Lake County Ohio GenWeb

A Short History of the early Funeral Parlors in Painesville, Ohio
by Linda Jeffery
2005

Keener Funeral Home 1878 - 1915

My second cousin twice removed, Edwin D. Keener, was in the furniture and funeral home business in Painesville around the years 1878-1915. Edwin's father, C. L. Keener of Madison, Ohio, was a furniture/funeral director and coffin builder there. An article appearing in The Painesville Republican Trade Edition 1902, (below) indicated that Edwin's father, C.L. Keener, a furniture dealer and undertaker in Madison, Ohio had originally owned the State Street furniture store in Painesville, and that in 1878 the entire business went to Edwin where it grew and prospered. Due to rapid growth of the business, he purchased the block on S. St. Clair Street and built the Keener Funeral Home. (This block was referred to as the 'Keener block'.) The north side of the building housed his furniture business, and the south side of the building housed the undertaking business. After Edwin's death in 1915, the business was sold to B.B. Bitzer who turned the entire building into The Bitzer Furniture Store.


Keener Funeral Home, Painesville [1]

BIG FURNITURE TRANSACTION IS COMPLETED HERE
E.D. Keener Sells Business to B.B. Bitzer of St. Mary's Who Will Add Several New Lines-Former Proprietor Will Retain His Undertaking Parlors-In Business 37 Years in Painesville. One of Painesville's business landmarks was transferred into other hands Monday when B. B. Bitzer of St. Mary's O., bought the furniture store of E. D. Keener on South St. Clair Street. The new proprietor comes highly recommended as a business man of integrity and capability. For thirteen and one half years he has conducted a successful store in St. Mary's and brings with him an experience of twenty-six years in the same lines of business.

Mr. Bitzer states that he will not only carry the furniture line handled by Mr. Keener but will add the best in carpets, rugs and Queensware.

Although retiring from the furniture business, Mr. Keener will retain the undertaking feature of the business and will still have his headquarters in the south side of the building. Mr. Keener started in the furniture business in Painesville coming from Madison in 1878 and establishing a business in the McMillan block on North State Street. His business prospered and later he built the handsome business block he now occupies. Mr. Keener's retirement from active participation in the mercantile life of the city is greatly to be regretted. As a business man, he was 'square' and with a personality that won him many friends and made for him no enemies.

Edwin and his wife, Carrie Keener, also lived a short distance from their funeral home at 62 S. St. Clair Street. This property was located next door to 70 S. St. Clair Street and it was the 70 S. St. Clair Street address that eventually became the Fiser Funeral Home.

After Carrie's death in 1932, the 62 S. St. Clair Street property eventually came under the ownership of Cloise Fiser, purchasing the property for his residence. After Fiser's early death in 1937, the property was purchased by Mr. Materna who later sold the home to John Spear which became the Spear Funeral Home.


W. F. Post 1894 - 1917

The following is taken from an article appearing in The Industrial Trade Edition 1902, published by The Painesville Republican.

Located on North St. Clair Street, in his own brick block, W. F. Post has been known to our people for years as a reliable, enterprising business man and obliging gentleman who, by his good judgement and close application to business, has built up from a small beginning a large and prosperous business.

About eight years ago, after careful preparation by attending two of the best embalming schools, Mr. Post added undertaking. He has two fine funeral cars, an ambulance and three fine coaches, having just bought an elegant new coach. He has fine horses and harnesses, making his turnouts the very best. His assortment of caskets, robes and vaults is the largest and most complete in the city.

Mr. Post is a skillful embalmer with a knowledge of funeral management that insures success.

Mr. Post is one of the enterprising, public spirited business men of Painesville, and is thorough and successful in his method of doing business.

Note: See also Biographical Sketch, obituary and funeral notice in the Biography section.


F. H. Rogers 1902 - 1932
W.F. Post and Fred H. Rogers were brothers-in-law. Post had a livery business and funeral home while Rogers had the furniture business. They had a 'gentleman's agreement' that Rogers would stay out of the funeral home business, but Rogers opened the business about 1902 at 115 (later 13-15) S. State Street, Painesville.

