History & Staff
At Benito & Azzaro Pacific Gardens Chapel, we have provided customizable memorial services for many years. Personalized service options allow you to honor your loved ones in a way that is both meaningful and healing. We hope to provide support and caring while delivering memorial services that celebrate life and help families find the peace they deserve.
If you’re seeking an honorable celebration of life in Santa Cruz and the surrounding areas, we invite you to learn more about where we came from and the dedicated people behind our work.
A History of Caring
Every year more and more families choose to draw upon the support of Benito & Azzaro when they experience the loss of a loved one.
They make the decision for a variety of reasons but in most cases it comes down to one of the following.
Our focus on Beautiful Farewells – At Benito & Azzaro, we believe in celebrating life by creating a farewell ceremony that highlights the very essence of the person. A Beautiful Farewell is about friends and family coming together to remember their love, celebrate their life and honor their legacy.
Plenty of time to make your decisions - We believe in providing clear information about all of your options and giving you as much time as you like to make your decision. No pressure....just information, options and support for you and your family.
Beautiful & creative farewells - We believe in being very flexible when working with families. Looking to have a farewell in a unique setting? No problem. Would you like to bring the family pet? No problem. Our goal is to say yes to all of your farewell wishes.
24 hour access - Support for your family should not end when our work day is over. That is why you will have 24 hour access to your Farewell Planner. If there is a problem, and you do not know who to turn to, call us anytime day or night. We are here to help.
Worry free cremations - You should never have a reason to question whether we return the correct ashes to your family. That is why we have our own secure crematory and staff it with certified technicians. When it comes to cremation, 100% accuracy is the only acceptable standard.
Respect for your spiritual path - At Benito & Azzaro we believe that your spiritual path is your personal choice. Our focus is on helping you design a farewell ceremony that reflects and honors the path you have walked. Unconditional support for your spiritual path...because everyone deserves a Beautiful Farewell.
Our focus on telling the stories of a lifetime - We believe that everyone has a story worth telling. That is why we focus on helping your family plan and conduct a beautiful farewell ceremony that reflects your values, unites your family & friends and celebrates the story of a life well lived.
Our Staff’s Dedication to Respectful Care
A funeral, or memorial service, should provide family members and loved ones with the chance to reflect, remember, and celebrate a life well-lived. At Benito & Azzaro, our goal is to create exceptional services and experiences that fulfill the wishes of your loved one. Our experienced Funeral Directors provide guidance on the crucial first steps toward healing.
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 in 1980 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.
Family Counselor and Crematory Operator
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.