DEERFIELD, ILL. — Selected Independent Funeral Homes has named Neil P. O’Connor of Laguna Hills, Calif., the 2013 recipient of its prestigious NextGen Professional of the Year Award. O’Connor was honored at a ceremony during the opening night reception of the group’s annual seminar, taking place January 20-24 at the Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort in Labrelotte Bay on the island of Saint Lucia. In addition to recognition amongst the recipient’s peers and within the profession, the award recipient receives a $500 cash prize and a physical award. The NextGen Professional of the Year award is designed to specifically spotlight career achievements, community and organization involvement, and the awards and achievements of funeral professionals under the age of 50.
O’Connor is the third recipient of the award (created in 2011) and was honored because of his leadership qualities, professionalism and high praise shown by supporting letters of recommendation in his application package. O’Connor is the President and Chief Executive Officer of O’Connor Mortuary, based in Laguna Hills, Calif., with Arrangement Center locations in San Juan Capistrano and Irvine. O’Connor first became involved in the family business in 1989 when he took an entry-level position and eventually worked his way up, learning all aspects of funeral service. He also served for two years as an Operations Specialist in the U.S. Navy before returning to take the helm at O’Connor Mortuary in 2000.
“I am humbled and honored to even be nominated for the NexGen Award, as I realize there are many worthy candidates,” said O’Connor. “We all need greater resources to build upon past generations’ hard work, and I am proud that this award recognizes the culmination of those elements of my career and my colleagues.”
Selected Independent Funeral Homes created the NextGen group within its organization to encourage professionals who are in the earlier stages of a funeral industry career and to recognize contributions made by young funeral professionals to its member firms and funeral service as a whole. In addition to its annual seminar filled with educational and networking opportunities, the group also has the opportunity to participate in exclusive benefits, including an Electronic Discussion Group as well as a Special Interest Group, which connects young professionals with their counterparts throughout the world.
The NextGen Professional of the Year Award is one of several programs of Selected Independent Funeral Homes, a worldwide professional association of independent, locally-owned funeral homes founded in 1917. In order to be eligible for the award, applicants must be an active employee of a Selected member firm (domestic or international) and under the age of 50 by the annual deadline. By creating the program, Selected hopes to promote and motivate the next generation of professionals engaged in the funeral industry.
“It is our honor and pleasure to award Neil with the NextGen Professional of the Year Award,” said Robert J. Paterkiewicz, Executive Director of Selected Independent Funeral Homes. “By all accounts, he is one of the industry’s leaders when it comes to service, community involvement and career achievement – by any standard. He is an outstanding example of what this award is all about.”
Industry peers who recommended O’Connor for the award cited his “passion, professionalism and care” as not only an asset to the profession but to Selected as well. They also noted the “revolutionary” way that he looks at his business and the community as reasons why he is so deserving of recognition. O’Connor holds several seats on local committees, including the Saddleback Memorial Medical Center Foundation, San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce and the Trauma Intervention Program Advisory Council, among others. He also has received numerous local and state community and service awards throughout his career.
O’Connor credits his membership in Selected as contributing to his success saying, “I am honored to be a member of Selected Independent Funeral Homes. It has been one of the best decisions of my career. Shortly after joining Selected, I took my mentor John Horan’s advice and joined a Study Group (The Discovery Group), which has given me the tools, resources and friendships I was lacking. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
More information on Selected Independent Funeral Homes and NextGen can be found on its website at www.selectedfuneralhomes.org.