Marking a century of service
Published 12:00 am Friday, September 30, 2016
LaGRANGE — Although it started as a furniture store, what eventually became Hunter-Allen-Myhand Funeral Home this year celebrates a century in operation.
Currently operated by Carriage Services, the funeral service has undergone many changes over the years since it began. Most recently, the outside underwent a transformation after an oak tree that had been on the grounds for 100 years was struck by lightning and destroyed, said Mark Neal, managing partner for Hunter-Allen-Myhand.
The funeral home had to remove the tree’s remains and has remodeled the outside area with a fountain, landscaping and seating. It was probably the biggest change the funeral home property has undergone since it moved into the building in 1975.
The funeral home began in 1916 when J.C. Hunter Sr. and Sig Owen opened Hunter-Owen Funeral Home, an expansion of their furniture business, Hunter-Owen Furniture Co. Hunter-Owen Funeral home moved to a new, two-story facility at 111 Broad St. in 1927 and operated an ambulance for the city of LaGrange until 1966, according to historical documents from the funeral home.
In 1950, Hunter and Owen sold the business to Hunter’s son, J. Cliff Hunter Jr., and J. Fred Howard, who renamed it Hunter-Howard Funeral Home. In 1953, the business became Hunter-Allen-Myhand when J. Cliff Hunter Jr. partnered with the funeral home’s treasurer, Curtis Fred Myhand, and Nick Allen, who had been with the firm since 1933.
In 1975, Hunter-Allen-Myhand moved into its current facility at 506 Hill St. The manor was built by John Whitley, a road contractor responsible for paving most of the early roads in LaGrange, according to “Travels Through Troup County” by the Troup County Historical Society.
Allen retired in 1983, and J. Cliff Hunter Jr. died later that year. Allen died in 1994. Curtis Myhand continued to operate the business with his wife, Camilla Cotton Myhand, and their daughter and son-in-law, Claire and Ed Batchelor, until 1998, when they sold to Carriage Services Inc. Curtis Myhand passed away in 2015.
Current managing partner Mark Neal is a third-generation funeral director from Illinois. He and his wife, Cherie – the funeral home’s office manager – came to the business in 2013 from another Carriage Services-operated funeral home in Florida.
“We were looking for a small town to spend the rest of our lives,” Mark Neal said. “We love it, (LaGrange is) very much a hometown. It’s what I’m used to. I grew up in a town of 1,000; I knew everyone.”
Although the job can be hard, dealing with families during an emotional time, Mark Neal said the funeral home’s mission is to serve families and help them grieve. The funeral home hosts a grief support group every Tuesday, which is open to the public, and annually hosts a ceremony to thank all the local clergy, among other events.
Although coming from another area, Mark Neal said his family owns and operates a funeral home in Illinois, so he tries to manage Hunter-Allen-Myhand with the same care.
“It means a lot,” Mark Neal said about the 100-year history of the funeral home. “It’s an honor to be a part of it, an honor to carry it on.”
The Neals also hear the history from people who come in for services.
“Families come in and say how much it means to them, their loved ones were taken care of here,” Mark Neal said.
Added Cherie Neal: “A lot of people share memories of the neighborhood before the funeral home. They came in here and had birthday parties, or sleepovers. … It’s very heartwarming to hear people have such fond memories of the building.”