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Funeral director becomes foundation at Cornerstone

At Cornerstone Funeral Services and Cremation, director Elizabeth Fournier brings years of expertise and a depth of compassion born of her own life experience
by: Barbara Adams, Cornerstone Funeral Director Elizabeth Fournier has been a source of compassion and understanding for those grieving since she was a child. When her mother died, Elizabeth became the cornerstone in her own family.

In her book, 'Seventy-seven Blind Dates,' Elizabeth Fournier chronicles a time in her life when she went on a dating spree set off by a failed engagement in her mid-30s.

'It's one of those 'chick lit' books,' Fournier says. She's fine tuning it now, and hopes to find a publisher soon.

Writing is just one part of Fournier's life. She's also a ballroom dancing instructor and the funeral director at Cornerstone Funeral Services and Cremation in Boring.

Fournier, 38, grew up in the Tigard area and when she was ready to go to college she told her dad, Don Fournier, that she wanted to study mortuary science. Dealing with death was a natural for her - her mother died when she was 8. Then, that same year, two of her grandparents also died.

'So I'm left with a father who's falling apart and a brother who won't talk anymore,' Fournier said.

She took it upon herself to become a source of strength for her family. But it didn't stop there. At her Catholic school, where most students lived with both parents, she stood out. Everyone knew her mother had passed away, and everyone knew that when they suffered the loss of a family member or even a pet, she was the one to go to.

'I was the only death source in the community,' Fournier said. 'When I got into junior high, when someone's parent or sibling would die - anyone, really - I'd be the person they'd go to. Everybody looked at me as their go-to girl for death.'

But mortuary science wasn't a field her dad thought she should get into.

'For two reasons,' Fournier said. 'One was, it's too narrow a field and I might change my mind. The second reason, he said: 'You'll never get a date.''

So Fournier studied mass communication at Linfield College, where she earned a bachelor's degree. But her true calling continued to be a force in her life. During her time in college, she lived at a cemetery where she worked as the night keeper.

'That's really where my heart was,' she said.

She also co-founded the Labor Coalition for Environmental Responsibility during her college years, an organization that works primarily with migrant workers in the Willamette Valley. Through that work, Fournier helped Spanish-speaking families dealing with funeral and burial needs.

At age 22, Fournier officially started working in the funeral industry. She became licensed in California, then Oregon, and has since gained experience at a number of funeral homes.

In 2005 Fournier became the funeral director at Cornerstone Funeral Services and Cremation, which is along Highway 224 and Bakers Ferry Road. The mailing address is Boring - the business is located between Carver and Eagle Creek in the community of Barton.

George Walls is the founder of Cornerstone. He opened the business in 2002 on the 30 acres of land he has owned and lived on for the past 30 years. Fournier said a large retailer has been eager to purchase the property for a long time, but Walls has kept it a family owned landmark.

'He's kind of our hero here in the community,' Fournier said.

'This is a family environment. We're all very honest, ethical people,' she said. Of all the funeral homes Fournier has worked for, she said Cornerstone is the best. 'I'm happiest here. The main reason is, we provide the lowest prices in the metropolitan area, and I'm very proud of that.'

And those dates her dad was so worried about? He was the one who encouraged her to chronicle her 77 blind dates, and who encouraged her to utilize her writing skills gained in college.

'He is my No. 1 fan. I am honored that he is so proud of me,' Fournier said.

She keeps herself busy by teaching ballroom dancing at Reed College, plus she's the 'death aficionado' for KBOO radio station. When a new book comes out pertaining to the subject, she reads it, then interviews the author on air.

And after all those blind dates, none of which garnered a second date, Fournier married Michael Potts, who is also works in the funeral industry, in July.

'Having (Mom) not there was quite hard for me and really hard for my father to go through that whole event without her by his side,' Fournier said. 'I think of her many times a day and know that I am obviously a mortician because of her short life.'