Family Business Fall 2017

Page 8


The McHoul family By Mike Flaim


s difficult as the death of a loved one can be, the practicalities of bidding goodbye used to be considerably more challenging than they are today. Before the invention of the automobile, funerals were held in the deceased’s home. Families, friends and neighbors came together quickly to pay their respects, purchase a casket and bury the deceased (sometimes on their own property if a cemetery was too distant). If an undertaker lived nearby, a family could hire them to retrieve the deceased, embalm them, return them to the home for a wake and then perform the burial. Once cars became ubiquitous, though, funeral services were gradually removed from domestic sphere. In the 20th cen8

tury, the “undertaker” – the dour cabinetmaker-turned-coffin-maker driving a hearse as black as his buckram suit – became the funeral director. Our relationship with death changed, too, and continues to evolve thanks to modern-day funeral directors like Reid McHoul, Jim Delaney and Tim Keefe. All three are now the third generation in their family’s businesses, whose respective legacies were built by intimately understanding the needs and desires of families coping with the death of a loved one. The First Funeral Home Despite the sign, the Sperry & McHoul Funeral Home is owned solely by the McHouls (Sperry was the original

owner, and had the building constructed in 1921). Reid McHoul, whose father purchased the home from the Sperry estate in 1975, believes that it may be the oldest building in the country built specifically as a funeral home and not, as most are, converted from what was originally a private home. Most funeral homes are stately Victorians, as they often feature a multitude of rooms and sweeping, spacious parlors. Reid’s location in North Attleboro has such features but it doesn’t have an extensive upper floor like a home would. The main entryway leads to a small chapel were services can be held. Directly above this space, a curved ceiling features a wan blue sky and cornsilk clouds