The Business Report: Harris Funeral Home’s history is over 100 years

April 3, 2015
Harris funeral home

Bill Harris, director of Harris Funeral Home.

Oceana County Press is provided free to its readers through the generous support of advertisers. Today, we feature one of those advertisers, Harris Funeral Home, in The Business Report.

By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

SHELBY — The stately three-story home that houses Harris Funeral Home is a landmark in the village. Built in 1909, the beautiful brick building became a funeral home in 1926 and has remained a funeral home for nearly 90 years.

The business itself also traces its roots back to 1909 when Victor Cooper purchased the undertaking business from Jerry Lyons. The first undertaking parlor was located in the old Shelby Theater Building (the current site of the funeral home parking lot). In 1912, the business moved across the street to a location just south of Shelby State Bank. The final move was in 1926 when the business relocated to its current home, the former Fred Llewelyn residence. There have been two additions and much remodeling since that time.

Victor’s son, Burton joined the funeral home in 1931. He worked with his father until Victor’s unexpected death in 1940.

William F. Harris came to Shelby from Grand Rapids in 1961 and was a partner with Burton until Burton’s retirement in 1963. William F. Harris’ son, William P. Harris, joined his father in the business in 1983.

There is no official date of William F. Harris’ retirement. “Dad just kind of eased out of it,” Bill said, and his father remains part owner of the business. Amazingly, in its 105-year history, the funeral home has had four licensed funeral directors over all those years, Bill said.

In the early years, the main four rooms were used as the funeral home, and the Cooper family lived upstairs. In 1941,

William P. and William F. Harris in 1968.

William P. and William F. Harris in 1968.

they added the present-day chapel, Bill said.

The need for funeral homes has grown over the decades as people rarely have visitations and wakes in their own homes like they used to many, many years ago, Bill said.

Bill, who became a licensed funeral director in 1983, has seen technology make a tremendous impact on the funeral home business. Funeral home websites are a great resource of information, with obituaries, pricing information, and an opportunity for people to leave condolences to the family.

Harris Funeral Home offers many different types of services including burial and cremation, and they have been selling cemetery markers and monuments for over 40 years.

Jim Brown, who joined the staff at Harris Funeral Home in 1999, became a licensed funeral director last year. Retired minister Paulette Zoulek underwent funeral celebrant training to provide funeral services at Harris for those families who do not have a pastor. Bill’s wife, Helga, plays a key role at the funeral home by providing all the technology-related and clerical work. Bill said there are also several part-time people at Harris who help out during funerals.

Over the years, the Coopers and the Harrises have strived to bring families a sense of comfort during the very difficult experience of the death of a loved one.

Bill said his job is extremely rewarding because he “helps folks during their greatest time of need.” His priority is to “always be compassionate and empathetic all the time and be there for the families. Every situation is unique, and we learn how to best serve every family. Death is such an emotional time for people.”

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