Among the many prosperous and thriving business houses of Painesville none are more worthy of mention as showing what may be accomplished by a combination of energy, enterprise and good business tact, than the well-known establishment of The Rogers' Furniture & Undertaking Company. This firm does not believe in standing still, and has placed their business on a basis which makes progress inevitable. Their business may be summarized as follows: All articles sold at low prices, no old debts to carry, business done on modern principles; goods bought at the lowest cash prices and sold in the same way; polite attention shown to all, and satisfaction guaranteed in every sale. Any establishment run on these principles is sure to succeed, and that Mr. Rogers has been successful here can be no doubt.

This house is located on South State Street, is large and commodious, with a frontage of twenty-five feet and a depth of 140 feet, and with three floors, large basement and wareroom, all filled to overflowing with furniture and upholstered goods of all kinds, from the plainest to the most handsome and elaborate designs, to suit every taste, and at prices to suit every pocketbook. We noticed some exceedingly fine suites in mahogany, walnut and leather, chamber sets of every style and grade, fancy easy chairs, rockers, sideboards, top tables, divans, kitchen furniture, etc. In fact, everything is known to the trade is embraced in stock. All the goods are finished in the highest style of the art, and must be seen to be appreciated. Certain it is there is nothing desirable in the furniture line that Mr. Rogers cannot show, while all goods are sold at remarkably low prices.

FUNERAL DIRECTOR AND EMBALMER

There is probably no occupation to which the requirements of society and the preservation of health and happiness calls its citizens, that is attended with greater difficulty or that requires a man of more skill, courage and self-possession than that of the funeral director.

This is an occupation where a man's services are called into requisition only in times of sadness and sorrow, following the loss of a loving member of the family, and when the least mistake will prove fatal to the reputation of the funeral director.

Thus it is that a man to succeed in this delicate task must know his business perfectly. He must know what to do, how to do, and when to do it. He must be a judge of human nature, a master in taste and good manners, affable and accommodating. In addition to all these possessions-good judgment, discretion and reserve-the successful funeral director, such as Mr. Rogers, who is so thoroughly experienced and carefully equipped in this class of work in Painesville.[2]


C. D. Fiser 1911 - 1937

Sometime in 1911, Edwin Keener hired Cloise D. Fiser of McClure, Ohio as his assistant.[3] After Edwin's death in 1915, Cloise Fiser continued as an undertaker in the Keener Building until he relocated his business to 70 S. St. Clair Street. (Since the furniture side of the Keener Building had been sold to Bitzer, I believe Fiser must have continued to operate the south side of the building, until he relocated.) Cloise Fiser's son, Robert, also became an undertaker. Unfortunately, he also died at the early age of 46 in 1967. According to Robert's obituary,[4] Robert was the Director of the Fiser Funeral Home in Canal-Winchester, Ohio. By 1949, after completing college and serving in the United States Navy, he returned to Painesville. It's stated in his obituary that he and Charles F. Johnson established a funeral home in Mentor before Fiser moved to Canal-Winchester. (Also see obituary and pictures of C. D. Fiser and his home.)


Brown Funeral Home ca. 1932 - 1937

Carl Brown began a new funeral home on the north side of E. Washington Street, at the corner of State Street where the Rite-Aid Pharmacy is today. He operated it for about five years. John L. Spear worked there and purchased this home from Brown. When the Fiser Funeral Home, then owned by Materna, came available, Spear purchased it and the Washington Street location was closed and later demolished.
Materna Funeral Home ca. 1937-1937

When the Fiser Funeral Home became part of the estate of C.D. Fiser, the homes at 62 and 70 S. St. Clair St. were sold to a man named Materna from the Akron area. Charles F. Johnson had been working there, but no agreement was made with Mr. Johnson and he left to begin his own concern. It is said that Materna only provided a couple of funerals and went out of business. He closed the business which had been Keener's, then Fiser's. He sold the building at 62 S. St. Clair St. to John L. Spear.
Johnson Funeral Home 1938 - present
The following is the result of Cynthia Turk's interview with Charles F. Johnson, founder of Johnson Funeral Home, on July 8, 2005.


Charles F. Johnson, who is 94 years old at the time of this interview in July, 2005 grew up in the Cleveland Heights area. He graduated from embalmers college, a 6 month course, in 1930 and pursued most of his 2 year apprenticeship at the DeVan Funeral Home in Cleveland. Although he should have been grandfathered in on the embalmer's license, that did not happen, so he sat and passed the state examination becoming licenced in 1934. No funeral director license was required at the time, but as it became required he obtained this license in 1936.

