Four decades of family-run services
Funeral trends have
changed over the years, but commitment remains the
By April Taylor,
Greene Record Editor
Sarita Powers is seated
in the foyer of Ryan Funeral Home, reminiscing over
the family-owned business that her father, Franklin
Ryan, started more than four decades ago, back in
1964. One of her earliest memories from childhood is
when the funeral home, located off Spotswood Trail in
Quinque, was situated in the town of Stanardsville on
Back in those days, her
mom, Doris Ryan, helped with the funeral business, but
the main priority for Mrs. Ryan then was doing the
"There was an apartment
upstairs, and the funeral home was on the main floor
in the house," Powers recalls. "My dad used to say all
the time, 'I don't know how we had three little girls
and a funeral home downstairs.' But they did it
When Franklin Ryan
passed away in 1995, Doris Ryan took over the business
that meant so much to her husband.
"My dad -- he loved the
funeral home business, but he really loved the people
of Greene," says Powers. "He just enjoyed helping
people and serving people. It really was his life
Mrs. Ryan retired this
year. Now Powers is left to continue the business that
her parents launched. Ryan Funeral Home has been in
its present location in Quinque since the 1970s. Back
then, Powers recalls, Franklin and Doris Ryan used to
hold open houses as a way of reaching out to the
is a tradition that Powers is bringing back this
Sunday, December 9. All are invited to an open house
to be held from 2pm to 5 pm.
It's a way of saying
'thank you,' to the community, Powers says, plus, she
adds, "we want to have people come in and be able to
come to the funeral home for a non-grieving event.
Come see what's going on in the building, to see we're
still alive and well."
George Larner, funeral
director and general manager of Ryan Funeral Home,
said the open house is an opportunity to reminder
folks that "we're here to serve the community."
"They can come in and
examine our goods and services that we offer," Larner
adds. Larner joined the company in his current
position in December 2003 but has worked part time
with the Ryan family since 1998.
The funeral service
industry has changed greatly from when the Ryans first
began. With the rise of the baby boomers, funeral
service consumers are making funeral decisions based
on different values than their previous generation,
according to the National Funeral Directors
As with funeral homes
across the nation, the Ryans have added technology to
the business, including a 42-inch flat HDTV television
in the funeral chapel. That's to accommodate one
of the many new trends in the business:
personalization of services.
burial service is still offered at Ryan, of course,
but "more funerals are going toward personalization,"
"It's more of a
celebration of the person's life," says Larner. Some
examples: running videos of the deceased, playing
favorite songs and even having photos of the deceased
displayed on various items, including candles or
"We have the capability
of taking anywhere from 20, 40, 50 o 60 photos of that
person's life and making a video," Powers explains.
She continues: "People
are getting away from what I call a 'cookie cutter'
funeral, which is the person dies, they're embalmed,
they're dressed, people come look at them, we have the
funeral and its over."
She says that people are
doing more to individualize the service to reflect the
deceased person's life.
"Deaths are as unique as
births," says Powers. "I have never seen two funerals
Larner keeps track of
the trends. One other trend: a rise in the
number of cremations.
Cremation trends are
growing, says Larner. Cremations make up 28 percent of
funeral services nationally and a whopping 75 percent
of funeral services in the Charlottesville area. "
"That figure may double
in the next 10 years," Larner says.
One reason for the
increase in popularity of cremations is cost, says
"The cost of cemetery
property has increased in value and people don't want
to pay out that kind of money for a burial," says
Plus, people like the
options that come with cremation.
"A lot of people say
that you c an do more with cremated remains than you
can burying someone," says Powers. "Once they are
buried they are buried. But if you have the urn, it
can be buried or scattered under a tree or mixed with
the cremated remains of your husband or wife."
She adds, "You can even
have your cremated remains turned into diamonds. But
it's very expensive."
People can also put
their remains into keepsake such as pendants and
necklaces, Larner adds.
Plus, Larner says,
cremation is more accepted than years ago.
Another trend, according
to the National Funeral Directors Association: an
increase in the number of individuals choosing to
preplan their own funeral.
of what has changed in the industry, one thing remains
the same: the commitment required.
Both Powers and Larner
say they carry a phone with them at all times, not
knowing when they'll get a call.
There are ten members on
the staff at Ryan Funeral Home, including Powers and
Larner: Charlotte Morris, Peggy Larner, Ray Sullivan,
Howard Jadofsky, William "Hap" Atkinson, Paul Lester,
Mick Carrier and Tommy and Helen Saul.
"The funeral business is
a 24-7 job," agrees Powers. "It's not something you
get into if you don't want to work nights and
weekends. You do it because you want to serve people;
you want to help them have the type of service for
their loved ones that they want to have, and sometimes
you do get emotionally involved."
Sometimes its hard,
"You don't wake up one
day and say, 'I'm going to be a funeral director. It's
a calling. It's a higher power calling you."
"You're on call 24 hours
a day, seven days a week," says Larner, who was
educated at Riverheads High School, Blue Ridge
Community College and Gupton Jones College of Funeral
Service in Atlanta.
Powers grew up in
Greene, went to James Madison University and became a
teacher. She used to be a middle school teacher for
about 10 years and gave up teaching when she had
twins. She began helping her mother part time in 2004.
Powers admitted that she
was a "little bit' reluctant at first. She started
full time in 2005 and is now in the process of getting
her funeral director's license.
"Now I understand how
much my father and mother loved the business and how
much they gave themselves to it," says Powers.
Photo credits from top:
Photo by April Taylor of
Sarita Powers outside Ryan Funeral Home in Greene
Family photo of Franklin Ryan with the first Rescue
Photo by April Taylor of George Larner
Photo by April Taylor of Charlotte Morris
Thanks to the
Greene Record and April
Taylor for permission to use this story and photos.