New owner

J.M. Curry Fu­neral Home re­mains an in­de­pen­dent busi­ness in Glace Bay un­der new op­er­a­tor

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHRIS SHAN­NON cshan­non­cb­post.com

J.M. Curry Fu­neral Home re­mains an in­de­pen­dent busi­ness un­der new op­er­a­tor.

As an in­de­pen­dent fu­neral home that’s been a fam­ily op­er­a­tion for more than a cen­tury, J.M. Curry Fu­neral Home Ltd. have served four, in some cases, five gen­er­a­tions of fam­i­lies.

Three gen­er­a­tions of Curry fam­ily mem­bers have op­er­ated the fu­neral home since 1908.

How­ever, that long run ended last year when owner Michael Curry re­tired and sold the busi­ness to Man­sie La­belle of Glace Bay.

While La­belle bought the fu­neral home, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Kirk Neville han­dles its day-to­day op­er­a­tion.

Neville, orig­i­nally from Glace Bay, has worked as a fu­neral di­rec­tor for the past 15 years in Truro, Fred­er­ic­ton, N.B., North Syd­ney, and in his home­town for four years now.

Neville em­pha­sized that, even with Michael Curry and his brother Joe Curry’s re­tire­ment from the busi­ness, it’s still very much a “fam­ily-fo­cused” op­er­a­tion.

“Most of the time we see peo- ple stick with the fu­neral home that grandma or grandpa did. That’s typ­i­cal,” he said.

“But now we’re see­ing new fam­i­lies be­come clients. I can tell you last year we had three fam­i­lies that had been at other fu­neral homes and just through some per­sonal con­tacts de­cided to come here.

“They were very happy with how we ar­range things and as­sisted them in the process from the time the per­son passed away un­til the ser­vice and ceme­tery in­ter­ment was com­pleted.”

Neville works with three part­time em­ploy­ees who have years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the fu­neral home in­dus­try.

It’s a chal­leng­ing job al­ways on-call, hav­ing to at­tend to a griev­ing fam­ily at any point in the day. Though Neville said he deals with grief and sad­ness regularly, there are ways to cope with­out feel­ing a heavy bur­den weigh­ing on him each work­day.

“You have to have some kind of faith and I don’t mean re­li­gious or other and pos­i­tive think­ing, which is what I use quite of­ten,” he said.

He asks fam­i­lies sim­ple, yet im­por­tant, ques­tions about the life of their de­parted loved one. It helps to get the con­ver­sa­tion flow­ing and mov­ing their thought pat­terns away from the death it­self.

“I would ask ques­tions like: ‘ What did the en­joy do­ing? What were their hob­bies?’ With a lot of men, the fam­ily will tell me what was their favourite base­ball or hockey team so you can make a lit­tle joke about that.

“You’ll see their fa­cial ex­pres­sion change be­cause now they’re talk­ing about the good mem­o­ries and what they loved and en­joyed about that per­son so they’re not fo­cus­ing on the fact that they are phys­i­cally gone.”

Some ques­tions are del­i­cate, but Neville said it’s about mak­ing the process as easy and pain-free as pos­si­ble.

De­spite re­tir­ing from the job full-time, Joe Curry still does at­tend to the oc­ca­sional fu­neral. Keith Wil­cox has worked at Curry’s since 1980. In Oc­to­ber, Rita Tomp­kins, who has two decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in the field, was hired.

Curry’s han­dles, on av­er­age, 80 fu­ner­als each year, Neville said.

He said it’s com­mon­place for Joe Curry to as­sist on the day of the fu­neral for those who re­quest him, while Michael Curry is no longer hands-on but of­ten calls the fam­ily to of­fer his per­sonal con­do­lences.

“Where we’re do­ing 80 fu­ner­als (a year) we have more time to spend with the fam­ily one-onone. And where we may know them some­how, we ba­si­cally know what they’re look­ing for and can af­ford,” Neville said.

CHRIS SHAN­NON/CAPE BRE­TON POST

Kirk Neville is the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of J.M. Curry Fu­neral Home Ltd. in Glace Bay. Neville, and three part-time em­ploy­ees, op­er­ate the fu­neral home. Pre­vi­ous own­ers Micheal and Joe Curry still at­tend to fu­neral ar­range­ments upon re­quest, says Neville.

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