By PJ Martin
A meeting of past and present occurred at Butler Funeral Home last Monday. Former owners Donnie and Judy Butler stopped by to chat with new owner John Horan about the history of the funeral home. A member of the JPI staff was invited to meet Mr. Horan and Kenny Shepperd of AF Crow and learn more about the beautiful historic building on the Edmonton Square.
Donnie Butler shared historical details of the funeral home his father Don Butler II worked at in Center, which caught fire and burned.
“A Mr. A.J. Dalton was here…and his sons became pharmacists…so he said ‘I’m either going to close the doors or sell it,’ so dad bought it,” explained Donnie.
“All the embalming was done in the home, he had a little panel truck,” said Donnie. “They used to get water for the embalming and all, done in the home, everybody had cisterns. And when it didn’t rain, of course, it couldn’t collect water. So they had a common well in the courthouse yard. Everybody would take their buckets and get the water in the courthouse yard…people in their homes, they didn’t have running water and they’d use that for cooking and all.” That was in the 60s when most homes didn’t have running water.
“Dad was the first mayor. Put in the first water lines, first gas…he was in there for 20 years,” he continued, adding that Edmonton wasn’t incorporated at the time. “Two or three of the people, the city fathers got together and got it incorporated.”
It was discovered that no one could get insurance, because there was no fire department. A used fire truck was found in Cincinnati, so they got it and brought it to Edmonton.
“Everything worked out of the funeral home. The ambulance service started in ‘46…had a telephone just for the fire department. It was here (pointing at the desk) and the siren was hooked up to the funeral home. Whenever they had a fire, they called the funeral home…Dad would send me to the city building up here (pointing toward the current city building) where the fire truck was…we had to have 3 people on the truck before you could go to a fire, because of insurance,” reminisced Butler. If there weren’t enough people for the fire truck, they would circle the square until enough volunteers were on board.
Butler explained that even though it was purchased in ‘45, his parents didn’t move in until ‘46. Judy added, “We actually have the original deed.”
“So it was constructed in the 40s?” asked Horan about the building. Judy replied, “It was in the 1900s as a private home by Judge Kinnaird.”
It was sold to A.J. Dalton in the 20s and then Don Butler purchased it in ’45. The additions were built in the 60s, the chapels, offices, and back lounge area.
After hearing the history of Butlers, Horan spoke a little about himself. He still works a few hours each week in the mortuaries and didn’t have the intention of owning all these funeral homes, but as he said, “Here I am.”
“I started when I was 13 mowing lawns for mortuaries and washing cars and doing those sorts of things,” adding that he later obtained his business degree and worked as a Commercial Industrial Real Estate Appraiser while continuing to work nights and weekends at the mortuaries. “Always looked forward to it,” he added.
“I’ve worked with a lot of people. Our business in Denver has 4,000 plus calls and 11 locations. I know what it takes to do this and do it well. It’s people who have an intense drive to take extraordinarily good care of families,” explained Horan about people who work in the mortuaries.
Donnie and Judy both extended their gratefulness that Horan and Shepperd who intend to restore Butler Funeral Home to a community-based, trustworthy place to care for the family’s loved ones. They also relayed their willingness to assist not as workers, but to visit or give advice.