David Lee Hernandez Jr., the hard-charging founder and CEO of Jersey Memorial Group, has been named the Business Leader of the Year by Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Hernandez has been an embalmer and funeral director since 2004, but his interest in funeral service started at a young age. Influenced by his mother, Debora, who began a second career working in a cemetery, he spent his summer breaks going to work with his mother in various roles around the grounds.

Immediately after high school, he decided to pursue funeral service and become a funeral director in New Jersey. He began his internship at Waitt Funeral Home. Shortly after becoming a funeral director, the firm he worked at was purchased, and after becoming licensed he began managing the bookkeeping, purchasing/ordering and staffing of the funeral home.

Call volume at Waitt Funeral Home began to increase and ownership decided to build a branch location in neighboring Old Bridge Township. Hernandez was responsible for the design of the building and was the project manager throughout construction. Old Bridge Funeral Home opened in May 2007, but Hernandez  grew frustrated with ownership, as he felt they cared more about revenue and less about families and team members.

Less than two years later, he jumped at the opportunity to purchase the two firms he started his career at, and in 2009, he completed the purchase of Waitt Funeral Home and Old Bridge Funeral Home, completing a goal and dream of owning both funeral homes.

As David and his management began to implement families-first service, best practices, and team member development; the firms continued to grow in call volume organically. After three years of ownership, property was purchased for another buildout of a new funeral home to service the Jersey Shore. This began Jersey Memorial Group and the growth that would continue today across three states with holdings of 11 funeral homes, two cemeteries including combination locations, an insurance agency, and multiple service brands to reach local families.

Hernandez will be honored with other local honorees at the chamber’s annual Community Leaders of Distinction at 6 p.m. on May 29, at The Pines Manor, 2085 Lincoln Hwy in Edison. Learn how to attend to celebrate the achievements of Hernandez and all the honorees.

“It’s a great honor to share this evening with an amazing group of award recipients,” Hernandez said on Facebook, in sharing news about his award. “I’m truly blessed to be in a career that is more of a ministry than a job. These recognition events are amazing but without the love and support of my family and the entire team at Jersey Memorial this would not be possible.”

The honor bestowed on Hernandez is part of the business group’s Community Leaders of Distinction Awards, which honor individuals and/or organizations that  have made a difference and have improved the quality of life for their neighbors and the communities in Middlesex County. This award celebrates and showcases the honorees’ important contributions to our community.

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