty and open sky of Douglas County mesmerized them, and they chose this place to settle down.
John started buying large tracts of land. It is not clear how he could see so far into the future, but he put together a remarkable project proposal for homes and businesses in the East Valley. As the area increases in population, it is just the type of plan that would have fulfilled the needs of today. Perhaps it was an intuitive gift or perhaps just good solid business planning, but he was meticulous in the details of the physical and organizational structures, and its sustainability.
Even so, all of his ideas were rejected. He was told he would have to do something for the community in order to even be considered. A cemetery was needed here but he had no background in this field. After intense study he carved out 27 acres of land and hired an architect from Forest Lawn to draw up plans. They started out with just a field of sagebrush and put in all the infrastructure to open a cemetery. All the trees you see around the park were planted by Irene. In 1985, Eastside Memorial Park was incorporated.
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The family has always lived between their home in Palos Verdes in Southern California and their home here. John and Irene's daughter Nadia came along in 1990, and she has inherited her father's brilliant mind, compassionate nature, and legendary business sense. Living in both a city and a rural environment has given her a broad perspective.
Nadia attended school in Palos Verdes, but the family spent the rest of their time here. They had hired someone to run the cemetery, but Irene came to dedicate herself to learning the business in 2012. Both she and Nadia attend cemetery and funeral conventions and continue to study to increase their knowledge. Both wife and daughter have taken up the responsibility for carrying on with the cemetery.
Like her grandfather, Nadia graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in business. While still in school she started working as an intern, then became employed with a non-profit that worked with inner-city high schoolers to help them start their own businesses. She was so good at motivating these young people that her division was the most active and successful in the United States.
In 2016 Nadia decided to come back up and help her mother with the Memorial Park. She carried the light of her father's vision: hosting events that made it clear that this place was about honoring your family. Both mother and daughter understand first hand what it is like to suffer a devastating loss of someone you love, and have learned what families need and want.
Their official Grand Opening of the newly completed chapel and funeral home marks a new chapter in the project that literally fell into their laps. They hired Lyle Meyer as the funeral director and embalmer. Lyle also brings a deep personal understanding of how painful it is to suffer a great family tragedy. The whole staff, including Grounds Maintenance and Cremation Technician Alfredo Licon and Office Manager Janet Railey share this compassionate nature, born of their own life experiences.
After a terrible fall in 2001, Lyle had to reinvent himself, and obtained his degree from Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Wheeling. He moved to Reno in 2013 and is now settled into his new life here.
With Irene as president and Nadia as general manager, they have created a place where families can have ceremonies and rituals to create closure. Both have a deep and abiding personal faith about the passage from life on this earth to death. Their park is peaceful, with wild deer wandering the well-kept, engaging grounds that reflect the high desert environment and acknowledge the natural cycles of nature.
Along with her new marriage in 2018, Nadia was also voted "Citizen of the Year" in Douglas for her role in bringing the Moving Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to the county. She is active in Leadership of Douglas County which is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. They started the Farm to School Community Garden Project using grant money and volunteers. It has brought a deeper appreciation of healthy foods to students of all ages.
They have chosen to serve their community with open hearts, empathy, and understanding, making a time of painful transition much less difficult. You can reach them at 775 782-2215 or their website: http://www.eastsidememorialpark.com. They have taken what life has offered to them and used it for good.