Mortuary ensures fire victims can be laid to rest among family in native Mexico

SNOHOMISH — It was unthinkable.

On Sept. 30, an early morning fire consumed a mobile home and killed Sandra Maria Montaño, 28, her daughters Ashley Montaño, 7, Yareli Montaño, 4, and her sister Claudia Montaño, 25.

The family was from Jalisco, Mexico, leaving the city of Snohomish unsure what to do.

The question wasn’t what people in Snohomish wanted. Returning the Montaño family to Mexico to be laid to rest was the hope. The real question was how.

Wilson Quist had the answer.

Quist works for Dignity Memorial as a public liaison, a go-between for families who have lost a loved one under certain circumstances.

Dignity Memorial, Quist said, regularly provides pro bono mortuary care for police officers and firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty and, in the case of the Montaño family, for those who likely cannot afford to pay.

It never gets easy for him, Quist said, and the news of such a young family dying hit him “right in the stomach.”

“When a young person or when a young family passes away, we get involved. When a family is finally able to respond to the tragedy, we don’t want them to be left with such a mess — especially when we’re in a position to help,” Quist said.

In situations such as the Snohomish fire, Quist calls local associates for help. On Oct. 1, he called the Bauer Funeral Chapel in Snohomish as well as two Everett funeral homes.

Quist then called the Snohomish Police Department, Fire Department and churches, letting them know that help was available.

After speaking with the family, Quist was able to arrange funeral services and make sure the remains of the four would be to sent to Mexico at no charge to surviving family members.

The final cost was more than $20,000.

Sandy Amondson, 52, of Snohomish worried that relatives in Mexico would be denied the opportunity to have funerals for their loved ones.

“Funerals are expensive business, and in this day and age money is scarce. We could have pulled together as a community and probably still come up short,” Amondson said. “That the family was able to truly go home — you can’t put a price tag on that.”

Quist considers the work to be a standard in an industry that looks to care for the living and the dead. While the work of mortuary and funeral service professionals may be unsettling to some, the majority of people enter the field out of compassion for others, he said.

“This job attracts people who care. Day in and day out, you see people caring for others,” Quist said. “These are people who want to help during the worst of times. It’s an honor to be trusted like that.”

Reporter Justin Arnold: 425-339-3432 or

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