Kristin Tips: Serving Others with Compassion and Grace
As soon as you meet Kristin Tips you immediately learn she’s the mother of twins, she’s married to the love of her life, and she’s a funeral director.
While that might seem like an unexpected career, it’s a profession that she’s passionate about. You can’t help but feel the pride in her voice when she describes the long family tradition of women taking leading roles in this family-owned funeral business.
“Believe it or not, Mission Park is really a love story. Our history in San Antonio goes back to 1890 when my husbands’ great grandfather, Will Harry Chambers bought his wife Clara Mahone Chambers a unique wedding gift… acres of undeveloped land on the banks of the San Antonio River.”
“Clara’s wedding present included water rights from the original Espada Dam built by the King of Spain and the Franciscan Monks in 1736. Because of the abundance of water, the land was developed into the first perpetual care cemetery in all of Texas, and it became known as Mission Burial Park. If it were not for a woman named Clara, none of this would be here today.”
From Clara to Kristin, women have been guiding and growing the company. But Kristin’s interest in becoming a funeral director began long before she married Dick Tips and began working side by side with him.
She was drawn to the calling of funeral service while she was a young girl, and her father passed away suddenly. “Seeing how important the funeral director was in helping my family cope with his loss was what attracted me to this career in the first place,” she tells us.
Kristin is part of a growing trend in her profession where today, women make up approximately one-fourth of all funeral directors in the United States.
“Next to daughter, mother, and wife, funeral director is the title that I’m most proud of,” Tips says. She sees her job as a calling, telling us, “I feel like the funeral profession chose me, and I’m so glad it did.” But getting to where she is today didn’t come easy.
“I was held back in first grade because I was having challenges at school and discovered that I struggled with dyslexia. Fortunately, my Mom believed in me and found teachers who did the same. I was the first person in my family to attend and graduate from college. But I wouldn’t have achieved this goal without hard work, dedication, encouragement, and scholarships.”
To help with her education, Tips competed in local, state, national and international pageants and was crowned Miss San Antonio US, Miss Texas Galaxy, and Miss Galaxy International. Her success in pageantry allowed her to graduate from college debt-free.
Despite being challenged with dyslexia, she graduated high school at 16 and college at 19 with a Bachelor of Arts in management from The University of the Incarnate Word. Tips attended real-estate school during her summer break and earned her real estate brokers license and went on to complete the Mortuary Science program at San Antonio College becoming a licensed funeral director.
Today, Kristin Tips is President of Mission Park. “It takes an incredible amount of focus to run a vertically integrated funeral company with dozens of funeral chapels, crematories, cemeteries, and support services,” Kristin says. “But I always remember that everything we do is to better take care of the families we serve when they need us most.”
In addition to all the funeral operations, Tips is also responsible for the Fairmount Hotel, which plays an important role for Mission Park. “It helps families immensely when they have out of town friends and family attending a service,” says Tips. She makes sure to always have rooms reserved for those families as a spare bedroom.
Most recently Tips has been working with prolific restaurateurs Cari and Patrick Richardson who have opened Silo Prime, Nonna Osteria and the Terrace Rooftop to elevate the culinary landscape of downtown San Antonio. Opening these restaurants at The Fairmount is just part of the complete restoration and renovation Tips is supervising to continue its legacy as The Jewel of San Antonio.
“The Fairmount Hotel has an amazing history. It’s even in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the largest structure ever moved on wheels,” says Tips. “Hotels and funeral homes have a lot in common. They both require constant attention to service and they are open 24/7/365.”
Beyond the Fairmount Hotel, Tips and her husband have a vision for the future of the company, including the construction of all new “Life Centers” to serve the needs of the San Antonio community. “These Life Centers take the concept of funeral homes to all new heights by integrating chapels and reception facilities under one roof because we celebrate life,” said Tips.
Known for her work ethic and compassion, the San Antonio native was appointed by Governor Greg Abbott and confirmed by the Texas State Senate as Commissioner of the Texas Funeral Service Commission to oversee statewide activities. “This is a real honor. As a woman, this position allows me to help shape the future of funeral service in Texas”, she says.
Tips also serves as Trustee for the Texas Biomedical Research Institute Forum which aims to unravel the mysteries of infectious diseases. Other community responsibilities on her plate include being a Trustee for the World Affairs Council of San Antonio and serving on the board of directors for the Ecumenical Center for Health, Education, and Counseling. The center provides counseling services to active and former military members and their families. “This is particularly important in San Antonio where we have so many members of the armed forces living in our community,” Tips tells us. Outside of that, she is involved with the local Police, Sheriff and Fire Departments, and actively supports scholarship efforts for the youth of San Antonio.
Tips says she has been inspired in her community service pursuits by two iconic local figures. “Lila Cockrell and Rosemary Kowalski are real role models for me, both for their humble beginnings, public service, civic leadership and for blazing the trail for a woman in business.”
Kristin knows the importance of sharing the most important responsibilities in life. When it comes to raising their seven-year-old twins, Peggy and Robert, she works hand in hand with her husband, Dick. “We share the same values but we have different strengths.” Kristin handles the day-to-day family schedule, and Dick is planning out the future.
Because of their busy schedules, family time is cherished. The Tips spent their summer vacation exploring and camping in an RV, visiting small towns and national parks on their way to the Grand Canyon. “We didn’t rely on our phones for directions. The kids used actual paper maps to navigate the trip, and they journaled and sketched the sites as well as counting windmills and reading historical markers along the way.” Great memories she shares. “Watching Peggy and Robert experience new parts of the country for the first time was really magical for us.”
Tips makes sure holidays are family events. During the holidays we make sure our home is the center of all our activities by decorating the inside and the outside of the house in imaginative ways. Kristin & Dick enjoy getting very creative to help Peggy and Robert understand the meaning of each holiday and to spread cheer. “Spending time with our kids this way really keeps us focused and grounded on what’s important in life.”
Tips teaches her children the importance of giving back. Not only did Peggy & Robert participate in the wreath-laying ceremony for Wreaths Across American at Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery, but they were also invited to lead the congregation and dignitaries in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
The children adopt paper Angels from the Angel Tree at Christ Episcopal Church to benefit children in need during the holidays. Peggy and Robert sell their home-grown lemons door to door to earn money to purchase pajamas for the adopted Angels to help make the holidays a little brighter for the children in need.
“I love seeing our kids develop a generous spirit. Maybe it’s part of growing up the way I did — not as fortunate as some. I’m thankful for the opportunities God has given me.”
“My mother taught me to have faith in God and trust in His plan, to believe in myself, to be independent, to give back to society and always to do what is right.
That attitude and her life skills shine in everything she does. She loves her family, her husband, and her co-workers. “I’m so proud of our extended family at Mission Park. Working with them and learning from them has been an absolute pleasure and a tremendous honor for me. I feel very blessed.”
By Sandra Wright
Photography by Langmore Photography