For more than 100 years, a few area funeral homes have been firmly entrenched in the community and meeting the needs of area residents.
McClure-Schafer-Lankford, 314 Fourth St., has been in business since 1895, but it started under a different name with first owner Joseph Doudna.
"It started as Doudna Funeral Home," said Funeral Director Kyle Lankford. "He started down on Tiber Way."
AMANDA NICHOLSON The Marietta Times
Bill Peoples stands with Sayers & Scovill coach, built in 1895 in Cincinnati.
Photo submitted by McClure-Schafer-Lankford
Horse-drawn hearses were used for funerals in the past.
Lankford said a lot of records weren't kept in the late 1800s to early 1900s and that many funeral homes were just storefronts.
"Most funerals happened in people's houses," he said. "The funeral homes were considered more a storefront than funeral homes people are used to."
Funeral Director Dennis Lankford said hearses used to be horse drawn, but motorized versions began to take over.
1895-The funeral home opens as Doudna Funeral Home on Tiber Way.
1916-Walter McClure becomes Doudna's partner and the business is renamed Doudna & McClure Funeral Home.
1973-Walter McClure dies and his daughter Genevieve Schafer and her husband Jim take over ownership of the business.
1975-The business is renamed the McClure-Schafer Funeral Home.
1999-The business is incorporated.
2001-The name of the funeral home is changed to McClure-Schafer-Lankford, Inc. to reflect the name of the new managing funeral director and longtime employee Dennis Lankford.
Cawley & Peoples
1869-The Lowell location opens.
1898-The Marietta location opens.
1967-The Marietta business moves to Front Street.
1977-Bill and Pat Peoples take over ownership.
1996-The Barlow location opens.
2002-An expansion happens at the Marietta location.
2003-Sincerely Yours is added to the funeral home.
"It raised the question of do you use the old horse drawn hearse or the new motorized hearse? Funerals are such a family tradition. Some people were offended if you used a motorized hearse when you used the horse drawn one for grandma," he said.
Doudna was joined by Walter McClure in 1916, renaming the funeral home Doudna & McClure. Sixteen years later, Doudna retired and McClure continued operating the funeral home until his death in 1973. After that, McClure's daughter and her husband took over. The funeral home was renamed McClure-Schafer Funeral Home in 1975.
The business became incorporated in 1999 and was renamed McClure-Schafer-Lankford Funeral Home in 2001.
Kyle said one reason the funeral home has been so successful is because of tradition.
"I think tradition is a big part of it," he said. "You always get good and fair service. We try to focus on the family and meet their needs."
Dennis said families tend to stay with the funeral home.
"We've had people say, 'We had our grandparents' funeral here and our parents' funeral here,'" he said. "It's just like going home. Let's face it; we're not a 'modern' facility, we are home-like."
Kyle said the three funeral homes in Marietta have a good relationship for the simple reason that families tend to stay with one funeral home.
"There's not a lot of competition necessarily that you find in large cities," he said.
Treatment of the families is key to success, Kyle added.
"It becomes a relationship; you build a relationship with the family over time," he said.
A lot of times, trends change and the funeral home must change to meet the needs of the family, Kyle said.
"We keep up with progress and with changes that are made," he said. "There are a lot of new modern trends. Most obviously is probably cremation. ...We also provide 'natural burial.' The term people use is 'green burial.' Things are done in order to promote the return of the body to the earth...We try to keep up with what the family wants."
Dennis said if he's done his job right, he's just a backup.
"I feel that if I have done my job as a funeral director, I've met with the family and they come in for visitation, I should be in the back corner," he said. "I'm here to put out any little fires that might pop up. People come here to visit with the family and I think visitation is probably the most important thing we do; we make people feel comfortable."
Kyle added that the aim is to keep that level of comfort high in the future.
"When you experience death, you want to go where you feel comfortable," he said. "When it comes down to it, you're just looking for that level of comfort. It's worked for us so far; we're going to continue to try to be that way."
Cawley & Peoples
Like McClure's, Cawley & Peoples Funeral Home was started in the late 1800s, in 1898, by the Cawley family.
Current owners Bill and Pat Peoples have been involved in the business for many years.
That long history is evident in many ways, including at the bank.
"We've been in business so long that at the Williamstown Bank, we have lock box number one," he said.
He said the funeral home can trace its roots back to 1869.
"That's at our facility in Lowell," he said.
The Lowell facility was owned by two generations of the Schneider family before going through two generations of the Spies family and then two generations of the Peoples family, Bill said. The funeral home in Lowell was located on the second floor of a three-story building.
"We are (the funeral home) that started out as a furniture store and funeral home," he said. "It was very common."
Bill said his father bought the store in Lowell before 1950.
"My dad came to the area in 1947 and bought the funeral business and furniture store in Lowell," he said. "Then Pat and I came to work here in Marietta for Mr. Cawley in 1973. We bought the business in 1977."
There are three Cawley & Peoples Funeral Homes in the area: Marietta, Lowell and Barlow.
The funeral home in Marietta was originally known as Wieser & Cawley Funeral Home, Bill said, and was operated on the second floor of Wieser & Cawley's furniture store, which sold furniture on the first and third floors.
Like McClure's, Cawley & Peoples has seen an increase in cremation services.
"You see more cremation that you used to," Bill said. "I think death overall used to be a pretty taboo subject. Now people are pretty open about it for the most part. Cremation is now accepted by a majority of people."
Pat said the wider acceptance might have to do with mobility.
"People in the country are more mobile than they used to be," she said. "They leave their hometown and settle somewhere else. Many may not want to come back and visit (a grave). People are not as tied to place anymore."
Bill said cremation is also accepted by many religions.
Pat said the business side has changed as well over the years.
"The laws have changed over the years," she said. "Ohio is a highly regulated state; there are lots of governmental agencies to answer to. A lot ensures that the consumer is protected."
Bill said another part of the business that's increased is in pre-arranged funerals.
"It's because people talk about (death) more and are more open," he said. "They arrange their own or parents' funerals. That's been a big change. About half of our business is currently pre-arranged to some degree."
Pat said for funerals today, there are many options families can use.
"There are big picture boards and video tributes," she said. "People like to bring in artifacts from a person's life and their homes. We've had a porch swing, bales of hay and quilts...People will send throws and windchimes as a keepsake. Families seem to respond well to that; they appreciate the thoughtful things people do."
Pat said some who have died have wanted their ashes scattered in the river while others have wanted balloons or doves to be released.
Bill added that oftentimes, people like to have bagpipes played. He said the sky is the limit with making a funeral unique.
"Now funerals are very personalized, more and more all the time," he said.
Pat said that as funeral directors their job is to help each family the best they can.
"We're the specialists in helping someone through a really rough time," she said. "I think it's important to offer whatever hospitality we can."