Your best and final gift—the 24 Hour Association
By Natalie Hardy
Do you know that forward looking ex-pats in San Miguel, as far back as 1965, put together an association which handles the legal necessities and personal last wishes of one who passes away in this adopted city? We are here, as strong as ever and growing. 24 Hours had humble beginnings when a certain Admiral Alex Charlton sent out a memo to members of the foreign community in 1965:
“…A committee of year-round residents is being set up to take action in accordance with directions available on a card file specifying all wishes of the deceased who will have deposited in the Association a sum sufficient to cover the type of services required. A meeting will be held in the Instituto Allende Theater at 12 noon on April 6 to select this committee.”
And so the 24 Hour Association was born. It grew over the years from an 11-member board and 30 initial members to over 500 members today. Until 1973, members were interred in the Pantheon, (local cemetery) with the general population. In that year the city expanded the cemetery and granted land specifically to the Association. 24 Hours then paid for the enclosing brick wall surrounding the 1000 square meters of land granted. Stirling Dickinson and Florence Howard devised the layout of the plans and stated: “The 24 Hour Plot shall conform to a general overall plan, rather than specific and individual.”
The plan is one of uniform white marble head stones and niche markers of terrazzo with gold inscriptions, If you have not visited this part of the Pantheon, which is the cemetery just past the parking lot of the Real de Minas Hotel off Ancha de San Antonio, I can only encourage you do so. It is lovely, serene, green and blooming. Go straight down the main walk after entering the gates; pass a small chapel (the only one), and the foreign area is through an iron gate immediately after this little building on the left. A wonderful feature is that it is within walking distance from Centro. Choices of niches, ground plots, or wall interments are available. It contains an implicit history of foreign resident activity in San Miguel for the last 50 years when one reads the names and dates of those who rest there. It is open seven days a week to the public, until 6pm.
The Association has, of course, updated from the original card files to computer records, Vonage phone and 24-hour cell phone access. All necessary respect for privacy of information is given its due. It is, since 1999, in full compliance with Mexican law, and registered as a not for profit Asociación Civil. 24 Hours now has a proven track record of 50 years of dedicated service to its members. Membership is open to all residents of San Miguel. The majority of members (as is the foreign population here) are American and Canadian. Fees paid are refundable upon request.
Let us consider a moment imagining what happens if plans for your passing have not been made. The survivor is too shocked to effectively function; or there is no survivor here, and a relative arrives from Canada, the States or elsewhere and must navigate the rigors of the Mexican legal system; or a neighbor finds the body deceased from natural causes and has no one around for advice — the police are called, and…let’s not go there. The complications are simply something to avoid.
The 24 Hour Association exists for you, the foreign resident in San Miguel, who resides in this fair city upon death. It gives a great gift to the friend or relative who picks up the pieces, especially when the unexpected happens. All necessary legal requirements are handled by dedicated officers of the association: The Spanish death certificate from the Mexican authorities for all members (without the need of a family member’s presence); the notice of death and death certificate in English by the US Embassy; calls to friends and relatives as indicated by the deceased; calls to the funeral director to collect the body; delivery of the ashes of the deceased; informing the survivors of last wishes per the file of the deceased. Exit gracefully from this plane by participating as a member in 24 Hours, and know that yours is an orderly departing, which minimizes trauma to your survivors. Contact Linda Cooper, Executive Secretary at: 185-2023 to become a member, or check out our web site at: www.24assoc.com for more information about participating in this fine group.
Natalie Hardy has been a 24 Hour Association Board member for eight years, focusing on public relations. She was a 24 Hour member when her husband, Derrick, passed away in 2004, which was of untold support in the passing of her partner.