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Ryan Funeral Home

Comforting Central Virginia Families Since 1964        

Four decades of family-run services

Sarita Powers

Funeral trends have changed over the years, but commitment remains the same
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 Shiloh Road.

Back in those days, her mom, Doris Ryan, helped with the funeral business, but the main priority for Mrs. Ryan then was doing the "mom" thing.

"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 somehow."

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 love, honestly."

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 community.

the original ambulanceThat 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 Association

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.

George LarnerTraditional burial service is still offered at Ryan, of course, but "more funerals are going toward personalization," says Larner.

"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 laminated bookmarks.

"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 the same."

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 Larner.

"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 Larner.

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.

Charlotte MorrisRegardless 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, admits Powers.

Larner agrees.

"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 County
Family photo of Franklin Ryan with the first Rescue Squad vehicle
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. 

12819 Spotswood Trail, P.O. Box 274, Ruckersville, VA 22968
Phone: 434-985-2620        Fax:  434-985-6586


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