Funerals not 'cookie cutter'

Photo by Greg Eans, Messenger-Inquirer.com | geans@messenger-inquirer.com Nathan and Megan Morris stand outside of Haley-McGinnis Funeral Home and Crematory Tuesday in Owensboro.

Haley McGinnis Funeral Home & Crematory's roots run deep -- all the way back to 1909 and Owensboro Livery & Undertaking.

But Nathan and Megan Everly Morris are moving it into the 21st century and expanding their Morris Family Services brand to include funeral homes in five -- and soon, six -- cities in Kentucky and Indiana.

The list includes Haley McGinnis Funeral Home & Crematory; Miller Schapmire Funeral Home, Hartford; Holders Funeral Home, Owensville, Indiana; Caneyville Memorial Chapel, Caneyville; and Watson and Hunt Funeral Home, Leitchfield.

A sixth will be added soon, Nathan Morris said.

Funerals themselves are changing in the 21st century, he said.

"They're more celebratory than solemn these days," Morris said. "They celebrate the person's life. People don't like to wear black and walk with their shoulders hunched over."

A few years ago, the typical funeral included three days of visitation.

These days, Morris said, "many families want just one day."

He said, "Funerals aren't cookie cutters anymore. It's whatever you want. We ask about the person's favorite snacks, their favorite color. We all dressed in Pittsburgh Steelers colors for one funeral and hung a Steelers banner across a wall for the family."

One woman asked to be cremated, but didn't have any wishes for her ashes.

The Haley McGinnis team talked with her and learned that she had taught family members to shoot skeet.

She decided to have her ashes put into shotgun shells and given to each of the family members, Morris said.

"Our team members are in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s," he said. "Megan is the only one who grew up in the funeral industry."

She's the daughter of Mike and Kay Everly -- the president and treasurer respectively of Haley McGinnis, which they purchased in 1998.

"I worked here in the office all through high school and college," Megan Morris said. "I've been here 13 years full-time."

She and her husband have three children.

Nathan Morris was a professional pop singer until he fell in love with the mortician's daughter and got a job at the funeral home in 2010.

Music is now part of the background at Haley McGinnis.

"We have a self-playing piano," Nathan Morris said. "We play a lot of Frank Sinatra."

The funeral home has two grief dogs in training -- one of Kentucky and one for Indiana.

"We'll greet you within 10 seconds and you'll never see us on a cellphone," Morris said.

Last year, he said, "We had 224 funerals here and more than 500 at all locations. We've done Wiccan services. We do whatever the family wants."

And it's not just humans.

Haley McGinnis cremates about 3,500 pets each year.

That's an important service for those families too, Morris said.

Cremations are becoming more common for humans too, he said.

This year, roughly half of the funerals will include cremations, Morris said.

"By 2035, we expect it to be around 70% to 71%," he said.

The five funeral homes have 42 employees -- 17 of them in Owensboro.

Morris Family Services' Heroes of Public Safety Program "serves any first responder killed in the line of duty at no cost to the family," Morris said.

Families have a lot to deal with when a family member dies, he said.

So, Haley McGinnis offers a one-stop service for everything from flowers to monuments, Morris said.

The appearance of the funeral home is also important, he said.

"We worked hard to revamp this one over a three-year period," Morris said. "You have to have curb appeal too."

The funeral home, built in 1860, covers 17,769 square feet at 519 Locust St.

In June, readers of the Messenger-Inquirer named Haley McGinnis' their favorite funeral home in the Readers' Choice Awards.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com.

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