Johnson then began working for Cloise D. Fiser in his funeral home in Painesville, Ohio. This was in 1936. Upon the demise of C.D. Fiser in 1937, it was Johnson's plan to purchase the home, but it was sold to Mr. Materna. There was an assumption by Mrs. Fiser and Mr. Materna that Johnson would continue working there, but there was no agreement with Mr. Johnson.

Mr. Johnson with some help from his father began a funeral home in Painesville at 109 North State Street. He and his wife, Marjorie Lapham Johnson, who was also a funeral director, ran this home.

About 1948 or 49, after college and his time in the Navy, Robert Fiser, son of Cloise D. came back to Painesville and joined the Johnson Funeral Home. It was then renamed The Johnson & Fiser Funeral Home.

Johnson & Fiser then began a very small funeral home in Mentor. It was on the south side of Mentor Avenue, about where Mama Roberto's restaurant is now. It lasted about a year when Fiser dissolved it and it was sold. Both were operated as one company with Fiser running the Mentor home and Johnson running the Painesville home. Fiser stayed a very short time and removed to Canal-Winchester. The name of the home reverted to Johnson Funeral Home.

In 1968 the brick funeral home at the southwest corner of North State Street and Phelps Street was torn down in favor of a parking lot for the library. Johnsons then moved to the current location at 368 Mentor Avenue in Painesville.

After the retirement of Charles F. Johnson, his son Charles Richard "Dick" Johnson and his wife Carol continued the home. Dick and Carol's son Charles J. joined them and the three remain today.


John L. Spear 1932 - present

John L. Spear began at the Carl Brown Funeral Home on Washington Street in Painesville. He purchased the buisiness from Brown. Soon after that, about 1938, he purchased the building of the Keener/Fiser/Materna home at 62 S. St. Clair Street in 1936. Here the John L. Spear Funeral Home remained until the block on Washington Street and S. St. Clair Street was bought and the buildings demolished.

Currently, the Spear Funeral Home is located on Mentor Avenue in Painesville and is doing business as Spear-Mulqueeny Funeral Home. Records have been transcribed by the Lake County Historical Society and are presently housed in Morley Library. It is noted that these records are from 1887-1888 and 1932-1965 and it's thought that perhaps those from 1887-1888 may be from the Keener Funeral Home since his property filtered down to Spear. However, there is no proof to substantiate this claim other than process of elimination of known funeral homes.


Nixon Funeral Home now Brunner-Nixon Funeral Homes and Cremation Service 1932 - present

From Cynthia Turk's interview with Charles F. Johnson, Mr. Brunner of Mentor worked for Nixon and had his 2 year embalmer's apprenticeship with Nixon. Mr. Nixon originally came from Wooster and opened a funeral home in Mentor. Business was not good and he went back to Wooster for about a year. Eventually, he returned to Painesville and started a funeral home on North State Street, and ran the business for about a year. Again, business was not good, so this location was closed but a year later opened the current home at a new location at 176 North State Street. This brick building is the former Louis P. Gage Home and is still operating. Upon Nixon's retirement, the home and business were sold to Brunner in 1981 and became the Brunner-Nixon Funeral Home.


Mulqueeney Brothers Funeral Home 1922 - 1976

Location of the home was 99 E. Erie Street in Painesville. The property is now the County Extension Agency. There was also a Fairport Harbor home. In 1975 Mulqueeney Bros. merged with Spear Funeral Home making them Spear-Mulqueeny Funeral Homes.

For a more in-depth history, see "Mulqueeny Bros. Funeral Homes" by Mary Jo Gartland.


[1] The Telegraph-Republican; Painesville, Lake County, Ohio; Tuesday, September 28, 1915, Vol. 24, No. 227, Pg. 1, Col. 1.

[2] Article appearing in The Industrial and Trade Edition 1902, Published by The Painesville Republican.

[3] Painesville Telegraph, December 20, 1937, pg. 1.

[4] The Painesville Telegraph, December 29, 1967, pg. 3.


Photos and articles used with permission of the News-Herald.

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Last updated 20 Jul 2005

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