Submitted by the City of Cordova and the Cordova Community Medical Center

Little is known about the process behind the scenes dealing with the aftermath of our loved one’s death. Due to the limited mortuary services available in Cordova, when a death occurs, many pieces behind the scenes are left to be coordinated — these are quietly taken on by city and hospital staff to ensure a worry-free experience for grieving families.

Recently the Cordova High School welding class delivered two flight caskets to the Cordova Community Medical Center (CCMC.) “Flight caskets?” you might ask. This is a piece of a larger, mostly unknown, service that is quietly provided by CCMC staff members.

As a remote community we need flight caskets to transport remains to mortuaries in Anchorage. Due to supply chain difficulties, CCMC was unable to locate a flight casket for purchase. Under the guidance of Rich Sorenson, students Noah Collins, Xavier Russin, AJ Bourgeois, and Wyatt Sorenson demonstrated exceptional craftsmanship and creativity in constructing two flight caskets as one of their final welding projects of the year. Its design and construction showcase the collective efforts of these young minds and their commitment to making a meaningful difference in the lives of others while honing their welding skills.

In addition to community volunteers, such as the welding class described above, Vivian Knop at CCMC often assists families with the transfer of remains to and from the mortuary in Anchorage and coordinating getting answers to questions that come up — from how to get death certificates to ensuring a special garment, jewelry, or emblem is with the deceased. She consistently goes above and beyond to ensure that grieving families are supported during the process of paying their last respects to their loved ones.

Until just recently, the City of Cordova required the use of grave boxes, also known as Rough Boxes, for burials in city-maintained cemeteries. For years CCMC facilities employees, primarily Jeff Sojot, have built the required grave boxes. What started as a process for the hospital’s long term care residents has gradually transitioned into hospital staff building solid wood boxes for each burial. The boxes, measuring just larger than 7’x3’x2,’ showcase the compassion and craftmanship of the builder. Due to costs and labor limitations, the city has recently passed an ordinance to remove the requirement of grave boxes from the city code, further reducing the cost of burial, which ultimately lessens the burden on the family of the deceased.


When a loved one passes, a member of the family or friend fills out a burial packet provided by City Hall. The city clerk receives the burial packet with the necessary information and then coordinates with city departments and the hospital on matters related to burial. City Clerk Susan Bourgeois states, “The process for burial involves City Hall, Public Works, the Police Department, CCMC, and then sometimes the state gets involved, as well. It’s a concerted effort to ensure that the families of the loved one who passed have as pleasant an experience as possible for a burial.”

Many times, the City of Cordova is contacted by individuals looking for information on a loved one or long-lost family member; sometimes it’s a burial site, name, or other historical information. Thanks to Dixie Lambert and her countless hours of research and dedication, we now have a detailed archive of the burial sites here in Cordova so we can provide the information they seek and add that depth to their family history.

Cordova is blessed with exceptional individuals who quietly serve their community. Showing compassion to grieving families, providing a way to transport bodies securely, and making boxes as required by current city code all work together to support families during a time of need. As a community let’s take a moment to thank these unsung heroes. Your willingness to lend your skills and time reflects the strength of character that exemplifies the heart of the Cordova Community.

Grieving is a process, there are so many steps to go through and it’s so important to recognize the people in this community that go above and beyond to make it all happen.