Remembering John Kerry from Almonte—By Karen Hirst

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 John Kerry

Message from Linda—I love when people  submit me their memories, and if you have any of your town or ancestors– please send them to me and I will print them. sav_77@yahoo.com

Today’s guest author is Karen Hirst whose father is the iconic John Kerry from Almonte.

 

The ‘Undertaking’ of Local History by Karen Hirst

They seemed to go hand in hand, the furniture business with that of Undertaking or as it is more modernly referred to as the Funeral Service business.

It is believed that this combination may have evolved because the trade of the furniture merchant was cabinet making. My father, John Kerry recalls this as being a fairly common combination of businesses especially in small town rural communities. Who better to request a wood coffin from than the skilled craftsman who also made furniture— from coffins to conducting funerals seemed a natural fit.

What is historically interesting and may not be known by many is that very often the ‘undertaking’ was conducted under the same roof as you would purchase your living room furniture.

In the small town of Almonte, in the year 1954, my father purchased  from the estate of W.E. Scott, both the furniture store and the funeral business. Mr. W.E. Scott ( Ed) was a Funeral Director, Merchant for Home Furnishings and a former Mayor of Almonte. He had rebuilt the furniture store in 1904 following a major fire. At this time he made two storefronts which has continued to the current day. Mr. Scott rented one half to Mr. Wilf Snedden, Pharmacist. In my father’s time there have been four pharmacy businesses conducted from the same premises and currently one quilt store. The half of the store that was devoted to new home furnishings is now rented for the sale of antique items.

 

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Upon purchase in 1954, fronting Mill Street,  there was the main building which as noted above was divided into two stores. As well, behind the store, was a large two bay brick barn and set further back running along Farm Street was a tin shed that would have housed the horses that pulled the horse drawn hearse. Eventually Mr. Jim Flynn took the old tin shed and put it out to pasture.

In 1953 a Pontiac Sedan Delivery was converted into a hearse and stored in the brick barn with its green painted wooden doors, one closed on hinges and one a sliding door. The barn was also used as a warehouse for unpacking furniture and upstairs on the second floor was the storage site of baby caskets in their wooden rough boxes. The hinged door of the barn would later be closed in with cement blocks leaving only the sliding door  until the barn’s eventual demise and the conversion to off street customer parking.

Through the back door of the furniture store with its overhead goose necked, green tin light fixture, one entered the domain of the blending of the two businesses. Directly inside behind sliding doors was the embalming table with its white porceline sink and bottles of coloured fluids that emitted unique odors soon recognized as specific to the profession.

Down the short narrow hallway one entered into the locale of the business office where funeral arrangements or the bill of sale for furniture purchases were completed. A massive old iron safe built under a bookcase, lettered with W.E.Scott suggested some importance to the transactions of the space. Possession of the safe following modernization of the office and store remains lost from memory at this time.

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The lower floor of the furniture store  during Mr. Scott’s era could on occasion become the public visitation space for a funeral. With some relocation of furniture along the walls of the furniture store or carried and stored upstairs, the addition of a few folding chairs and the furniture store  would serve the needs of a grieving family. This was the substitute location for those not ‘waking’ in the family home or having the funeral service within a church.

A room on the upstairs level of the store during Mr. Scott’s time and the early years of my father’s ownership served as the casket display and selection room. Many a sore back was felt following the movement of caskets up and down the oak, spindle- railed staircase that continues to act as the means of access to the second floor.

Mr. Scott eventually built his personal family home at 99 Elgin Street opposite the United Church. The embalming room continued to be located at the furniture store but wakes and funerals could be accommodated from the Scott’s home thus freeing the furniture store from its dual purpose. When employed  into service, personal family furniture was moved to the upstairs level to make room for this to occur.

The purchase of the Stafford family home in 1959 by John Kerry for what would become the new premises of the Kerry -Scott Funeral Home and later the Kerry Funeral Home to be followed by the Kerry Funeral Home and Chapel brought welcome relief from the need to relocate furnishings from one level to another.  As well, a stand alone funeral home meant that the embalming room no longer occupied any space at the furniture store.

The furniture store continued until 2010 as two floors of home furnishings housed within a solid brick building with large plate glass windows on both the upper and lower levels. Copying the asthetics of a men’s clothing store in Renfrew my father chose the beauty of a mahogony wood face to proudly sign his name upon the storefront—Kerry Furniture.

For several years Death Notices were posted in a wooden framed bulletin board hung inside the front window of the entry alcove to the furniture store . These notices served as the  public announcement of a death and the particulars for visitation and funeral service.

Furniture and Funerals—a shared history in the town of Almonte.

Karen Hirst

October 7, 2016

Author’s BioKaren Hirst is the eldest child of John and Marion Kerry, sibling to Glenn, John, Paul, Mark and Lisa.  She is married to Ken Hirst,  her life connection since grade 8, Church Street Public School.  Her son Matthew, lives in Toronto with wife Janette. She is a registered nurse recently retired, but remaining in casual capacity–not ready to call it quits yet!!!  She enjoys writing, reading, photography, coffee at the Equator and meeting new people through social media.

 

 

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Other related readings to Mr. Kerry of Almonte-

Return to the beginningby L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

Family funeral business sold to another family-Ottawa Business Journal

 

Related reading to the Stafford Family..

Outside Looking in at The Eccentric Family of Henry Stafford — Our Haunted Heritage

More About the Eccentric Stafford Family in Almonte

 

Other guest authors-if you have a story- then send it to me..

Glory Days of Carleton Place-The Olde Barracks-Canada’s Forgotten “Little Bunkers”-Leigh Gibson

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

3 responses »

  1. It is sad, in away, that with inflation complicated by Baumol’s cost disease what worked for an entrepreneur in the fifties is useless today. The good news is many of the store fronts in Almonte are busy. New entrepreneurs, many women so with out those paternalistic blinders of men of the fifties, are bringing in customers from Ottawa and beyond. The new customers like the quaint character of Almonte. A character easily lost by nineteen fifties archaic thinking. Thinking that is ignorant of Baumol’s cost disease.

    https://www.google.ca/webhp?hl=en#safe=off&hl=en&q=cost+disease+of+the+service+sector

      • The Funeral Home business suffers from Baumol’s cost disease. It took the same number of paid employees 30 years ago as it does today to bury sojone. That fixed ratio is an indication of the cost disease. Business leadership useless in our modern economy.

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