Spurgeon Funeral Home Inc. in Brownstown is in its third generation of ownership.
H. Jack Spurgeon, son of founder T.A. Spurgeon, was recognized in the past for holding his funeral director license for 50 years.
One of his sons, Jack D. Spurgeon, also made it to 50 years in the business.
Another son and the current owner, Larry Spurgeon, recently became the third member of his family to be recognized for 50 years.
Story continues below gallery
That honor came during the Indiana Funeral Directors Association’s annual convention in Indianapolis.
“It’s a real honor. You spend 50 years doing something, it is an honor,” he said.
He said it means a great deal to him to carry on the family business.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done, and I enjoy the people. I enjoy meeting people. I like it,” he said of helping people in the community in their time of grief. “I do enjoy what I’m doing and always have.”
He’s the first to admit he’s not your “cut-and-dry funeral director” when it comes to working with his staff.
“It’s a sad enough time, I don’t think you need all of that. A little humor doesn’t hurt every once in a while,” he said. “We do have fun, and we enjoy what we’re doing. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t.”
Spurgeon Funeral Home started more than 100 years ago in the small Jackson County community of Kurtz.
At the beginning, the business was in a building that housed a funeral home upstairs and a pool hall and soda fountain in the basement.
“Back then, they did all of the embalmings in the homes, so they didn’t do them at a facility,” Larry said. “Then they’d take the casket to the house, dress the person and put them in the casket.”
T.A.’s wife was the first female licensed embalmer in Indiana, Larry said.
Later on, H. Jack went to mortuary school and worked at a funeral home in Lebanon. He eventually wound up coming back to Kurtz to work for his father and took over the business when T.A. was killed by a train.
“He had a horse-drawn carriage and was going across the train tracks, and the horses balked on him, and he couldn’t get it off the track, and a train killed him,” Larry said.
The funeral home moved to Brownstown in the 1940s before expanding and settling at its present location at 206 E. Commerce St. in 1956.
After graduating from Brownstown Central High School in 1963, Larry attended the Kentucky School of Mortuary Science in downtown Louisville and finished there a year later.
He then went to Indiana State University and worked part time at Callahan Funeral Home in Terre Haute. He couldn’t earn his funeral director license until he turned 21, so he did everything at Callahan except embalming.
The Vietnam War was going on while he was in college, and Larry had a deferment for a while but wound up being called to serve.
After two years of active duty in the Air Force, Larry landed a job at G.H. Herrmann Funeral Home in Indianapolis and worked there for a year.
He also married during that time.
When his wife finished her master’s degree studies, they moved to Jackson County, and Larry worked full time for Rural Electric in Columbus and also helped his father at the funeral home in the evenings.
Larry then took a job as the chief probation officer in Jackson County and was able to help out at the funeral home more since he was closer to home.
Spurgeon Funeral Home became incorporated in 1976 — a year before H. Jack died. Larry then took over the family business along with his brother, Jack D., and mother, Margaret. She died in 1994.
Sixteen years ago, Larry retired from the probation department after 30 years, so he has solely focused on the funeral home ever since.
During his tenure, Larry said a lot of things have changed in the funeral home business.
One involves how funeral services are conducted.
“I can remember maybe 10 instances that I went to a house with my father and had visitation,” Larry said. “We would take the casket and everything out there, leave everything and then we had portable battery lights because people didn’t have electricity, and we hooked cables up to a battery to run the lights, just an old dry cell battery.”
When it was time for the funeral, Larry said they moved the casket from the house to a church and set everything up.
“Usually, you had two days of visitation, so it was a long, drawn-out affair,” he said.
Nowadays, embalming and preparation of the deceased are done personally in-house.
At one time, Spurgeon Funeral Home also had an ambulance service that ran 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“My dad was good friends with the sheriff, so the sheriff called him every time there was a wreck,” Larry said. “You transported people to nursing homes or different places. You’re on call all of the time.”
That service ended when Jackson County Emergency Medical Services formed on Jan. 1, 1991.
Jack D. retired from the funeral home business and selling insurance, and then Dwight Wischmeier joined the firm in February 2000 as a licensed funeral director and embalmer. He said he enjoys working for a funeral home that gives him the flexibility to also work with his family’s grave-digging business.
A couple of years later, Lisa Wischmeier was hired as an administrative assistant.
Luke Nolting began working for the funeral home a few years ago when his family moved to Brownstown. He has since graduated from Purdue University with a business management degree and currently is attending mortuary school.
He plans to finish mortuary school next April and then will serve a yearlong internship at Spurgeon. He then will be a licensed funeral director and can work toward his ultimate goal of being a funeral home owner.
“(Larry) has been a good mentor,” Nolting said. “We’re all like family here, and it’s a good place to work. We all enjoy what we do, and we’re all on the same page, and I just knew that that’s what I wanted to do. I hope I can continue the tradition.”
Larry said he is looking forward to Nolting taking over because that means he could retire.
“In the funeral business, you have a lot of sad times, and when you get older, it’s difficult because I’m burying people now that are my friends or people I’ve known all my life,” he said.
That’s tougher when it’s in a small community where everyone knows everybody, Larry said.
“In Indianapolis, I worked at a funeral home that did 600 calls a year, so I might embalm six bodies a night and never know who they are,” he said.
“But here, not only do you do the work and preparation, you have to be with them all of the time, and it kind of takes a toll when you get older,” he said. “When you’re younger, it didn’t seem to bother me as much. But when you get older, it does. … You’re dealing with so many different families throughout the county, and you see a lot of people over 50 years.”
While Spurgeon Funeral Home is among a few longtime businesses still open in Brownstown, Larry said several others have closed their doors.
He credits the funeral home’s longevity to being a family-owned business that people trust.
“In order to be in business 100 years, that’s pretty good, I’d say,” he said. “It’s hard for small businesses. You have to pay taxes like everybody else, and you’ve got overhead, and you’ve got expenses. But I think a lot of it is we give the community what they need, the service that they want, and more than likely, they continue to call us.”
Spurgeon Funeral Home Inc. is at 206 E. Commerce St., Brownstown.
For information, visit spurgeonfh.com or call 812-358-2252.