Edna, Texas, is a small town, which means Trey Ganem knew the family that lost five children in a mobile home fire.
His son played varsity football with 15-year-old Noah Ortiz, the oldest of the five children who died in the Nov. 25 blaze. Ganem’s daughter went to school with 11-year-old Julian Ortiz.
Their parents, Annabel Ortiz and Johnny Hernandez, lost their home and all but one of their children in the fire. The community was quick to rally, raising more than $28,000 online to help with funeral expenses and rebuilding their lives.
Ganem was more than willing to help out by doing what he does every day: designing custom caskets with a bit of personality.
“I just wanted to do something to help,” Ganem said.
Ganem made five caskets free of charge at the request of the family. Instead of dressing them in a somber brown wood, Ganem designed each casket to reflect the children’s personalities.
For Noah Ortiz, that means a casket bearing his school colors and mascot, the cowboy, and his number-50 football jersey.
Julian Ortiz, the wrestling fan, will be laid to rest in a black casket with his name in red letters and a W resembling the WWE logo.
Six-year-old Nicholas Ortiz loved video games. His black casket features the “Call of Duty” logo and the phrase, “Nicholas Got Called To Duty.”
Sisters Areyanah Hernandez, 6, and Lilyana Hernandez, 5, loved the movie “Frozen.” Their pink and blue glittered caskets are topped with princess crowns.
Ganem, an artist who spent most of his career designing hot rods, started applying his skills to caskets this year. It’s sad work, but he said it’s worth it to see how his caskets can change the mood of a room, especially at a child’s funeral.
“It’s heart-wrenching for me, but when I can provide just a little bit of comfort for the families, that’s all I’m looking for,” he said. “Every casket I work on, I treat it like it’s for my my son or my dad.”