Gary was born and grew up in Santa Cruz, he attended local schools and was a graduate of Marello Preparatory High School, class of 1977. Following his high school graduation he began working for his father in their family’s business, Norman’s Family Chapel. Gary later attended Cypress Junior College and graduated with a degree in mortuary science. He resumed his position in his family’s business eventually becoming manager. Gary continued in his position as general manager following the sale of Norman’s Family Chapel to the Loewen Group International in 1993.
In 1999 after many successful and rewarding years working together, Gary formed a partnership with Vince Azzaro and purchased Chapel of the Four Seasons from which they began their business. Gary has earned a reputation of excellence, professionalism and compassion. A reputation built on hard work and dedication which is reflected in his staff and the services they deliver.
When not at work, Gary enjoys spending time with his wife, Val and his daughter Emily and his friends. He enjoys riding dirt bikes, bicycles, mountain biking and snow skiing. He is active in a number of civic, fraternal and social organizations. He is a member of the board of Dominican Hospital Foundation. He is a member of the Santa Cruz Host Lions, the Santa Cruz Elks Lodge, Marconi Club and the Italian Catholic Federation.
Vince was born and raised in Fresno, Ca. While attending Fresno State and studying ornamental horticulture, he was working at his father’s flower shop one weekend, delivering flowers to a local funeral home when he became interested in funeral service.
Vince began his career at that firm in1980 and later attended Cypress Mortuary College where he earned a degree in Mortuary Science. He returned to the funeral home in Fresno, where he got his start and began a career that to this day, spans over 31 years in mortuary service. Vince and wife Tina were married in 1983, and with their one year old daughter, Mia, moved to Santa Cruz in 1985. That summer, he began working for Norman Benito at Norman’s Family Chapel with Gary Benito.
After 15 years with Norman’s Family Chapel, the opportunity presented itself to open a mortuary of his own. Vince and Gary became partners in Benito & Azzaro Pacific Gardens Chapel in 2000. Vince and Tina, and their daughters, Mia and Gianna all reside in Santa Cruz and are active in both community and school organizations and events. Vince remains dedicated to serving those that have suffered a loss in their family, and is privileged to be a part of a funeral chapel and staff that both exemplify a standard of excellence in the profession.
Terry was born and raised in Santa Cruz. He graduated from Harbor High School and attended Cabrillo College. Terry began his Funeral Service career in 1996 as an apprentice embalmer with a firm in Modesto, CA. After completing his apprenticeship, Terry accepted a position as Funeral Counselor with a firm in Merced, CA and received his Funeral Director’s license in 1999.
The passing of Terry’s father in 2000 introduced him to Benito & Azzaro Pacific Gardens Chapel who assisted him with his father’s funeral service. Later in 2001, Terry accepted a position as Funeral Director with the Pacific Gardens Chapel bringing him back home to Santa Cruz. Terry acquired his Insurance License in 2005 to further his service to families with pre-arrangement funding. In 2008, Terry was certified as a crematory operator. In his spare time, Terry enjoys spending time with his family and friends, volunteering for his homeowners association and the Knights of Columbus, gardening, traveling and keeping track of his favorite Boston area sports teams.
Why the Funeral Service as a career? “I have always been the type of person who reaches out to help people. As a Funeral Director, I have unique opportunity to assist families in what can be the most difficult and uncertain time of their lives. Growing up, I was shielded from the death of our family members; I found that this was true for many others as well. It’s with this unpreparedness that we are faced with that I found a place to be most helpful and bring comfort to the families I serve.”
Jessica was born and raised in Santa Cruz. She graduated from Santa Cruz High School and attended Cabrillo College. Jessica has worked for Benito & Azzaro Pacific Gardens Chapel since 2006 as an administrative assistant and bookkeeper. She had not worked in the funeral industry before her current position.
In the past, Jessica held positions in the flower industry as well as the banking industry.
Michael was born in Tulare, Ca. As a child he was raised around the Mortuary Industry. He later moved out of the country, finishing his education and training, and then returned back to the U.S. Mike has worked in New York and Arizona before moving back to California. He met his wife Michelle and had 3 kids. Michelle and Mike have lived in Santa Cruz for 15 years; he has spent 7 years in micro systems and 8 in the Mortuary Industry. Michael is certified as a Funeral Counselor and Crematory Operator, and works after hours dedicated to serving and care for those that just suffered a loss of a loved one.
Hayley was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California and attended many local schools such as Twin Lakes Christian School, Aptos High School, and Cabrillo College. She has held past jobs in customer service, she was previously a waitress at Zelda’s and an instructor at The Bay School of Santa Cruz.
Hayley fell into the Funeral Business in a very unconventional way, she was enrolled in a Death and Dying class at Cabrillo when the class took a trip to Benito & Azzaro Pacific Gardens Chapel in 2015. She assisted on a few services after speaking with Gary about her interest in the industry and shortly progressed to a part-time Funeral Attendant and Receptionist. As her experience grew, Hayley became an Apprentice Embalmer in December of 2015 and after working with many families and exercising her compassionate and empathetic skills, Hayley took the exam to become a Funeral Counselor in April of 2016. She enjoys that she can help people during what can be the darkest time of their lives, so that they may be able to see some light at the end of it. After the passing of her grandfather in October of 2016, Hayley’s passion for the industry was reinforced when she worked with her own family. She gained a more personal perspective on the situation of death and is now even better able to know just what the families she serves need. Hayley is reaching for the next step in her career and currently working toward earning her Funeral Director License.