Growing up, Heather Dvorak did not plan on becoming a funeral director.
"I wanted to be a homicide detective for a while, then a pathologist. But I just couldn't see myself cutting into people," she said.
Instead, she became a Franklin County deputy coroner, a position she held for four years starting in 2000.
"I enjoyed the job, even ran for coroner once," said Dvorak, 39. But after losing the election, she made a career change.
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"Coroners are elected officials and can change every few years. Even though deputy coroners are hired, not elected, if your boss changes you may be out of a job," she said. "I wanted something with more job security."
She apprenticed for two years at Columbia Memorial Funeral Chapel and Gardens in Pasco and later at the three Mueller's funeral homes in Kennewick and Pasco before getting her license in 2008.
Now she's a licensed funereal director and her husband, Joshua, is her apprentice and last month they opened Dvorak Funeral Home Professional Services at 6421 W. Court St. in Pasco.
Joshua Dvorak still is working full time as a project manager for a construction company while learning the new job.
And they've hired six employees to help run the office, arrange funerals and do the pick ups and embalming. The office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, Saturday and Sunday by appointment.
"In reality we're on call 24/7," she said.
Heather Dvorak said she enjoys the work far better than investigating deaths.
"I'm more involved with the families as a funeral director. I meet with them in the beginning and help them through the steps of the grieving process," she said.
She agrees her choice of profession wouldn't suit everyone.
"But I get a lot of satisfaction in helping the families make a nice memory. If they walk away feeling they've honored their loved one, that's my reward," she said.
Dvorak's intent is to keep funeral costs as low as possible, yet still make a profit. One way is by renting a modest office and contracting for the use of embalming and cremation facilities.
"We do everything the other funeral homes do. We just don't have a big building to pay for," she said.
They also opted out of having a showroom of caskets and urns.
"Caskets are a big investment and people seldom want what you have on hand. Anymore it's all done via the internet. I can get caskets and urns overnight from a warehouse in Walla Walla," she said.
For a list of their services -- including pet cremations -- go to www.dvorakfuneralhome.com. The phone number is 509-380-0164.